A congressional hearing was led by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Elijah Cummings on June 12, 2018 to introduce the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival for an important conversation on poverty in America.
“The Poor People’s campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival” has roots to the civil rights campaign the Poor People's Campaign, or Poor People's March on Washington, originally organized by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 as a way to seek justice for the poor people in the United States.
Vanessa Nosie, an Apache Stronghold member and participant in the Stronghold Caravan crossing the country and traveling to Washington D.C. says the opportunity to speak at the hearing was an opportunity to educate America about its true history, and demand changes to outdated federal policies in hopes of create stronger laws that will protect the environment.
Senator Warren began the hearing, “There’s something happening in America, the poor and the marginalized, and those suffering are taking to the streets in our capitals across this country to reclaim our government and demand a government for all the people. We are honored to have you here, to have the chance to hear your voices, and I’m glad to be joined by so many of my colleagues in Congress.”
Co-Chair Representative Cummings stated, “I want to thank you (Senator Warren) so much for organizing today’s event to sign a bright light on the poverty in America. Also, I thank my colleagues for joining us from the Senate and the House, most of all I want to thank our families and all of you who are taking a moment out of your lives to be here today.”
Nosie spoke at the hearing to voice Native American concerns. She introduced herself by name and as an enrolled member of the San Carlos Apache in her Native language, then spoke in English.
“I’m from the Apache Stronghold which is protecting Oak Flat from Resolution Copper. Today I stand here, united with the Poor People’s Campaign and standing here with my brothers and sisters as we are trying to fight, but what we are all fighting for is justice.”
“The Apache Stronghold has started a caravan which started in Northern California and is going to be here on June 23 for the action here with the Poor People’s Campaig,” Nosie told the committee the caravan started at the Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians reserve in Clearlake, California. She explained that as visitors enter the reservation, they see large signs by the lake that say, ‘Hazardous Area- Enter At Your Own Risk.’
Nosie described the mercury mine that has been leaking heavy metal into the water and land, thus contaminating the fish. She explained that there was high rate of cancer in the community. She said she was concerned about the costs of healthcare that would continue to rise because of corporations and greed, yet she felt politicians don’t want to listen.
“We talk about healthcare, we talk about the environment, yet they’re allowing open mines to legally contaminate the water and land.”
She then spoke of how the caravan went to Oakland and Berkeley in California and met with the Ohlone people. “There are 425 shell mounds, sacred to the Ohlone, one of them was under a parking lot. They are trying to stop more construction of homes and shopping centers on the sacred sites that are their ancestral homelands. There is nothing in place to protect Ohlone and other tribes in California, they are hurting, because when they look at the holy sites they’re covered with asphalt and buildings.”
Nosie shared other travels of The Apache Stronghold caravan which included Indian Alley, a location in Los Angeles -- where American Indians were moved by the U.S. government for relocation – and in Sells, Arizona where a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico divides the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui people on their indigenous lands.
Nosie, who received blessings from her people before embarking on her journey to D.C. ended her testimony by asking those present to consider the welfare of children.
“I’m asking you to hear our cries, because what indigenous people are doing, what we are fighting for, the land, the water, is for everybody. How are you going to be able to turn on your water faucets? How are you going to be able to raise your children? How are you going to walk outside and breathe clean air? We have been fighting colonization for over 500 years. Our fight still exists. We are still considered as prisoners of war,” said Nosie.
“I protect Oak Flat which has been given to a foreign mining company called Resolution Copper. How am I going to continue to take my children to pray? To exist? To pick medicines and food there? To bathe in the water? That is who I am as an Apache woman. How am I going to continue on my tradition in my culture? No matter if you’re rich or poor, if you have a home or not, there is nothing without water.”
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling