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KEYSTONE EMINENT DOMAIN TARGETS COULD LEARN FROM INDIGNEOUS PEOPLES AND THE TEXAS-MEXICO BORDER WALL

A response to Keystone Pipeline Sparks Property Rights Backlash,” 2/17/2012, The Texas Tribune.
                                  Source: Todd Wiseman / Jay Root, The Texas Tribune.
It is an interesting twist of irony that the Keystone is shrink-wrapped as a “security” issue… and just one hair shy of being packaged and spun as a buffer/buttress against “terrorism.” Indigenous Peoples of Konitsaaii Gokiyaa (‘Lipan Home Land’) have extensive experience and history with this 21st century phase of a longer history of dispossession, deception, and violent domination by those seeking only to serve the interests of the few.

It is important for those who are the targeted, as well as other critically involved actors, to consider the similar features of the discourses and rhetoric which the transnational and the state use to condemn these Texas property owners’ lands, and compare them to the discourses and practices that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security used to condemn 70 miles of lands to construct the violent mega-project: the Border Wall on the Texas border.

There are important overlaps and intersections that should not be dismissed lightly, or artificially wrapped into a false rationale of “that is different because we have to protect our border against ____.”  This is a dangerous fallacy.  The border wall could be incredibly useful analytical piece for white ‘interior’ property owners in this instance who are fighting a colossal battle to protect their rights and interests in land within Texas’ territorial boundary, in competition against the desires and alleged ‘rights’ of a transnational, the elite U.S.-Canadian-Global 1-5% who will benefit, and the supposed “security” of the “nation.” Consider the following:

In the case of the Texas-Mexico Border Wall, over 20 corporations have profited quite nicely on this immensely destructive project, which exploited the poverty and political marginalization of Indigenous peoples who are the original land owners, and whose title underlies and predates the U.S. and Texas for that matter. 

In that case, the majority of the impacted peoples hold legitimate Aboriginal Title (recognized by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples–which, btw, was endorsed by the United States last year), Crown Title, Treaties (for example, the wall infringes on the Lipan Apache Band of Texas’ treaties with Spain, Mexico, Texas and the U.S.; and on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo).

The following statement should be critically re-examined, as it is a useful way to link the way the transnationals use the state to spin and to deploy the ax to constitutional rights beyond borders (scroll down to paragraph 8):

“He said the company already had 99 percent of the easements it needed for the Texas segment and was working on snapping up the remaining holdouts.”

In 2007, 2008, and 2009, former US DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff used nearly identical discourses and rhetoric against property owners along the Texas border.  Indigenous peoples who had clear title to their lands vis-a-vis arrangements with the Spanish Crown; Hispanic and Latino private property owners many of whom had their land grant title confirmed by the first constitutional government of Texas; white farmers (mostly Euro-American emigrants to the region) whose properties had been in their families for 304 generations–were all condemned by the Secretary for the “security” and “protection” of the “nation.”

As a result of the vehement resistance by Texas land owners against dispossession, (across race, class, religion, vocation, and different historical paths to land ownership–and dispossession…) the Secretary invented the mega waiver. Remember that?

Section 102 (‘mega-waiver’) was the provision which instrumentally voided 35 Federal Laws which effectively made it possible for big government to wipe out legal opposition, delay, and any possible relief to condemnation. This also obstructed the path towards remedy, redress, restitution, compensation…as well, which is one of the underlying pillars of the Lipan Apaches’ 2009 petition to and hearing before the Inter-American Commission/Organization of American States–an ongoing investigation of the U.S. violations of international law and human rights conventions against Indigenous land owners. 

Who benefitted directly from the mega waivers and the expedited condemnations? The government contractor corporations, elected politicians, and elite private individuals whose interests they serve. They got millions expedited and into their bank accounts. 
Who benefitted from the construction jobs? Not locals. Other ‘U.S. citizens’ who the contractors imported from Other U.S. states and congressional districts, with the approval and complicity of Texas politicians. Remember, the many vehicles with Nebraska license plates which suddenly appeared out of thin air in 2009 and 2010 in Cameron County, Texas? Locals testified that it was as if an invasion of non-local and dominantly white ‘supervisory’ labor converged upon all the LRG Valley –and were highly ‘visible’ in local Mexican restaurants as an obvious non-local group?
 
The transnationals have profited quite nicely from the give-aways and gates that the majority Republicans opened for large scale dispossession in South Texas with mega-projects such as the Border Wall and the Keystone on the premise of “security.” “Security” is used to rationalize the large-scale, overthrow of democratic constitutional rights–and Texas property law and ownership is the key ‘test’ in their laboratory. The most recent and yet hyper-censored dispossession in South Texas is related to the yellow-cake uranium exploration in Lipan Apache Traditional Territory.

Building wealth for the elite 1%, on the backs of Texas property owners–in fact, was designed and architected by Texas Senators Hutchinson and Cornyn, who have consistently produced legislation and the means for not only whittling away, but hacking away at Texas property rights for the “security” of the “nation.” In fact, the 35 federal laws that were voided to construct the Border Wall in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, were never re-instated by President Obama, and Hutchinson and Cornyn have been instrumental in ensuring that it stays that way in perpetuity.

I think most folks, who do not have access to anything beyond the narrow confines of corporate-controlled television, radio, and mainstream ‘news’, should be offered more diverse tools to wrap their heads around these questions: whose nation? what “good” and for whose benefit? Whose “security”? Certain property owners in Texas are deemed as violable and rapable–as proven along the 18 foot tall Border Wall. The message of Manifest Destiny ‘deep in the heart of Texas’ was made explicitly clear by the majority of Texans (Republicans, conservative, white-streamed), that if you are Indigenous, a woman, an Elder, poor, a farmer, a pastoralist-subsistence herder, Catholic, refuse to assimilate and critically question the underlying rationale of the U.S. regime and goons of the transnationals, you are very likely to be severed of your land rights in the name of “security.”

The best defense is a collective defense. Those currently targeted could save themselves a great amount of suffering and stress, and save themselves a huge amount of $$ and precious energy by studying the arguments against eminent domain, condemnation, and expedited taking … as these played out in the LRG Valley. By studying the tactics and methods deployed by the government and corporations against land owners in the Lower Rio Grande Valley–and their push back–currently targeted peoples may be able to alter the debate. The pertinent documents are all available on the University of Texas School of Law website devoted to the cases. At http://www.utexas.edu/law/centers/humanrights/borderwall/

Don’t be surprised if suddenly, all the properties along the path of the Keystone are suddenly found to be the “hiding places” of “terrorists”, “drug lords”, “cartels” and “potential threats” because that is the legal-moral framework that the government used to violently take the lands from Indigenous nations along the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

When I say ‘violently’ I mean that, when the collective action of hundreds of affected land owners organized significant resistance–refusing the government access to their lands– the U.S. sent in armed personnel, used the presence of “boots on the ground”, in the act of ‘visiting’ the property owners, one by one, in each community to enforce the taking of lands. Armed personnel (paid by U.S. tax payers) are used by the government to tell the targeted peoples that the constitution no longer exists in the targeted lands. Thank the Patriot Act for this reality–yea, it will eventually come after you, no matter what you thought your racial-religious-citizenship-geography protection buffer is/was. Now, folks along the Lower Rio Grande River and the Border Wall, are currently debating questions like this:

“It will be interesting to see if the dominant group–white Texans in the ‘heartland’–and big ranchers’ voices are stronger–and if it will be decided that their property rights (perceived as inviolable and sacred)–are worth preserving. It will be interesting to see if the Texas dominant society will oppose the condemnation of those groups’ lands. Why? Because in all their ‘public opinions’ of 2006 (Secure Fence Act, etc.) and 2007-2009 (during the construction of the Border Wall), they made it quite clear that it was ‘OK” to use eminent domain to condemn the Aboriginal Title, Treaty Lands, Crown Grant lands, and individual private property of the low-income, Indigenous South Texans who lost land to eminent domain for the “security” of the “nation.”

Perhaps the transnationals are now puncturing peoples’ fragile conceptions of who is the ‘enemy’?

Perhaps it would be an irony, if the most impoverished in Texas (not coincidentally all the counties of the Texas border are the highest poverty zones across the ENTIRE U.S….) though not without agency, put their vote with economic “security” …
Afterall, that is what the transnationals have already counted on. Just as they calculated correctly that the majority of non-Indigenous peoples would not think, but rather would react to a barrage of anti-terror and ‘security of the nation’ jingoism which were key factors in the condemnations along the Texas border.

Interesting juncture, eh?

Finally, I wish to say a heartfelt ‘good luck’ to those whose lives are being destroyed by the Keystone-project which is connected to one of the most violent mass-scale destructive acts on our beautiful planet Earth. Decolonize Your Mind. If we are all going to go down due to the extreme disconnect, greed, selfishness, and self-absorption of the 1% and their ‘end game’, shall we not work to decolonize the borders of hate and isolation they have constructed, and instead, work collectively for dignity?

When will humanity (in Texas beyond borders) stand together, beyond differences, deception, corruption, the hate and isolation, the fictions, and dismantle completely this thoroughly violent and cannibalistic system?


Iinidii Ideeshch’il [There is Thunder; There is Lightning]

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