LETTER: Racism exists because we allow it and it will continue if we do not draw the line
In 1973, there were two events that transpired that changed the course our recent history; the Siege of Wounded Knee, South Dakota and the slaying of a young Dine’ (Navajo) warrior named Larry Casuse, co-founder of Indians Against Exploitation, in Gallup, New Mexico.
Both events were directly related to racism against Native American tribes. At Wounded Knee, the event was tied to uranium mining that would eventually divide Indigenous communities, exploit the surrounding land and natural resources (uranium and water) and stir people into action.
The result was a 71-day armed stand-off that took many lives during and after; this was Wounded Knee II—a repeat of history perpetrated by outside influences and backed by certain native people in power who were bought and paid for, selling out their own people, much like the so-called leadership of Church Rock, who gave into Hydro Resources, Inc., the company that proposes to establish in-situ leach uranium mines near Church Rock and Crownpoint, NM using our sole source of pristine drinking water and contaminating the water supply FOREVER.
This is in the face of the largest release of radioactive waste in U.S. history on July 16, 1979 at the United Nuclear Corporation Church Rock mill site.
In Gallup, there is the unholy trinity that still exists after the tragic events 40 years ago. The liquor establishment (that Larry fought against), “law enforcement” and the court system that are still in denial while our Dine’ people continue to suffer and die from alcohol. Gallup has 23 liquor licenses over the legal state limit.
At a former sporting goods store, the life of Larry Casuse was needlessly taken before his time in a shoot-out; Larry took the initiative to walk the then-mayor Emmett Garcia, who also owned a bar near the Navajo reservation, through the streets of Gallup to show him the aftermath of the sales of alcohol. The event was called a “kidnapping” by the media which failed to add that Garcia was a real part of the problem as well.
After killing Larry his lifeless body was dragged onto the sidewalk so police officers could have their picture taken of him as if he were a trophy kill. Most likely, the picture still hangs on the wall of the Gallup Fraternal Order of Police as a sick trophy reminder.
It is time to revisit history, draw the line against racism, speak against the continued exploitation of our Indigenous nations, protect our land and water and declare our stand for the next seven generations to end this “Reign of Terror”—at Wounded Knee and in Gallup and all places in between.
On Saturday, February 23 all people are invited to educate themselves and stand with us at the McKinley County Court House Square from 12:00 to 1:00 pm in honor of Wounded Knee II and Larry Casuse. Bring your signs, drums, banners and prayers.
By: Mervyn Tilden