Eighteen indigenous youth from across the United States are in the midst of a two week trip to Palestine sharing tribal histories, learning strategies of preserving culture, and connecting their similar struggles against displacement and oppression.
The Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation is one that Native Americans can easily draw parallels. From targeting of civilian populations with overwhelming military force, to forced displacement, restricted travel and the eradication of a people’s history and way of life are all too familiar for Native Americans living in the United States.
More than 500 years ago, the indigenous peoples of America experienced similar scenes of displacement and colonization at the hands of European settlers.
The Israeli government has rejected the Obama administration’s continued demands to cease settlement expansion. Israel continues to reject Arab offers for a peace plan in return for the withdrawal from the occupied territories, while the United States continues to provide $3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel anually.
Today’s indigenous youth are taking matters into their own hands.
Natalia Faviola García, a 19 year old grassroots organizer with the Bay Area based group Huaxtec hopes the trip will forge lasting ties. “By building personal connections learning from experiences of Palestinian youth, we have tools not just to help raise awareness and build support locally for Palestinian and other causes internationality, but to understand the historical forces and process that have lead to our every day reality,” she said.
Palestinians have lived under occupation for the last 41 years. In the past weeks Israeli settlers went on a rampage attacking Palestinain land and destroying over 1500 Olive trees. Israel recently announced it would ban the Palestinian term “nakba” from textbooks in Israeli schools. Palestinians refer to Israel’s 1948 war of independence as the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” since it caused the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and left them without a state.
Three representatives each from Haskell Indians Nation University, Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG) magazine and Huaxtec a youth-led Chicana organization in California, spent weeks fundraising through hip hop shows, film screenings, poetry readings, t-shirt selling and grassroot volunteeer collectives. Members from partner organizations such as the Palestinian Education Project and the Middle East Chilren’s Alliance are attending in support.
The delegation is traveling to refugee camps, villages and youth centers, using grassroots media and creative forms of art and expression, like music and poetry to build solidarity and learn from each other’s struggles.”For us to draw those parallels and to connect with people with similar struggles,” says Melissa Franklin, an undergrad at Haskell University, who will travel to Palestine, “we can start building a foundation of what can we do now.”
Aurora Castellanos, a member of Huaxtec says she is not only representing her indigenous roots, but also the immigrant community. She explains that the checkpoints and movement restrictions in Palestine, “is really similar to what many immigrants face in the U.S.” “Like my family, we walk around the street not knowing whether they’re going to have a checkpoint or whether they are going to be checking our licenses, or they’re going to get detained for being undocumented,” she said.
The delegation is blogging at: http://indigenousdelegation.wordpress.com