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“The Land Of Open Graves”
On March 2, Jason De León, University of California Los Angeles, delivered a talk on migrant deaths caused by United States border policy.
De León began by showing footage of a migrant caravan stuck in Tijiuana, in limbo between the United States and Mexico. He noted that the future will only see more waves of global migration, with impacts reaching far beyond Arizona.
De León argues that official United States border policy, Prevention Through Deterrence, leads to unnecessary deaths associated with migrants crossing the southern border. Prevention Through Deterrence was initiated in the 1990s as border crossings increased and previous infrastructure was seen as inadequate. Additional fencing was constructed at the southern border to intentionally direct migrants into the Sonoran Desert, using Arizona’s inhospitable terrain to deter migrants.
Despite the adoption of Prevention Through Deterrence, border crossings continued to rise throughout the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Those crossing the border experienced sweltering summers, freezing winters, and spring flash floods, with many dying from exposure. De León documented over 3000 deaths reported in Arizona due to this policy.
“A Conversation with Governor Inslee”
Friday February 17
On February 17, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee led a conversation about the issues of housing and clean energy in Washington State.
Inslee discussed current efforts within Washington’s legislature to deal with the housing crisis and homelessness. He argued that increasing the production of homes will support people who struggle with homelessness due to mental illness and addiction.
Governor Inslee concluded his talk by hosting a Q&A with Washington State University students. He addresses his efforts as governor toward a carbon neutral economy. Inslee stated that climate in Washington is relevant now because people are beginning to directly see its effects. Inslee also stressed the importance of addressing negative impacts of climate legislation change by aiding low-income individuals in Washington.
“The Indian Boarding Schools Tragedy”
Thursday February 9
On February 9, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, Teresa Sheldon, spoke about the history and current situation about federal Indian boarding schools.
Ms. Sheldon began by discussing what the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition is doing to address the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States, as well as how that history still impacts Native Americans in 2023. It is estimated that 80% of Native children were taken from their homes and forced into these boarding schools where they were subjected to widespread atrocities such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, torture, and starvation. She discussed the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report published by the Department of Interior and said that it was significant because it is the first act of taking responsibility on behalf of the US government. She also stated that the coalition would still like to see an apology.
Sheldon then outlined a bill that is currently under consideration in Congress titled, “The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.” This commission will investigate the impacts of Indian Boarding School policies and will develop ways to protect current Native grave sites. She stressed how important this bill is, as it will provide evidence to the country about the horrors that took place in these boarding schools.
She concluded her talk by emphasizing the importance of being honest about historical events, and how necessary it is to continue the fight for normalcy among Native Americans.
“Anti-Government Extremist Groups”
Wednesday February 8
On February 8, Sam Jackson, the University at Albany, delivered a talk on the Oath Keepers and anti-government extremism.
Professor Jackson emphasized that the Oath Keepers are different from other extremist groups due to their lack of a race related identity. Instead, they focus on an identity revolving around a patriotic duty to fight tyranny in the federal government.
Founded in 2009, the Oath Keepers are self-described keepers of liberty, first receiving public attention with their role in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff. From 2014 to 2016, the organization participated in a string of armed standoffs and occupations to fight tyranny from the government. In 2016, Oath Keepers began to participate more in armed clashes against Antifa and left-wing organizations.
The Oath Keepers’ most notorious action was their participation in the January 6 United States Capitol attack, where members intentionally planned to intimidate members of Congress to overturn the results of the 2020 election. For their participation in the insurrection, nine of their members, including group president Stewart Rhodes, were convicted of seditious conspiracy.
Jackson explained that Oath Keepers use elements from stories of crisis and conflict in American history to justify their actions and to explain contemporary America. They pay special attention to the Revolutionary War, arguing that liberty in modern America is critically endangered and that violence should be used to defend liberty from the government and other Americans.
The willingness to use violence and intimidation to protect their political views separates the Oath Keepers from other right-wing groups, and breaks important American traditions of non-violence and political discourse.
“Racial Healing and Politics”
Wednesday January 18
On January 18, Spokane NAACP President Kiantha Duncan led a conversation on racial healing and politics.
Duncan began by talking about her background in activism as well as her conversational approach to social justice. She discussed the role of politics in determining who has jurisdiction over what racial healing is, and when a society is “healed.”
She used cancer as a metaphor to describe racism, arguing that racism in the south often looks more like a visible tumor, while racism in the northwest is not noticeable at first glance. She suggested that there is no definitive cure for racism just as there is no conclusive cure for cancer.
Duncan concluded her talk by stating that sober expectations are important to racial healing. She stressed that neither she or anyone else has all the answers necessary for racial healing.
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