By John McMahon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The sound of drums partially drowned out the voice of the Mall preacher yesterday, as a crowd of more than 150 gathered to attend a celebration of Native American rights on what speakers called the anniversary of "503 years of genocide against a people of peace."
Sponsored by the Student Environmental Action Coalition's Southwest chapter, the Columbus Day celebration included speakers and singers of all ages, as well as a play depicting the Native Americans' capture by Europeans.
Vernon Foster of the American Indian Movement called Columbus Day a "time of mourning," and mocked Columbus' "stumbling onto this continent."
"Our people gave him food, and today we see the result of this, " Foster said, wearing around his body an American flag as "a sign of distress."
Crowd members cheered Foster and held up posters which read "Columbus didn't discover America. He invaded it!"
"Since 1817," Foster said, "my people have been flying the flag of the U.S. They were told it would be a sign of peace. My people died flying the American flag."
Foster explained that Native Americans would just like to be invisible, but the U.S. government is never satisfied if they are not meddling in their affairs.
"We were placed in concentration camps known as reservations," Foster said, "on the most desolate lands in America. Then, all of a sudden, America finds wealth on this desolate land ... and they run to Congress."
Foster directed his anger at the UA for their lobbying to get permission to build a third Large Binocular Telescope on Mt. Graham, which Native Americans consider sacred land.
"We don't go to your living room and rearrange your furniture," Foster said, asking the UA to respect the desires of Native Americans without trying to analyze or understand them.
Twelve-year-old Paul Waterman, an Apache who lives in Tucson, read from an essay he had written this weekend for the Columbus Day rally.
"The government still hasn't paid us (Natives) for the country," Waterman said, "I guess that's why they call it a free country."
Waterman elicited cheers from the crowd as he continued reading, comparing Columbus to a "bad man like Hitler ... (who) brought diseases to this country."
The boy's grandmother, Ola Cassadore Davis, of the Apache Survival Coalition, begged the UA to find another site for the Large Binocular Telescope.
"There are so many other places you could go," Davis said, who urged members of the crowd to contact their local representative and tell them how displeased they are with the government's lies and deceit.
"No lies!" Davis yelled. "The lies can really backfire on you."
When the speakers ended, members of SEAC, dressed in huge masks reminiscent of a New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration, came on the stage and began to act the parts of Europeans and Native Americans.
Europeans enslaved the natives and forced them into "gainful employment in (their) minds at no pay." The friendly natives were captured and taken away, as SEAC members handed out leaflets depicting a comic of Columbus being deported by immigration officials.
"If you want to help our people," Foster said, "sit in prayer. If things are going to change in this world, it is going to come from the voice whispered on the wind."
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