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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Just minutes before a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Aug. 3 left 22 people dead, a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online. In it, the author, whom authorities believe to be the alleged shooter, claims to be defending his country from white American “replacement” and an “invasion” at the U.S. border, as well as from environmental destruction and corporate power.

“Some people will think this statement is hypocritical because of the nearly complete ethnic and cultural destruction brought to the Native Americans by our European ancestors, but this just reinforces my point,” reads the manifesto. “The natives didn't take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.”

For decades now, warped ideas about Indigenous struggles have buoyed conservative rhetoric and white-nationalist fantasies, and have been used to justify racist violence. While members of the far and extreme right claim to share a hollow, disingenuous affinity with Indigenous people, their appropriation of Indigenous victimhood and rights language is providing long-burning fuel for everything from right-wing propaganda on Fox News to extremist manifestos and movements worldwide.

In 2011, for instance, a far-right terrorist in Norway killed eight people in a bombing and another 69 at a youth camp. In his 1,500-page manifesto, the killer argued that the rhetoric of white nationalism was ultimately doomed to fail due to its connections to Hitler. Instead of using language and ideas associated with Nazis, the author chose to exploit an “untapped goldmine” of Indigenous rights language. “We are no more terrorists than Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or Chief Gall who fought for their people against the imperialist General Armstrong Custer,” reads the manifesto. “Our struggle will be a lot easier if European nationalists use smart and defusing arguments instead of using supremacist arguments which can be efficiently squashed through psychological warfare propaganda or by anti-Nazi policies.” To the author, embracing the language of Indigenous rights and victimhood was a softer, even sympathetic strategy that would embolden efforts to reclaim European land and culture from immigrants.

A few months after the Norway attack, a German far-right anti-immigration propaganda video uploaded to YouTube featured a Green Party politician and a stereotypical “Cherokee” Indian maiden—a foreign exchange student who hopes to become a naturalized German citizen. The politician quickly obliges—a dig at the party's “multicultural ideals”—and the maiden tells a story about the massacre of her people by European immigrants who were allowed to settle the land by traitors in her tribe.

The righteous xenophobia revealed here has plenty of company: In 2014, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), another far-right German nationalist party, echoed the same sentiment in a meme of Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, with a caption that warned: “Indians could not stop immigration. Now they live on reservations.”

“Nowadays, you see internet memes and videos on YouTube of people who tell the story of the conquest of North America and who skew historical references,” said Frank Usbeck, curator for the Americas at the State Art Collections in Dresden and former professor of American Studies at the University of Leipzig in Germany. “‘Look at the Native Americans who invited the foreigners as refugees.’”

Usbeck, who has studied the links between Indigenous people and white nationalists for years, began by examining the relationship between German perceptions of Native Americans and the Völkisch Movement’s “blood and soil” ideology, which has roots in the 19th century. “Constructing a national identity among Germans seems to have had strong roots in identifying with Native Americans and also setting oneself aside from many other Europeans,” said Usbeck, adding that this need to belong to the land and to connect with an “Indigenous” identity can be traced to early German nationalist studies of pre-Roman Germanic tribes.

Before and during World War II, Nazi propaganda declared American cultural imperialism was a threat to German culture, noting that it had destroyed the Native American way of life and comparing U.S. bombing campaigns in German cities to American frontier massacres. Usbeck calls this “co-victimization”—an invented affinity with the Native American experience of genocide and cultural loss, rhetorically linked to ideas of German victimhood. The Nazis thereby used Indigenous people to create a myth of survival, of a people fighting heroically for their homeland.

And Indigenous people remain potent symbols of outsider oppression for far-right extremism globally. In 2013, in Greeley, Colo., anonymous citizens bought two billboards that espoused pro-gun propaganda with the image of three armed Native Americans. The text reads: “Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you.”

Ammon Bundy’s 2016 anti-government militia takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge even tried to appeal to Native Americans: “We’re reaching out to the Paiute people, in the sincerest manner that I can,” said Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a spokesman for Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, in a video posted to YouTube. (Finicum was later killed by law enforcement at a traffic stop during the occupation.) He continued, “Any claims that they (Paiutes) may have upon the lands, let’s begin that dialogue.” But the Burns Paiute Tribe quickly denounced the Malheur militia members for mishandling tribal artifacts and traditional land.

Earlier this year, a video featuring white supremacist Jared Taylor trod the same ground. “The story of the Indians is one of the strongest possible arguments for tight borders. Immigration, or more accurately, the arrival of European pioneers was a disaster for the Indians,” said Taylor. “We took their land, destroyed their way of life and put them on reservations.” The video ends with a final thought: Indians fought for their land, so why can’t whites do the same?

In the early days of U.S. colonization, white settlers waged numerous wars to displace Indigenous people. “This idea of making (colonial) invasion look like self-defense goes all the way back to the Declaration of Independence, where the British colonists, who were declaring independence from the crown, were simply making the argument that they were defending themselves against merciless Indian savages,” said Nick Estes, author and assistant professor in the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico. “The El Paso shooter was referencing Native people as a heroic defense against invasion, when he himself was waging a kind of a terror campaign against actual Indigenous people who are crossing the border.”

The suspected shooter also allegedly wrote that the destruction of the environment, led by corporate interests, would limit available resources for whites, echoing the manifesto of the shooter who killed 51 at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, who considered himself an “eco-fascist.” Historian and author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz says this anti-capitalist environmentalist rhetoric is designed to reach readers beyond already-sympathetic audiences. “He hits on certain tropes that make him somewhat sympathetic to Native Americans, and he talks negatively about corporations controlling everything,” said Dunbar-Ortiz. “It is a very manipulative manifesto by a very rational guy.”

The manipulation of Indigenous struggle and victimhood has been a part of white supremacists’ modus operandi in Europe for decades. Now, white male gunmen in the U.S. are now picking up the mantle.

“Hate groups have co-opted historical U.S. symbols in a weak attempt at tearing down any progress we’ve made toward including people of all races, creeds and backgrounds as true Americans,” said Keegan Hankes, senior analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups and far-right extremism in the U.S.

The El Paso shooter’s manifesto is the most recent anti-immigrant, hate-filled document to actually culminate in enormous violence. But since the shooting, the Guardian reports that police have thwarted seven similar plots by far-right extremists with racist ideologies.

“The idea of a parallel people aggressively taking land, taking whole swaths of territories—Mexicans coming in don’t have any power to do any of that,” said Dunbar-Ortiz. “It’s really obscene that he really is framing things that are completely different.”

It’s unlikely that the El Paso shooting will be the last white supremacist attack in the name of an imaginary immigrant invasion, nor the final use of Indigenous victimhood in a hate-filled manifesto.

Kalen Goodluck is an editorial fellow at High Country News, where this piece first appeared. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Community Voices

Dear Mexican: My parents were born in Mexico. I was born in Dallas, Texas. This makes me a first-generation American, right?

So, if my best friend’s dad was born in Mexico, and her mother is a Chicana born in the United States, does this make her a first-generation American or a second-generation American?

Just Curious

Dear Pocha: In the eyes of the current attorney general, both you and your friend are Mexicans. ¡Trucha!

Dear Mexican: When do you think Baja California and other locations in the madre-land with lots of American expatriates will become U.S. territories, or better yet, states? I would be very eager to live in a beautiful coastal area surrounded by people with nice cars and the world’s most powerful military to back them up. I think the Mexicans would, too.

Americano-Mexicano

Dear Gabacho: Be careful what you wish for. If the United States and Mexico ever went to war, snowbirds like yourself would be the first people targeted by Mexicans. Don’t believe me? Ask the Chinese during the Mexican Revolution. You’d better make plans to move to Costa Rica, Nicaragua or whatever other Latin American country gabacho retirees like to set up colonies in nowadays where they refuse to learn Spanish besides “gringo,” “cerveza” and “Soy americano.”

Dear Mexican: Why do Mexican women, who are basically good drivers, turn into morons when they turn into the Walmart parking lot?

Also, here in New Mexico, you get the guys who sneer at you, pull into traffic in front of you at the last possible second, and then slow down to 15 miles an hour. I’ve never seen this anywhere else. Are they Mexicans or just those “I am Espanish!” assholes showing off their inferiority complex?

Califa Motorhead

Dear Pocho: With all due respect, EVERYONE turns into a moron at the Walmart parking lot—hell, at Walmart, period. However, I surprised while researching your pregunta when I learned how relatively few Mexis shop there.

A 2014 study by Kantar Retail found only about 10 percent of Walmart shoppers were Latinos (read: mostly Mexican), with raza preferring Dollar General and Family Dollar stores, by far. I guess it makes sense: Mexicans prefer swap meets and yard sales when looking for low prices.

But the stats are incomplete: In a graphic, Kantar excluded New Mexico. They gave no reason, but I know the answer, which also answers your queja about slow-driving men: The Land of Enchantment is where all preconceived notions about Mexicans go to claim they’re pure-blooded Spaniards going back to Cabeza de Vaca—but definitely not related to Estevanico!

Dear Mexican: What is the deal with Mexicans and their fear of U.S. banks? A recent home invasion netted robbers $2,000 that the Mexicans who lived there were using for their next house payment. When I mentioned this to a Mexicana friend, she told me she was once robbed of the $15,000 she was keeping at her apartment for a house payment. Doesn’t word reach the wabs from their relatives in El Norte that U.S. bank accounts are insured to $100,000?

Huero in the Barrio

Dear Gabacho: Ask Washington Mutual.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

On this week's forward-thinking Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson examines labor at Krap-Mart; The K Chronicles looks at Germany's World Cup win; and Red Meat goes into the future with Genetically Modified Soy Beverage Distribution Man Dan.

Published in Comics

It’s 9 p.m., and my Porsche’s thermometer reads 55 degrees. Felicia Tichenor is wrapped in a thin blanket on her concrete “bed” behind the Staples at Gene Autry Way and Ramon Road.

We’re supposed to have a night photo shoot, but Tichenor is out of it. Next to her is a big Budweiser can.

She’s not going to pose tonight.

Tichenor, 41, is not good at keeping appointments. She has been homeless for eight years now. Her blonde hair is tangled, and her blue eyes are bloodshot. It wasn’t always like this. She had a home once, and a family, too.

“My mom died when I was 14, and my dad in ’06,” Tichenor says, shrugging her shoulders. “I’ve a son; he’s 20 now.”

She stops to light a cigarette. “At 32, I lost my job; things in my life turned for worse. I lost all I had, and when the money ran out, I ended up on the streets. I’ve been homeless ever since.”

She admits she made some bad choices. Addictions, drinking in particular, didn’t help.

“I love my Budweiser,” she grins, “but I don’t drink hard liquors, and I’ve done my drugs when I was younger.”

Her story is pretty typical, sadly, for a homeless person here in the desert. Except for one detail: Tichenor owes about $7,000 in unpaid tickets and citations.

She doesn’t own a car, nor does she drive one. She doesn’t even own a bicycle. She keeps everything she owns in a shopping cart. That’s part of the problem—a number of her tickets are for the illegal use of a shopping cart.

“I’ve gotten about 16 tickets for pushing a shopping cart full of my stuff around (the area of) Walmart and Staples,” Tichenor says. “I even got tickets if I leave a cart around here with my personal belongings in it.

“I’ve got to put my blankets and my clothing somewhere. ... That’s all I’ve got! My whole property!”

She’s also received a number of tickets due to her drinking—for drinking in public and being drunk in public.

“I did get tickets for ‘camping’ and sleeping at the grounds here,” she says, “and for public drunkenness (and possession of an) open container.”

Tichenor has her own explanation for why she’s been picked on.

“Someone from the Walmart called the police and complained, I guess,” she says. “… I’ve got it; (the police officer’s) gotta do his job, but I’ve got no money to pay for any of it! If I had seven grand, I’d be living the hell outta the streets.”

Jeffrey Adams, 44, right, has had a similar problem with court fines. His latest “Failure to Pay Notice” stood at $2,552.68 as of Oct. 9. By now, it’s likely higher due to penalties.

“I went to the public defender, got a payment plan and paid the first $50, but then fell behind,” says Adams as he produces the court papers from his backpack. “I’m ill now, in need of a hernia surgery, and I’ve got not a penny to pay for fines. All I’ve got now is my health scare!”

During the day, Adams sticks around the park at the Palm Springs Library, and he spends nights at the Roy’s Desert Resource Center, a local shelter. He hopes to get his hernia surgery soon, before it gets strangulated.

Like Adams, Tichenor went to the Riverside County Public Defender for help. However, again like Adams, she wasn’t able to make it to court as often as she needed; after all, they don’t have their own transportation.

“I took a two-hour bus ride to Indio court, and I got a public defender, but it didn’t work for me,” Tichenor says, sounding resigned. “It’s hard to make it anywhere on time when you’re homeless.”

Daniel Schmidt, a seasoned local lawyer who spent a large part of his legal career working as a public defender in Indio, has an impressive record of representing the underprivileged.

“These cases are so bizarre when big-buck companies, like Walmart, are causing such a burden to our court system—the judges, the police force, jails and, in particular, the public defender offices—because someone has removed a shopping cart from their lot!” says Schmidt. “Let the Walmart take those individuals to small-claims court instead of spending the taxpayers’ money on such frivolous charges and offenses.”

According to the Riverside County 2013 Homeless Count and Subpopulation Survey, there are 242 unsheltered homeless persons in Indio, while Palm Springs has 60, Cathedral City 59, Coachella 37, Palm Desert 11, Desert Hot Springs 9, La Quinta 5, Rancho Mirage 1, and Indian Wells 0, with dozens more in the unincorporated areas and in the towns heading southeast of the Coachella Valley down to the Salton Sea.

How many of those homeless people owe hundreds or thousands in unpaid tickets, like Adams and Tichenor? It’s hard to tell; we couldn’t even get the numbers for the town of Palm Springs. Sgt. Harvey Reed, of the Palm Springs Police Department, says “it would take a public record request to reach the exact number of the citations issued to the local homeless population.”

In other words, there are probably a lot of them—and society is paying as a result.

“I guess eventually,” says Tichenor, “I’ll do time, because there’s nothing on Earth I can do about that seven grand fine.”

Published in Local Issues

On this week's Independent comics page, The City seeks a human connection; Red Meat upsets milk-lovers; Roland and Cid watch as Rush Limbaugh attacks Mary Poppins; and Jen Sorenson has some questions for The Gap.

Published in Comics