A Call For Justice And Unity After Terrorist Attack.
Statement From Community Supported Organizer Jacob Johns Shot Last Week at Peaceful Prayer Circle.
On Thursday, September 28, 2023, a harrowing and racially motivated incident occurred while members of the united states climate action network, members of local Tewa tribes, various Pueblos, Indigenous and Hispano community at large and Española/Rio Arriba County citizens came together for a spiritual convening/ceremony to continue to pray for a favorable resolution against the reinstallation of the Don de Oñate monument in front of the Rio Arriba County Offices. Invoking prayers from the future to weave a bond of spiritual unity, Jacob Johns (Akimel O’otham and Hopi) a community supported organizer and member of USCAN was not just a participant, he was invited to deepen his spiritual involvement by partaking in an overnight prayer vigil on Wednesday evening, prior to a larger gathering the next morning. This vigil, which had begun on Tuesday, September 26th, culminated in a sunrise prayer ceremony on Thursday morning, heralding a new dawn of hope and unity. Throughout, Jacob stood in harmony with new relations of similar convictions, praying and singing with Indigenous matriarchs, elders, children, and allies/accomplices, nurturing a collective vision and shared dreams.
For generations, Pueblo people have experienced harm, loss, and systemic discrimination at the hands of Spanish, American and equally insidious nuclear colonialism, even as they’ve held steadfastly to the original instructions bestowed upon them at the beginning of this world. The deliberate act of violence last week, targeting a tranquil prayer camp at the planned location for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue, taken down by Rio Arriba County in 2020 is yet another painful reminder of the myriad injustices rooted in our collective Indigenous history. This tragic event underscores the long saga of dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies that the Pueblo community, following their ancient instructions, have continually rallied against and resisted. The Pueblo people of New Mexico are credited with the only successful uprising against colonial occupation/power in the Americas, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. We have long fought for our humanity in our own homelands.
I want to emphasize the importance of focusing on a narrative of unity rather than division. It’s vital to give prominence to the experiences and perspectives of everyone present during the spiritual gathering and those affected by the pervasive culture of violence. The repercussions, both physical and emotional, that Jacob has endured will last a lifetime. However, Jacob isn’t the sole victim. While he bore the physical wounds, the broader community, including women, children, and elders present that day, experienced and continue to experience deep emotional distress. Their stories deserve to be heard.
It is essential to underscore that this wasn’t merely a “protest” or simple altercation. Myself, members of local Pueblos, Native New Mexicans and the larger community were deeply engrossed in a peaceful gathering when we were ambushed in what could have potentially been a mass murder. After I was shot point-blank in the chest, the refrain ‘I can’t breathe” echoed once again, this time in New Mexico, capturing the anguish many felt during the uprising across the country in 2020. The subsequent malfunction of the shooter’s weapon miraculously spared the lives of others, including lifelong Rio Arriba resident, Malaya Peixinho. This is the power of our prayers at work. Yet, the startling fact remains, this heinous act of violence could have easily been prevented. By the police who let this agitator who had more weapons in his car back past the safety line and let him engage once again with the prayer circle and then left.
While police were present earlier in the day and had previously attempted to escort the shooter away for disruptive behavior, they later permitted the shooter to return citing his “civil liberties” and then vacated the premises, abandoning our peaceful demonstration despite the clear threat to our safety. LaVerne McGrath, my mother, asks that this tragedy lead to a re-orientation of the role of police, from one in which threats to Black, Indigenous and People of color are downplayed and intervention only occurs once those threats become violence, to one that upholds peace and safety.
The shooter made the point to introduce himself to members of the media, requesting that he be photographed and filmed. This coverage proves the notoriety he sought and further exacerbates the harm he has perpetrated on myself and loved ones, the community impacted, and all Black, Indigenous and People of Color for whom racial violence creates ongoing trauma.
Though the perpetrator remains in jail as of today, our work must continue to ensure that he accounts for his crimes through our legal system. The state of New Mexico has an opportunity to send a strong message that violence targeting BIPOC people, the majority in this state, will not go without firm consequence. The state of New Mexico has a chance to ensure the safety of all residents’ right to celebrate, pray, mobilize for their well being and mourn by supporting systemic change that centers community safety and well-being.
For countless generations, Indigenous Peoples have been subjected to harm, death, and systemic oppression. The premeditated shooting last week is another marker of the systemic injustices in Pueblo and Indigenous history. The violence was targeted at a peaceful prayer camp situated at the proposed site for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue. It highlights the long history of injustices against Indigenous Peoples by dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies that the community had gathered to spiritually count.
This incident should not be misconstrued as a clash between protestors. Indigenous community members were engaged in a peaceful and spiritual gathering when they were ambushed in what could have been a mass murder.
Despite the police being present earlier and intervening due to the shooter’s disruptive actions, their decision to let him return later compromised the security of the peaceful assembly. This unfortunate incident should not only prompt law enforcement to reexamine and redefine their approach to such events in the future but also act as a catalyst for redefining police roles to protect our communities.. The emphasis should shift towards proactively addressing threats to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, prioritizing their peace and safety above all.
In the swirling nexus of time and intention, we stand as the essential links between the present and an envisioned tomorrow. As intermediaries, our role is not just to relay the messages of today but also to channel the potent prayers from a future waiting to manifest. These aren’t simply ephemeral hopes but intentional summons that rise from the collective heartbeat of a world aspiring for health, justice, and sustainability.
This is a crucial moment, one where we can bear witness to the profound miracles of collective will and faith. When so many joined hands, hearts, and spirits in prayer for me, they crafted a luminous space, a sanctuary for my consciousness to evolve, to heal, and ultimately, to rejoin the shared tapestry of our existence. Amid the roaring blades of a helicopter, I crossed the fragile line between life and death multiple times. But in that otherworldly realm, the wisdom of our ancestors rekindled the reasons for my return, the significance of this journey we know as life. They bestowed upon me clearly defined paths, blueprints for navigating the future we so desperately seek.
Incremental steps, though significant, are no longer enough. They can feel like mere ripples against the vast tide of challenges we face. Thus, we must be more: we must embody the envisioned future — a future radiant with justice, harmony, and vibrancy.
The canvas of tomorrow, though unwritten, pulses with the potential of our shared dreams. Every intentional thought, every affirmative prayer, casts ripples into this vast expanse, crafting the world we yearn for. It’s like tuning into a celestial song, harmonizing our aspirations with the rhythms of the universe.
Together, bound by shared purpose and unwavering belief, we have the power to co-create our world. Channeling these prayers from the future, they not only guide us but also remind us of the sanctity of our journey. Though the future is unwritten, with every combined prayerful intention, we inscribe our deepest desires onto its ever-evolving narrative, forging a destiny filled with miracles and hope.
Within the intricate dance of time and intent, we find ourselves as pivotal connectors between today’s realities and a vision for tomorrow. As guardians of this temporal bridge, we don’t merely pass on current messages but also channel profound prayers from a future yet to be realized. These aren’t fleeting wishes but deliberate calls emerging from the collective soul of a world longing for wellness, fairness, and continuity.
This pivotal juncture invites us to witness firsthand the miracles born of collective hope and faith. As numerous souls united in prayer for my well-being, they wove together a radiant haven where my consciousness found space to heal, evolve, and re-immerse into our communal journey. Even amidst the thundering resonance of helicopter blades, I teetered on the delicate threshold of life and the beyond. Yet, in that transcendent space, ancestral wisdom illuminated my path back, underscoring the profoundness of our shared earthly journey. They imparted to me a crystalline roadmap for traversing the desired future that beckons us.
While incremental progress holds its value, it can often seem dwarfed in the face of the immense challenges before us. Therefore, our call is to transcend and truly become embodiments of the luminous future we envision — a horizon aglow with justice, unity, and life.
The tapestry of the morrow, still in its weaving stages, resonates with the dreams we hold close. Each purpose-driven thought and heartfelt prayer sends waves through this vast continuum, shaping the world we ardently hope for. It’s akin to aligning with a cosmic symphony, our dreams resonating in harmony with the universe’s grand design.
United by a common vision and unshakeable faith, we harness the capacity to sculpt our shared destiny. As we draw forth these future-focused prayers, they serve as both beacons and reminders of our sacred journey’s essence. We must remember that the future is unwritten and it is us who decides our fate.