A New Plank In The Democratic Party Platform!
have in common with a Tohono O’odham tribal member? Something very political! They are both members of a steering committee to get a Native American agenda firmly implanted in the Democratic Party platform.
Carmela Confesor, the former New Yorker, and Mike Wilson, the former Presbyterian minister from Sells, Arizona who put water jugs out on the Tohono O’odham reservation last summer for the illegal immigrants, are political activists working in Tucson and dedicated to getting the Democratic presidential candidates involved in issues facing the Native American peoples in this country.
“There are many issues here in Arizona as well as throughout the nation dealing with Native American problems,” asserts Carmela. “I have brought these issues out in talking with the Democratic candidates as they pass through Tucson on the campaign trail.”
She states she has received positive responses from Democratic hopefuls Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, and Senator John F. Kerry from Massachusetts. She and her husband, Stephen, a retired airmen and Filipino/Irishman who was also born in Brooklyn, have hopped on the Kerry bandwagon where both of them are serving on Kerry’s steering committee along with Mike Wilson.
She proudly stated that today, December 4th, Kerry was in Phoenix discussing his Native American agenda with the Inter-Tribal Council. She also hopes she played a decisive role in the addition of Native American issues to his campaign strategy.
“At the Pima County Platform meeting held in Tucson a few weeks ago and attended by party members from all over the state, I sat and waited for someone to mention Native American issues. When no one did, I stood up and asked, ’Well, where is the platform on Native Americans?’ They promised to have one on the agenda by their next meeting.”
“Our Congressman in Washington, Raul Grijalva, is sponsoring a bill to unite the Tohono O’odham Reservation people from both sides of the border. There is a small part of the Reservation that extends into Mexico and those tribal members cannot freely cross the border to attend ceremonies and family gatherings without being treated as Mexicans rather than tribal members.
“Then, there is the matter of citizenship. Without a birth certificate, members of the tribe cannot collect Social
Security benefits and veterans cannot get their pensions because they are unable to prove they were born in the United States. There are some 5,000 tribal members who are senior citizens, now, affected by this ruling. Although they were born in the U.S. and enrolled as tribal members most of them were born at home on the Reservation and never bothered to get birth certificates. They never understood the value or the need for a birth certificate and no one ever bothered to explain those benefits to them.”
In summing up her own agenda on Native activism, Carmela says, “When I lived in Brooklyn, I never knew what an Indian was other than the Lone Ranger’s Tonto. That all changed when I moved to Tucson 35 years ago and, now, I do have a love for these beautiful people who have been abused for so many years by White America.
“Now, what I want is for all of these beautiful people, who are eligible to vote in the 2004 election, to get themselves registered and urge all of their family members and friends to do the same. That goal will be easily accomplished if they understand their future lies within their own grasp.”