Monday, April 24, 2006

Robert Soto, Lipan Apache: Surrendering the feathers

Below is a letter from Robert Soto that I had forgotten to post. He describes the experience of giving up his feathers. In case anyone thinks that the colonizing days are over, think again.

March 25, 2006

Dear Friends:

I wish I could describe the day and the feelings that went through my heart and mind as we delivered my two roach feathers to the federal agent today. As you may already know, our area of the world is warm and sometimes very hot throughout the winter. We have not had rain or even a cold day almost all winter. But this morning when I woke up, not only was it colder than normal, but it was a super gloomy day with rain. As went to pick up two of our elders to help us out in our ceremony, I almost felt that God our Creator was weeping with His children.

Words can't really describe what was going through my heart as about 25 of us gathered outside the lawyer's office complex with our ceremonial regalia and prayed. I prayed that God would give us wisdom. I prayed that God would continue to guide us. As I prayed I reminded my people that Romans 8:28 was still in the Bible, that all things do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. I reminded them that God was still on the throne and that He was still in control. I reminded them that we have to be patient for the greater good that will come out of this day and the event that was about to follow. As I finished praying, one of our honored elders, a decorated Korean war veteran, held the two feathers in his hands. The feathers were wrapped in our traditional ways, as if we were about to bury one of our own. The drummers started singing our traditional farewell song in our Apache language as we slowly started our way to the room where the federal agent was waiting for us. As we slowly proceeded through the hallway, workers came to support us and then stood bowing down as in prayer. As we entered the room, the federal agent was waiting for us.

He could not look us in the eye. We stood there and sang our song. When we finished our song, I lit some sage with the very same feathers that I was giving up and blessed the bustles and feathers that were being taken away. Then all the people came and smudged themselves. Then our drum sang a farewell song. It was a powerful song. There was not a dry eye in the room. Our people were crying as we had just lost a loved one. In many ways, we had.

After we finished our song I looked at the agent and told him we were finished. At that time he asked everyone except Mike and I to leave the room. We stayed behind and he talked to us. He wanted to assure us that this was not a racial thing or just picking on Indians. That he was just doing his job. He then turned to me and said, "Do you understand this?" I looked at him and said, "I wish not to say anything." We signed our charges and we left. The lawyer came to say goodbye and every one with tears in their eyes thanked him for all his help. One lady who was with us is from Switzerland. She is here to help Iris and me with our church work. She looked at the lawyer with tears in her eyes and said, "I have always read about the bad things we did to the Indian people. In Europe we think things have changed. But now I know that things have not changed at all."

As I was getting ready to leave I asked the lawyer about a videotape that was on the table with the agent. He said he would go and ask. Basically, the war is not over. He is going to war with the Indian people in Texas. I was told that the agency is planning to invade many other pow wows in Texas. His goal is to bust any Indian person who is not federally recognized in Texas. This does not sound like he is 'just doing his job'. He has an agenda and has chosen to attack a certain people group. In Texas there are over 280,000 Native Americans. Most of these do not have their status card. So this man has chosen to go to war against all of us. Our lawyer advised us to warn all the people who put on pow wows - to warn them about the wrath that is still to come against them from an agent who is taking this as his task to destroy who we are as Native Americans.

Tonight was a very sad night. I performed for an arts organization in McAllen. Tonight I danced without my feathers for the first time ever. Keep us in prayer. This story is not over. He might come after me again. I guess some of us must die before the world sees that very little has changed when it comes to Native American rights.

I will be traveling tomorrow to a pow wow where I will be the head man dancer, doing my hoop dance and will be conducting a Native worship service. Pray for us as we travel 490 miles to the pow wow. I do not feel like dancing, but at the same time I have obligations to keep. Pray for all who will come to our service on Sunday. Love you all and thank you for your prayers. I will send you the letter with the state officials we need to contact very soon. By the way, we will try and have some pictures of the surrendering of our feathers in our website by Saturday or Sunday.

Our website is

Robert Soto, Lipan Apache Warrior for Jesus

Friday, April 07, 2006

Letter from Robert Soto, Lipan Apache

Received Friday, April 7, 2006

Dear Friends:

I came home yesterday and will depart tomorrow to Florida. This past weekend I had an obligation as a head man dancer at a pow wow, as well as taking a dance team to a university for a two-hour educational presentation. Now I am preparing to depart again to be a guest speaker and performer at a Native conference sponsored by the Methodist Church in Leesburg Florida. I must apologize for not being able to answer all of your e-mails that I have received - from not just in the United States, but all over the world. Each of your letters has been a source of comfort and encouragement.

Even though I was at a pow wow this weekend, I spent the whole weekend praying and seeking our God and Creator's direction and wisdom as to what to do next concerning my surrendered eagle feathers. At this time I am writing a newspaper article that I hope will make the three major newspapers in our area, and maybe others throughout Texas and the United States. Then I will be seeking legal counsel from a lawyer that is familiar with violations of our first amendment rights and violations in our religious practices and freedom when the federal agent rudely came into our pow wow are and started harassing both vendors and dancers.

But the next step is writing to our four government officials and informing them of the violation of one federal officer when he chose to interrupt our pow wow. I will give you some of the things I feel were clear violations of our rights a Native Americans so as to help you write your thoughts. I would like to hear that over a thousand letters came to each official to make them aware of what happened.

1. The illegal taking of our feathers which are sacred to all Indian people - both with BIA cards and without.

2. Threatening to arrest us if we did not cooperate and having to ask him four times to show me his credentials as he ordered me to give up my roach feathers.

3. A violation of our sacred rights when he forced his way into our pow wow area, after he was advised hat the pow wow was a sacred gathering and he had no right to enter into it.

4. His insistence that the pow wow was not a sacred gathering because we had advertised our event to the public in the newspapers. Thus when we invited the public, according to him, it ceased being a sacred event and gave him the right to come into our pow wow and doing what ever he desired.

5. The threat that he would not stop until every Indian in our area, the Rio Grande Valley and Texas, who was not of federally recognized status, would have their feathers taken away.

6. The threat that he or the US Fish and Wildlife Department would invade every pow wow in Texas to make sure any Indian who did not deserve the use of eagle feathers were taken away.

7. His insistence that this was not a racial issue or that he was not picking on any particular group of people or Indians, yet threatening to harass any non-status Indian or Indian without a permit from the US Fish and WildLife Service for that feather. Thus creating war on every non-status Indian in Texas; over 270,000 of whom call Texas their homes.

These are some suggestions. If you desire, you may check out my website where I have put all the letters I have written so far, including pictures of the surrendering of our feathers ceremony.

Send four letters via the US Postal service to our federal representatives. E-mails normally are not read. Here are the four representives to write:

Senator John Cornyn517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison284 Russell Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa2864 W. Trenton Rd.Edinburg, TX 78539Rep. Lloyd Doggett311 N. 15th St.McAllen, TX 78501

I thank you for your help in this issue. I truly feel that we need to take a stand and fight the system now, not for my sake but for the sake of all who will follow in our circle for years to come. God bless and thank you for your help.

Robert Soto Lipan Apache Warrior for Jesus

P.S. The following is a copy of a letter from Daniel Romero, chairman of the Lipan Apache Band of Texas, Inc., which you may find helpful as you formulate your thoughts for your letter to our representatives.

Dear Tribal Members and Native American Community,

On March 11, 2006, during the McAllen Pow Wow, Robert Soto's (Lipan Apache) Eagle feathers were removed by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agent who stopped the Pow Wow and harassed vendors while searching for eagle feathers. General Council Member of the Lipan Apache Band of Texas, Inc. told the agent that he was violating the Freedom of Religion Act by harassing dancers and vendors during the giveaway - a sacred ceremony. Not much can be done about the Eagle feathers, but the attitude of the agent must not be allowed to set the standard among Texas Native Americans. General Council Secretary of the Lipan Apache Band of Texas, Inc. told the agent to leave the Pow Wow, the agent responded by stating that because the event was announced in the newspaper he did not have to leave.

Question: What would happen if a Native American man or woman entered a church during a mass and ordered everyone to empty their pockets to see if they had us dollars in their pockets. The Native American person would be charged with violating a church mass, so why is it right for an agent to conduct himself this way?

Please remember that Robert Soto is the Vice Chairman of the Lipan Apache Band of Texas, Inc.

So what can we do to help Robert Soto?

Write or Fax the US Senator and US Congressman listed below

Please forward this information to any individual or to interested party. All responses are appreciated.


Daniel Castro Romero, Jr.
General Council Chairman
Lipan Apache Band of Texas, Inc.

U.S. Defies United Nations Decision

Western Shoshone Defense Project
Shundahai Network
Joint Press Release - April 4, 2006

U.S. Defies U.N. Decision– Plans Massive Military Detonation on Western Shoshone Land
Western Shoshone call for halt to planned June 2 “Bunker Buster” detonation at the Nevada Test Site

Speaking with media last week, US military spokesman James Tegnelia confirmed U.S. plans to detonate a 700 ton explosion at the Nevada Test Site on June 2, 2006 in a test called “Divine Strake.” The location of this test would be on Western Shoshone land, and would be in direct violation of a recent decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In its decision, made public March 10, 2006, the CERD Committee urged the United States to “freeze”, “desist” and “stop” actions being taken, or threatened to be taken, against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. In its decision, CERD stressed the “nature and urgency” of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes “well beyond” the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

The CERD decision explicitly cited ongoing weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site as well as efforts to build an unprecedented high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, NV.

James Tegnelia of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying, "I don't want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," and notes further that this is the “largest single explosive that we could imagine.” The Department of Defense announced in late October 2005 that the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrating (RNEP) weapon project was being dropped in favor of a more conventional methodology.

The detonation plan also runs contrary to earlier public statements made in late March to the Las Vegas Review-Journal by Linton F. Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. In his statement, Mr. Brooks announced that the Bush administration had no plans to start detonating warheads at the Nevada Test Site. "We have absolutely no evidence that we're going to need to test. ... We don't see any specific reason now that leads us to believe we'll need a test," Mr. Brooks said. "On the other hand," he said, "we don't know everything about the future."

According to Raymond Yowell, Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council, “We’re opposed to any further military testing on Shoshone lands. This is a direct violation of the CERD finding and an affront to our religious belief - Mother Earth is sacred and should not be harmed. All people who are opposed to these actions by the U.S. should step forward and make their opposition known.”

Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmother and Executive Director of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, “The U.S. has named this 700 ton explosive ‘Divine Strake’. It’s a mystery why they use ‘devine.’ Isn’t ‘devine’ used for your deity, God, Your sacredness? Why don’t they call it ‘Hell Strake?’ I believe when you are working testing weaponry of destruction of life, you should not associate it with ‘devine.’ We want this insanity to stop – no more bombs and no more testing.”

Eileen McCabe-Olsen, Associate Director of Shundahai Network noted, “This test, besides being an egregious violation of Western Shoshone sovereignty, is an escalation that should outrage anyone concerned with peace, justice and care of our environment.”

Pete Litster, Executive Director of Shundahai Network said “Ongoing weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site violate international law. They violate the standing treaty between the U.S. Government and the Western Shoshone people. They also violate the spirit of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Test Site is located on Western Shoshone territory, and must not continue to be misused in bold violation of standing agreements between the U.S. government and the Western Shoshone nation.”

Although approval for the test was sought and obtained from the state of Nevada in January 2006, the test detonation can be cancelled. The Western Shoshone National Council, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Shundahai Network call for the United States Government to do so immediately. Concerned citizens can call or write to express their opinions:

President George W. Bush 202-456-1111
The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20500

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary Donald H. RumsfeldSecretary of Defense1000 Defense PentagonWashington, DC 20301-1000

James Tegnelia (800) 701-5096
Defense Threat Reduction Aagency Attn: James Tegnelia 8725 John J Kingman RD Stop 6201 Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-6201

Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone Defense Project 775-468-0230
Pete Litster, Shundahai Network 801-637-1500

The Western Shoshone Defense Project's ( mission is to affirm Newe (Western Shoshone) jurisdiction over Newe Sogobia (Western Shoshone homelands) by protecting, preserving, and restoring Newe rights and lands for present and future generations based on cultural and spiritual traditions. The W.S.D.P. was established in 1991 by the Western Shoshone National Council to provide support to Mary and Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmothers who were facing the confiscation of the livestock that they graze on Western Shoshone lands.

Shundahai Network ( is dedicated to breaking the nuclear chain by building alliances with indigenous communities and environmental, peace and human rights movements. We seek to abolish all nuclear weapons and an end to nuclear testing. We advocate phasing out nuclear energy and ending the transportation and dumping of nuclear waste. We promote the principles of Environmental Justice and strive to insure that indigenous voices are heard in the movement to influence U.S. nuclear and environmental policies. All of our campaigns and events incorporate the values of community building, education, spiritual ceremonies and nonviolent direct action.

Western Shoshone Defense Project
P.O. Box 211308
Crescent Valley, NV 89821
775-468-0237 (fax)