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‘Broken Border’ More Dangerous Than ‘Government Shutdown’ : Donald Trump

The Post-ABC poll pegged the blame on Trump and Republicans at 53 percent to 29 percent on Democrats.

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A migrant climbs the border fence before jumping into the U.S. in San Diego, California, from Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 27, 2018. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump contended Sunday that the damage from the country’s “badly broken border” with Mexico is “far greater” than the effects of the longest-ever partial government shutdown, now in its 23rd day.

“The building of the Wall on the Southern Border will bring down the crime rate throughout the entire Country!” Trump claimed on Twitter.

About 800,000 federal workers missed their first paychecks on Friday in the closures that have shuttered about a quarter of U.S. government operations.

The dispute centers on Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion to build a barrier along the 3,200-kilometer border with Mexico to thwart illegal immigration.

There was no movement toward a settlement, with Congress not meeting again till Monday.

Trump, Shutdown
President Donald Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House as he walks from Marine One, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Washington. VOA

“I’m in the White House, waiting,” Trump said. “The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay. They are having fun and not even talking!”

Trump was ridiculing about 30 opposition Democratic lawmakers who flew to the sun-drenched Caribbean island territory of Puerto Rico for a charity performance of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.”

Trump most recently has blamed Democrats for the government shutdown, but before it started Dec. 22, he said he said he would be “proud” to “own” it.

Numerous government services have been curtailed, while some museums and parks have been closed during the shutdown. The 800,000 federal civil servants who went without normal pay last week have been furloughed or ordered to work without pay, although they will be paid retroactively when the stalemate over Trump’s border wall plan is resolved.

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The prototypes for U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall are seen behind the border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

Trump was asked late Saturday by Fox News talk show host Jeanine Pirro why he has not declared a national emergency to build the wall without congressional approval as he signaled last week he was ready to do. But Trump said he wants to give Congress a chance to negotiate a deal.

“I want to give them a chance to see if they can act responsibly,” Trump said.

Trump walked out of a White House meeting last week with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, when they refused to approve a border wall, even if he reopened the government and negotiated over border security for the next 30 days. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in new border security funding, but none specifically for a wall.

Trump contended, “I’m ready, willing and able to get a deal done…. This country wants to have protection at the border. Many of our crimes, much — MS-13 comes through the border, drugs, a big proportion of the drugs from, you know, that we have from this country — in this country come through the border.”

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Visitors take their pictures at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, as a partial government shutdown stretches into its third week. VOA

New polls on wall, shutdown

Two new polls, by The Washington Post and ABC News, along with one from CNN, showed American voters blame Trump and Republicans more than Democrats for the partial government shutdown and oppose construction of the wall.

The Post-ABC poll said a slight majority (54 percent) opposes construction of the wall, with 42 percent favoring it. CNN’s poll said the split against was 56-39.

Also Read: Trump Denies Allegations Suggesting He Is Beholden to Putin

CNN said the public generally blames Trump for the shutdown, with 55 percent saying that he is more responsible to 32 percent for Democrats, with 9 percent saying both are responsible. The Post-ABC poll pegged the blame on Trump and Republicans at 53 percent to 29 percent on Democrats. (VOA)

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“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

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It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)