A South Bronx food distribution rally on March 20 was funded by the American Indian Community House, which was founded in 1969 to improve the status of Native Americans and foster inter-cultural understanding. It is part of a program that has benefitted more than a thousand families with basic staples and hundreds of winter jackets in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn since September.

At each rally, this partnership delivers close to 220 food packages—almost 25 of which go to households of elderly Native Americans. People interested in receiving the staples register online on the Red de Pueblos Transnacionales’ Facebook page.

The program, a display of community solidarity operating from the South Bronx—which comprises the neighborhoods with the lowest median income in the state—has also strengthened a sense of identity among individuals that descend from the nations that once ruled the continent.

“We are the most marginalized people and they [Indigenous immigrants from Latin America] are just as marginalized, if not more, because they have to deal with the challenges of not being citizens of the U.S., which comes with stereotypes and oppression, racism and bigotry,” said Melissa Iakowi: he’ne Oakes, Mohawk from the Snipe Clan, executive director of the American Indian Community House.*

Indigenous peoples in the Americas share the impression of being foreigners, even though these territories belonged to their forebears, said Yogui Ariza, coordinator of the food distribution program for Red de Pueblos Transnacionales.

Over the last two decades, New York has become home to a large influx of Native Americans and Indigenous immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala. The Mexican Consulate in New York estimates that more than 250,000 of the city’s 323,000 Mexican-born population in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) are of Indigenous origin and that one out of three speaks an Indigenous language, like Amuzgo, Mixe, Purepecha or Tlapanec.

The newcomers—from within the U.S. and beyond the Southern border—have brought their distinctive knowledge and traditions. Networks of solidarity, cooperation and unpaid volunteer work are common to many Indigenous nations in the Americas. Reinforced as a response to institutional neglect and discrimination, these practices have been in full display during the pandemic.

“We have witnessed that the government has excluded us in many ways from receiving aid,” said Ariza. “Feeling abandoned, we had no other option but to support each other.”

Read the full article about indigenous solidarity by Maurizio Guerrero at The Counter.