Saturday, August 05, 2006

Series in Critical Security 5

Shadow Wolves - Native American Customs Agents

"Shadow Wolves are summoned units on a timer which lasts 60 seconds. Shadows Wolves have Critical Strike and are invisible except when they are attacking." - Quote from Warcraft III Handbook.
In this series, one of the most important questions to ask is, "How is something/someone governed?" The technique, practice, personnel, training, materials, and skills are important to understanding what "affect" the act of governance is to have on a population and territory (to use the language of governmentality). The Shadow Wolves are another example of how "ethnic state security maps" racialize and construct ethnicity in order to produce particular "national security" outcomes. The Shadow Wolves are a select group of men from the Tohono O'Odham nation located in Southern Arizona along the border. The enlistment of Native American "trackers" for service in the Bureau for Immigration and Customs Enforcement presses many interesting issues of security discourse to the foreground, but for this post I'll be addressing the issue of security discourse and Native American identity.

Before I say more, please watch this video from a special edition of "COPS" from the FOX network highlighting the service of the Shadow Wolves.

Right from the start, the host, Harry L. Newman Sr., displays the "thickness" of security discourse in contemporary politics. Let's take a closer look,

Ever since 9/11, the big question in this country is, how safe are our borders. Well, the job of keeping our borders secure has fallen on a new organization called ICE. Now, we've been riding along with them in the main battle zone of this war. Let me tell ya', sometimes the fight still makes the place feel like the wild wild West.
So, again we have the obscuration of the history of national security regulating immigration through racial designations. Second, safety is used rhetorically in the question, "how safe are our borders?" but the borders have always been maintained with violence making them deadly places. Third, the rhetorical question is answered with adjective secure, making a leap in logic to change the definition of safety, as in "free from harm", to "complete containment." This is an important leap of logic because it makes the people from the "outside" dangerous, while allowing the "inside" to remain uncontaminated. Fourth, Mr. Newman (or Mr. Newman's writers) labels the border a "battle zone" of a "war." Which war is he talking about? Is he talking about the Mexican-American War, the War on Terror, or just plain old racial violence. One needs to ask this question of "which war?", because Mr. Newman still thinks it's the "wild wild west."

The "thickness" of Harry's introduction to the Shadow Wolves sets the tone for the rest of the episode. Although, the main message of the episode seems to be, "See, Indians are active members in National Security. We're not all white! Plus all Indians are "natural" trackers, born with a "special connection to nature." A connection which allows them to "hunt" out the bad guys." Mr. Newman and Roger Applegate from ICE go on to say,

The shadow wolves bring a special insight to that job [border security], becasue they are all Native American. They bring with them a whole host of skills that they bring with them, in being members of a tribe. The skills have been passed down to them through thier ancestry. The ability to track, is one of the major assests that they have now.

The This episode seems to present the Tohono O'odham nation as completely supportive of federal immigration policy decisions. In fact, naturally inclined, to the particular techniques required by federally legislated law. Instead, I would argue that the Shadow Wolves are much more like the description in the Warcraft Handbook.

  • Valuable when "summoned" for a particular service
  • Playtime is limited to a short duration
  • They should not be used frivolously, the "Critical Strike" is your opportunity to command the battle field.
  • Disposible, Invisible, Harmless
While the Shadow Wolves are busy being "summoned," other Tohono O'Odham's are struggling to live with the border maintanence policies that bisect thier traditional lands. Rose Arietta writes for the Global Policy Forum,

Operation Gatekeeper, designed to crack down on illegal immigration in the San Diego area, diverted migrants to the less crowded Sonoran Desert and Tohono O'odham land. Within a year or two, hundreds of tribe members "started calling the vice chairman's office because they were being stopped and asked for documents," says tribal general counsel Margo Cowan. "Some of them were roughed up-dragged out of their cars, spoken to with profanity, told they had to get documents or they would be arrested and deported. Some were arrested. Some were deported."

During the Immigrant-Rights marches earlier this year in May, Tohono O'odham Indians were side by side with Mexicanos and other immigrant groups denouncing the effect that national security has on thier lives.
[please see comments about this issue]

I think the case of the Shadow Wolves can be used as a good example of how "ethnic state security maps" construct ethnic and racial identities in service of producing security discourse.

There is too much here in the Shadow Wolves case to get into for one post, so I'll save some for another time. Meanwhile check out these links to other Shadow Wolf contributions to security discourse. Tell me what you think. I haven't had time to check them all out, yet.

Other Contributions to National Security Discourse
Shadow Wolves Unofficial Web Site HERE

Small Regional News and Local Business Article HERE

Smithsonian Article on "People & Culture" HERE

Customs and Border Protection Newsletter HERE

Shadow Wolves Train Moldovian Police Forces HERE


Blogger Gladys said...

finally got a chance to take a breather and sit down with your posts. love your engagement with these issues. national security, governance, police regulation are all topics that scare to me, but you make them approachable. i'm esp. fascinated by the connections you've found between iraq and the american southwest -- reminds me of how earlier american imperial wars had connections with immigration regulation as well. it's good to know great minds are working on this more contemporary stuff.

(btw, have you read eithne luibhÊid's entry denied? she got her ph.d. from es at berkeley as well.)

12:23 AM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

Thanks for your input Gladys. It's always nice to hear encouraging words about your intellectual investments.
regarding earlier imperial wars: i totally agree. For instance, many of the texts on the cultures of us imperialism (esp. Amy Kaplan) demonstrate the intimate cultural connections between the foreign and domestic. I'm really trying to see if that stuff is still relevant for today, it seems so.
Re Luibheid: I Queer Migrations which I haven't had time to read yet, but I'm definitely going to check her Entry Denied. Thanks for the suggestion.
Looking forward to more posts from your readings.

9:45 AM  
Blogger csperez said...

i second gladys' comment that you make these issues approachable and engaging. your connection to the videogame reminds me of connections others have made to technology making war seem more like a video game, a virtual space (or an imagined anti-community) as opposed to a space of real historical / cultural / psychological trauma.

what struck me as humorous is how they foreground the idea of an "ancient tracker" with special skills that only a native american can know...and then the shadowwolf comes on and he sees a footprint and then some cloth on a cactus!!! as if one needs one's ancestors to tell them a fresh footprint means someone went by recently. all one needs is CSI!!!

re: the soldier-ethnographers, MTV is doing a special on soldiers with cameras -- i dont think it's out yet, but you might want to google it and check it out, i'd be curious to see what you have to say about far as the videos, i wonder if you see a difference between how ethnic soldiers construct the war as opposed to white soldiers?

anyways, great post!!!

11:42 AM  
Blogger Gladys said...

those are super questions, craig. i'd love to know more about the MTV soldier-ethnographer, myself.

as for the video game connection, i found this web site of an artist intervening into the U.S. Army's online recruiting video game, the artist's project being called "dead-in-iraq". fascinating responses from the other players. (oh, and the term "imagined anti-community" is great!)

12:38 PM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

G. n' C.: yes the issue of soldier ethnographers is kind of a fetish for me. especially those who don't think they are. Ipod/Apple culture has encouraged many people to "document" thier lives and publish them in unapologetic ways. Like writing a personal letter and handing out copies at the farmers market. Most of these people are privledged persons with the knowledge and resources to create a web presence.
Indeed it would be interesting to see how soldiers of color "see" the war that they are in.
Interesting note: on post 4. The marine unit that the author of the video is in contains an Asian member. Throughout the slideshow presented, the Asian member is shown posing in de-masculinized poses and gestures, orchestrated by other members (like two white soldiers holding a mop head above the Asian soldiers head as a women's wig while the Asian soldier makes faces + others). I'm sure his view of thier missions is different than the other soldiers.
definitely going to check out this MTV tip, plus just glanced at dead-in-iraq, thanks G, and definitely going to spend some more time checking that out.
Senor Perez, "imagined anti-community", yes man this is the dark side of Anderson's concept. It seems like the "imagined anti-community" is the Othering process that "non-Ethnic" Americans desire to define thier identity in differance, what they are not (Derrida). Anti-community seems to be a subset of imagined community (subset a=exclusive=anti-community=difference) (subset b=inclusive=community=sameness).

More questions: is the anti-community concept a concern of "national security" or is this still "state security"? On the one hand you have the security of the imagined national identity on the other hand states rely on exclusivist notions of national identity for thier security programs.
P.S. you guys make me love blogging, this is great.

12:38 AM  
Blogger SunKill said...

howdy man. this a O'odham person talking to you now. I found your post as I swam around looking for posts related to my tribe.
And your thing is not to bad.
I have a question for you though.
why do you assume that ANY O'odham would be for mexicans or any type of illegal activity on the border? We have never identified in any way with mexicans(spanish) people. they are as they have always been; invaders, aliens, colonialists and so forth and so forth.....
I would have liked to have marched with the illegals, the mexicans...however there is NO reason at all for ANY Native Person(s) to support the illegals.
The mexican has NEVER supported Native People. We seem to make goog fodder for them at election time. But there has never been any results for all thier mexican rhetoric.
there is no Land Base for any tribe. We have no social service for community welfare. We have no rights or protection under mexican law. There is nothing for us there, and most of all, no cause for us to march/support for any mexican cause. We O'odham are still fighting mexico for the return of our Indigenous Land Base. which for us, is the entire state of sonora.
If there was, then maybe some indians would have been there. Perhaps you had read Indian Country Today, a newspaper, for your article. I recognize some of the pictures.
the reporter Brenda Norrell, is a fraud. she and the Indian Country Today, have consistantly printed articles that have been nothing more than propaganda pieces for the "illegal immigration movement". which has no bearing on who WE are and our issues. thank you. please ask me if you have any questions.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

Sunkill, I'm so glad that you were able to dicover my blog out of all of the chaos of the internet. Your comments are dead on, and I thank you for helping me to broaden my understanding of this issue.
To address your question about my assumption that O'odhams would support Mexicans in the politics of the borderlands: My assumptions are partly informed by the time I spent with Derechos Humanos in Tucson, AZ (with Jose Matus, Kat Rodriguez, Margo Cowan, and Isabell Garcia) As you probably know Derechos Humanos has been involved with the O'odham. In suggesting that O'odham and Mexicans share some political interest was not to suggest any type of alliance but that O'odham face similar consequences as Mexican American residents on the U.S. side of the border (Border Patrol racial profiling, harassment, destruction of property, etc). The main idea of the post was to provide a bit more complexity to the racial binary(Anglo/Latino) which typifies so much border politics. You were right, it was wrong of me to lump O'odham in with US/Mexico politics. I certainly do not want to recreate the crap that Norrell writes.
The issue you raise brings some important distinctions to the topic of this series, security. What I find interesting about your comments is the notion that not all struggles against the conditions of 'national security' programs can be considered compatible. In deed, the O'odham nation suffers from the collision of 2 "ethnic state security maps" from different state apparatuses.

Sunkill, I wonder, what is the history of O'odham experience with respect to the creation of the U.S.-Mexico line. Did O'odham participate in the Mexican-American war? How?
Also, How do you view the O'odham nation policing of undocumented crossing. There are many reports that the O'odham tribal government have created thier own detention centers to hold undocumented crossers.
And, what is the O'odham perspective on the Zapatista movement in Southern Mexico?
Sunkill, email me personnally if you would be interested in writing a post on my blog as a "guest writer" [contact me at chinotronic(at)]

8:18 AM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

Sunkill et al. After rereading my comments and questions in my last comment entry I realized that it sounds like I'm asking you to speak for all O'odham. Just curious what your viewpoints are on those topics.
The questions you raised completely distracted me from the original post about the Shadow Wolves. Do you know anyone who is in this group? What is thier status in the larger O'odham nation?
Best Wishes,

4:57 PM  

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