Honoring Jose Matus
Founding Executive Director
Born: October 7th, 1951
Traveled: December 3rd, 2017
Jose Matus was a Yaqui Ceremonial Elder and leader of the Yaqui community of the city of South Tucson's Barrio Libre. He graduated from Pueblo High School in 1970, attended Pima Community College's Public Administration Program in 1971 through 1973 and the University of Arizona Public Administration from 1973 to 1975.
Jose and his long time partner Rosemary, who also helped shaped Indigenous Alliance Without Borders.
In 1973, Jose was instrumental in bringing attention to Yaqui Indigenous abuse of authority and violations of rights by the South Tucson Police Department, and at the same time he was given the task by Yaqui Ceremonial Elders of Barrio Libre of bringing ceremonial participants from Rio Yaqui Sonora, México. From that time, Jose became involved in promoting Yaqui Indigenous rights of passage and mobility. In 1974, before the Yaquis of Arizona were recognized as an American Indian Tribe, he was instrumental in negotiating and establishing a border crossing agreement with U.S. Immigration officials and U.S. Justice Department for the crossing and re-crossing of Yaqui ceremonial participants. Since 1997, the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Government adopted the process and now they use it to assist all Yaqui communities in Arizona that celebrate the Yaqui Lent Ceremonies.
From 2006 to 2017, Jose served as the Executive Director of the Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras – promoting respect and bringing attention to Indigenous rights, southern border rights and environmental protection of sacred sites. Jose has spoken around the country and internationally, including college campuses.
In 2010, Jose was honored to be selected to receive the Alston Bannerman Fellowship, which supports longtime organizers of color by giving them the resources to take time out for reflection and renewal.
The Indigenous Alliance Without Borders (Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras) was established in 1997 at an Indigenous Border Conference addressing persistent law enforcement abuse against Indigenous peoples living in the U.S.- México border region. The conference convened at the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation Territory. This gathering, initiated by the late Yaqui ceremonial leader and Native rights activist Jose Matus, brought together local, international and regional allies who work on issues of human/civil rights, immigrant rights, environmental justice, and social change. Those present agreed to work together to promote Indigenous rights.
Over the long course of his life, Jose organized actions, gatherings, events, and teach-ins that impacted thousands of Indigenous peoples. He often reminded us to prepare ourselves and make ourselves strong for what may come ahead. His lasting dream was to leave a legacy for the next generation of Indigenous peoples. The Alianza continues to realize his dream.