2.02.2007

Los Indios


Historians, intellectuals, government officials, have often made claims that the 'Indians' in Latin America were all wiped out, especially in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. This outrageous claim is far from the truth. The classification of who and what we are has been in the hands of those who sought to exploit us. History has been recorded by those who have conquered and pillaged. Their writings serve as propaganda to authorize and justify their cruel treatment, only to be misconstrued, lost in translation. They do this to prevent any potential of us destabilizing their colonial power and reclaiming our lands, let alone our identity. They do this to make us think we are different and prevent a mass unification of the marginalized Natives and the voicing of our condition and demand of our rights, across the planet. It prevents us from learning and cherishing our history. For a people without a history have no future. They want us to believe our history began in 1492 and that it starts with them.

Even the Federal tribal enrollment in North America, was proposed via the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an organization established to serve as the 'overseer' in everday Native life. The purpose of the 'government' need to make official one's 'tribal status' was to retain control of the dispersal of land. The government could limit who was 'Indian' and therefore not have to allocate certain funds, resources or lands to peoples. Also, it allowed the government to focus on 'individual's right', opening up for the furthering of their 'private property' campaign. Also, it allowed them and their agents access to Indian lands and rights for the purpose of government exploitation. Many white people were signed up for tribal enrollment's in the late 1800's, claiming to be 1/16th and 1/8th "Indian". This ensured that those with the power, wealth and distinction would act in the United States's best interest concerning the affairs of Indigenous peoples'.
Not only were we seperated from our people and lineage, we were further seperated from our true selves by nationalism. New labels were applied as the countries of the Americas fought for and obtained independence from Spain and other European empires.

"Why does the Devil call our people Latino?"

"To make our people of the Americas believe that they are the only people we have, and that they are all savages. He brought trading posts into the forests and jungles of these continents. The Original people live on these continents. They are the ones who travelled over from Asia and are living another life. The Original people call each other 'indigenous'. The Devil calls us 'Latino' to try and divide us. He wants us to think we are all different. " - (adopted and modified from the original degree "Why does the Devil call our people Africans?" as given in the Lost Found Muslim Lesson No. 1, 1-14)

Indians and Mestizos in the Americas

"Alfonso Perez Espindola Tenoch, a holy man of the Lakota nation spiritual tradition who lives in Laredo, Texas, languishes in a Mexican jail. His "crime" was having helped lead a "Peace and Dignity" prayer run across the Americas in 1992.

On Oct. 11th of that year, thousands of runners from hundreds of Indian nations from North and South America met in the ancient pyramid city of Teotihuacan Mexico to promote indigenous consciousness. They denounced 500 years of abuses against the indigenous (otherwise known as Indian) peoples of the Americas.

A year later, Perez was arrested in Michoacan, Mexico, for possessing peyote that he was taking to ceremonies with Huichol Indians. He was accused of possessing and trafficking drugs authorized only for use in religious ceremonies by Native Americans.

The government ceded that indigenous people have the right to perform peyote ceremonies, but determined that the Mexican-born Perez was not "indigenous", and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Many governments define "Indians" as people who live in native communities and speak only a native tongue. When an Indian moves to a city and learns Spanish or another language, he or she is no longer considered "indigenous", but "mestizo."

Government sources estimate that there are 40 million Indians in North and South America. Non-governmental sources put the figure at closer to 100 million. The discrepancy in numbers is attributed to the large amount of "mestizos," or racially mixed people, who consider themselves or can be considered Indian, yet are not recognized as such by their governments.

While human rights groups throughout the Americas call for Perez's release, the issue of who is and who isn't "Indian" remains a familiar topic to Chicanos and other Latinos.

Tupac Enrique, a Chicano from Phoenix, who is part of an international alliance fighting for Perez's release, says that governments can determine who is a citizen, but cannot determine people's identities.

Enrique, who is of the Mexica spiritual tradition, says that people around the world determine identity differently from Western governments. For many he says, "It's not racial. We, not government, have been keeping indigenous identity alive for 500 years."

Most Chicanos and Latinos are at least part Native American and descend from such nations as Mexica, Nahua, Chichimeca, Tarahumara, Pueblo, Kikapu, Tarascan, Tlaxcalan, Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya, Quechua, Mapuche or any one of hundreds of other Indian peoples.

Many of our own friends can trace their ancestry. Jose Barreiro, born in Cuba and editor of the Native American journal "Akwe:kon Press" at Cornell University, is Guajiro. Although Cuba and other Caribbean governments claim that there are no Indians in their countries, Barreiro says they do in fact live in the countryside, where Taino traditions are upheld by Guajiros -- the rural population.

Vivian Lopez, a counselor in Las Cruces, NM, who is originally from Tucson, is both Yaqui and Apache, and considers herself Chicana. "To be Chicana is be indigenous," she says, adding that she was raised among people who, as a form of cultural resistance, took pride in not being registered as Indians with the government. "I don't need to be on a Federal (Bureau of Indian Affairs) list to know who I am."

And El Paso, Texas-born Arturo Flores, a high-school vice principal in Washington, D.C., is Huichol. His sense of identity was not forged simply by his physical features, but by ancient traditions which his family has upheld "I've been nurtured by the same food my ancestors were nurtured by for thousands of years."

Like us, other friends can trace some, but not all of their ancestry. The reason, in part, is the role the Catholic church and missions played during the colonial era in "reducing," or culturally obliterating the Indian. The objective was to create a "Christian," and that meant to spiritually and culturally stamp out the Indian.

One result was that Indians and mestizos developed a hatred towards all things Indian--thus a hatred of themselves, which led to a denial of their ancestry. In this atmosphere, "Hispanicized Indians" became "mestizos" and mestizos became "Spanish." If you could claim one drop of European blood, you did. To this day, many Latinos or Hispanics claim they are "pure" white.

Many Latino college students, aware of their history, have long identified with their indigenous roots. Chicano students at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, for example, recently staged a hunger strike. They demanded that the university eliminate the "Hispanic" classification. The term, they maintain, is a negation of their indigenous ancestry.

As Barreiro says, "Every mestizo is one less Indian -- or one more Indian waiting to reemerge."

- from www.indigenouspeoples.net

PAZ

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