Beyond Aztlan: Building Red & Brown Native Unity
By Joaquin Cienfuegos. This article was originally titled Chican@ Liberation and Indigenous Self-Determination. Joaquin is a community organizer, and a member of Cop Watch Los Angeles and the Native Youth Movement. He describes himself as a Revolutionary Anarcho-Communist.
As a note, while I certainly do not subscribe to all of Joaquin’s views – I’m definitely not an anarchist – I do think that what he has to say here is quite important. The definition of a nation given by J.V. Stalin in Marxism and the National Question, has more often been a hindrance for Native revolutionaries than a help. Throughout history white settler “communists” of various stripes have attempted to tell us (indigenous “Americans”) that, based on M&NQ, that we either do not constitute a nation (or nations) at all, or that we only have “national territory” in one corner of the continent (often the Canadian North for Indians and the American South West for Chican@s). The truth is though that this is an entirely Eurocentric conception, and we should be more than a little suspicious that settler “communists” using it to determine our (and others’) status as a nation(s).
The truth is, we were nations before the settlers from Europe arrived, and we are nations today, united beyond tribal lines by our common history, struggles, and destiny. This entire continent is our land, from the top of Alaska to the tip of South America. We are all Native – Indians, Métis, Chicanos-Mexicanos, Puerto Ricans and others. We don’t need settler “communists” and “radicals” to tell us who and what we are, where our land is and to want ends we should engage in struggle.
But as Joaquin points out, the question is unity between Brown Natives (Chicanos-Mexicanos & Latin Americans) and Red Natives (people considered officially Native by the colonial states in Ottawa, Washington DC and elsewhere). For various ideological reasons there has not been an overriding sense of unity between Chicanos and Indians, but it is out there, and it is growing. We both need to grow though if we are truly unite on the basis of who and what we are – the descendants of the Native people of this land – and do what we need to do to get free.
This was written for the people in the movement Chicano identified and beyond. It is also a reflection. We need to continue to build, but in order to do that lets continue to examine our strategies and our collective vision for liberated communities, the struggle for land, and a better world as a whole. In my opinion, this discussion is long over due, hopefully others can contribute to the dialogue.
Liberation and Self-Determination
At the risk of upsetting some, we have to begin with the fact that we are in a war. It is a war that has been waging against all indigenous people, and oppressed people for over 500 years. It is a genocidal war, and has lead to the state that we find ourselves in today as oppressed people and as humanity as a whole. To begin to discussing strategies for liberation, we have to first realize that point, and go forward from there. For some, it might be easier to be blinded by first world privilege, but for most, it is hard not to feel the boot of fascism on our necks, the whips of capitalism-imperialism on our backs, and subjugation of white-supremacy and patriarchy on our mind, body, and spirit.
For Chican@s and other Indigenous people it is no different. The atmosphere that exists for many Chican@s in the u.s. is one of terrorism. Anyone of Mexican descent is seen as a criminal by the state. The white supremacists hate anything Mexican, and it seems like we are their number one enemy. So many of the laws being passed are ones that target migrant families, but Mexican families in particular. Many of the hysteria and scapegoating by the White Supremacists is that people from Mexico will take over the South West and reconquer Aztlan. At least they use this inflict fear on all other Europeans and other people. They use this fear to pass racist laws that split up families, lock up more Brown people, deport migrants, and force many into the shadows with a climate of fear and Anti-Mexican xenophobia.
People in Mexico and Central America, find themselves affected by neo-liberal policies, or better yet by imperialist domination of the u.s. government. Trade agreements imposed by them by the Empire like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), force many farmers, workers, women-identified people, students, and other indigenous people off of their lands not being able to survive in the “free” market. They are forced into migration many times directly by imperialism. Many don’t even make it, they die in their migration due to militarization of the borders, and because they are forced into deadly treacherous routes. If some make it to the other side of la linea, they face racism, slave wages for back breaking labor (if they can find any), ICE Raids and Police Checkpoints, prisons and detention centers. Many are finding that they cannot make a better life for their families so they are going back to their regional home.
Many Natives within the u.s., have faced a horrific history of genocide that continues to this day. The reservations are like modern day concentration camps, and Natives there live in third-world conditions (as in no electricity, hot water, or any real resources). Natives have the largest percentage of suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction. Some indigenous nations aren’t even federally recognized, as in the Tongva, who’s territory is in Los Angeles, Califas. Many of their sacred sites continue to be desecrated and destroyed by capitalist developers. They continue to be disrespected and colonized as a whole.
I don’t want to paint these people as just victims of the Empire, because indigenous people have been on the front lines of the struggle for liberation against neo-liberalism, capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy and hetero-sexism through out this hemisphere. The primary struggle is one of land, and indigenous people fighting for their land and liberty, from the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Mapuche in Chile, Indigenous people in Michoacan and Oaxaca, to the Lakota in South Dakota, the O’odham in Arizona and Mexican border, the Mohawks in the North East and all other native warriors fighting for land and liberty.
Chicanas and Chicanos have a specific condition living on this side of the man made border, we have a specific form of oppression, history, and culture that is influenced by natives from the north of the border and to the south. Therefore our liberation as a community is connected to the liberation and self-determination of indigenous people from Mexico and indigenous people in the u.s. Our liberation is linked to the struggle for land and liberty by indigenous people all over Turtle Island in general and the region specific to where we live and where our families migrated from. We share similar and different experiences, but our struggle is deeply connected to the lands where we are at (which in most cases we are not Indigenous to) and where we come from. We have to align ourselves, and be in solidarity with these struggles, to fight for the liberation of all indigenous and colonized people, including Chicanas y Chicanos otherwise we are perpetuating the very colonialism we struggle against.
Land and Aztlan as a Nation State
In the 60’s and 70’s there was an unprecedented international movement against colonialism, where former colonies, semi-colonies, and neo-colonies fought for their independence. This was the same inside the empire. People of color and their allies formed coalitions, and revolutionary organizations to fight for their national liberation. Chican@s fought and are still fighting for their national liberation. For many oppressed nations they saw the building of an independent nation state as part of the process of liberation, since as a nation, people have been held back by the white supremacist imperialist nations.
Many national liberationists based their analysis of an oppressed nation based on J.V. Stalin’s “Marxism and the National Question,” “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” Aztlan, was identified by Chicanos in the 1960’s as the south west of the u.s. which was the land stolen from the Mexican government by the u.s. government. To Chicano Nationalists the South West of the u.s. constitutes the Chicano Nation. Aztlan is seen as the place where the Mexica migrated from to Tenochtitlan or Mexico City.
I want to give the proper respect to the people who fought and died in the Chicano Movement, and those who continue to fight, but we have to acknowledge that the South West is stolen land, but not of the Mexican government but indigenous people who have always been here. The self-determination of natives have to be supported. There have been indigenous nations here before the spanish borders and the american borders. We have to go beyond the idea of building a nation state as a strategy for liberation. The nation state, in it of itself, is a product of Europe. Indigenous people have a different way of organizing our community.
Most indigenous nations practice participatory democracy and make decisions through consensus process, with women councils, youth councils, and elder councils all participating. They form confederacies, or federations, made up of united communities and indigenous nations, sharing resources, vision, goals, and fighting side by side for common interests. The Iroquois was known of having 6 nations in its federation, in fact it makes up over 28 nations today. The Incas in the south had also a confederacy. Many indigenous communities in the south and in the north, still have community councils and popular assemblies where delegates from communities and warrior societies/organizations represent. These are the roots of direct democracy, and the indigenous way of organization, which is still practiced today. The idea should be to build a federation of all indigenous nations from Alaska to Argentina.
“This is a time of crisis for our people, our nations, our communities, our families, and our next seven generations…It will require our people to embrace their cultural and national destiny to reclaim their birthright to become warriors.
An indigenous warrior is one who is socially and spiritually obligated to dedicate [their] life to mastering the ways of war for the sake of serving honor and justice…
Warriors seek to change the harsh reality of colonialism by any means necessary.”
-Native Youth Movement
When people identify with Chicanismo, they are making a positive political statement. We have been denied our culture, our history, our language, and our entire way of life. To fight to get what was stolen from us, is an attack on colonialism, especially the psychological effects it has had on indigenous people, where many of us hate who we are. The superstructure of colonialism makes it so our families glorify the European culture and skin color above everything else. From the educational system, media, and entertainment. Anything Brown is seen as inferior. Indigenous world outlook is part of the Chicano identity. We have to go beyond that and begin to see ourselves as Natives of Turtle Island.
The fact of the matter is that many of the people from Mexico and Central America, are mixed or Mestizos, but this came from the rape of Native women, and the process of colonization. Many people in Mexico and Central America, see themselves as Mestizo’s and uphold this, not knowing that we have more Native blood in us than European. Indigenous people (self-identified) in what we call the South, are some of the most oppressed people in the world, who continue to fight for their land, and their dignity. The effects of white-supremacy and colonialism has many of our people hating anything Brown or Indigenous/Indio.
Many Chicanos searching for their roots look to the Mexica, for cultural affirmation. This on one hand is seen as unifying the Chicanos when learning about their history and roots. On the other hand it’s because it is information that is more available, being that Europeans wrote greatly about them, even though most of the writings are twisted and full of lies. Most of the original codices remain confiscated by the Vatican. We have to begin to dig deeper into our roots and culture, being that there were many different civilizations throughout Mesoamerica. There are many different Nahuatl speaking people even throughout this hemisphere, that exist ’til this day. Our history and culture isn’t something that is dead, and in books, but indigenous people continue to fight and are the forefront of the struggle for liberation. Chican@s come from different regions of Mexico, we should start digging more into our specific nations, we shouldn’t try to lump our people into categories, as the Europeans do to us.
We have to begin to realize that Mexican government itself is a colonial power, and Mexico is a product of colonialism. For many indigenous people, including myself because of the region that my family comes from, it is an insult to even be called Mexican, because we are not Mexica. Mexican borders were also man made by the Spanish invaders, so our fight for land and liberty should go beyond the borders of what is now Mexico. Our allegiance shouldn’t be to any nation, but to the elements, and our Mother, and to liberate the Universe in general and this hemisphere in particular of capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, and white-supremacy. “We are Earth’s Army!”
Red and Brown Native Unity
“NYM is a part of the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, when all of our Nations will once again unite and Take Back our Land, and the Youth will once again be the majority of our populations, that time is now. This Unity and true power scares our enemy so much they will not stop until they feel we are no longer a threat to their evil and devilish crackah ways.”
The Incas and other natives have a prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor. The prophecy states, “When the eagle of the North and the condor of the South fly together, the Earth will awaken.” Natives from the North and the South are fighting for the same interests, we are sisters and brothers, and we will not have liberation without us fighting side by side.
We need real solidarity. The Crusade for Justice, one of the most revolutionary wings of the Chicano Movement which Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was an organizer of, showed in their support of the American Indian Movement, when they got them the necessary weapons and tools for the takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973. We also see how Chican@s and AIM members worked together to liberate land to create D-Q University. We have to begin to see that we are the same people, our struggles are the same and are connected. We have the same enemies, and they are waging war on us. Unite and work with all natives to take back the land!
Posted on December 10, 2010, in Imperialism & Colonialism, Indigenous Struggles, Latin America, National Liberation and tagged Latin America, North America - Canada, North America - The United States. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Beyond Aztlan: Building Red & Brown Native Unity.