Maurus Chino’s Anti-War Statement: From Conquistador Butchers to ROTC

Maurus Chino, Acoma Tribe, Founder Southwest Indigenous Alliance. Thanks to POCO! for this.

Greetings! Are you all well? My Acoma name is Kaaimaisiwa. My American name is Maurus Chino. I belong to the Eagle Clan, and am a child of the Sun Clan. I belong to the Acoma People.

Acoma, a beautiful and wondrous place to the west of here, is for us the center of the universe. I may live in other places, as I do now, here in Albuquerque, but Ak’u, beloved Ak’u is a strong force that draws those of us who were born for Acoma and those who will be born for Acoma, always back to its center.

Ak’u is the word for the actual rock upon which the old village sits. Ak’ume translates as, “a person from Ak’u”. From the word Ak’ume, comes the word Acoma.

‘War and Terrorism’. We’ve heard these words a lot lately, but here in New Mexico beginning four hundred years ago, they have been much more than buzz words about lands far away. Here it has been actuality.

In October 1598, My Acoma People in defense of the Land and the People saw the first violent contact with the so-called Spanish conquistador. In that initial conflict thirteen Spanish soldiers were killed and as a result, in January 1599 a war ensued at Acoma that nearly destroyed the village. The epic war left hundreds some say thousands dead and butchered. Juan de Onate ordered the right foot of all warriors chopped off and the young girls and women between the ages of 12 to 25 enslaved for 25 years.

I say the ‘so-called conquistador’ because in spite of the horrific events my people endured, we were never conquered. We still practice the ancient beliefs that have sustained the people for thousands of years. The sacred songs, rituals, and prayers are much the same as they have been for millennia. We were never a Spanish speaking people. Against all odds, even in the face of genocide, we are still here.

I speak of this because it is important to understand the mindset of violent greed and colonialism. It is why we are gathered here today. We are beset on a worldwide level, and in our hometown communities with social ills directly related to this mindset of greed, violence, and entitlement. In this sacred Land right where you are right now; four hundred years ago; and nearly one hundred years earlier in Central and South America a violent invasion crashed upon the People. And it happened for much the same reasons that war in Iraq happened: for greed, empire, and in the name of Judeo-Chirstian dominion. In the Middle East it started for oil and here in the southwest it was for gold and human souls.

In the Albuquerque Journal, Feb 25, there was a picture. The title read: “A living History Lesson.” It was about Spanish conquistador re-enactors, who visited Madison Middle School to attend a history exhibition of student work. The picture implied the event was lighthearted; a good time to be had by all. Conquistador re-enactors smile as they encourage the children. Of course nothing was ever mentioned of land thefts, genocide, streets running red with blood, babies smashed to the ground at Acoma, the exact same way the civilian deaths in the Middle East are never mentioned. And how can they be? It doesn’t jibe with the rhetoric of freedom and democracy.

When we allow the children to learn a history that is false and one-sided, we allow ignorance and bigotry to perpetuate. It’s true when we hear that if we don’t learn from our history then we are doomed to repeat it. In the years to come, as these young impressionable students become the leaders of our communities, do not be surprised when they are confronted with the same social ills that trouble us now. These beautiful young minds poisoned in the schools today become what we will stand against tomorrow.

The so-called conquistador Juan de Onate, mass murderer deified, throughout much of New Mexico, and into west Texas still enjoys a misguided reverence, even as we wallow in the violence and death that he represents. We have schools, streets, town plazas, and public buildings, from Taos to El Paso, Texas named after him. You can see Onate today in front of the Albuquerque Museum, a gruesome smile on his face; a clumsy and incompetent attempt by the sculptor to bring lightness to the subject of bloodthirsty colonization. And just outside Alcade, NM, another bronze homage to Onate, this version as mediocre as our own here in Albuquerque, appears to have Onate rising from the low; dripping mud or blood. Sloppy though the work may be, it may be eerily accurate and perhaps a poetic justice. And in El Paso, Texas a 2 1/2 million dollar statue, 41/2 stories high, adorns what one magazine called the fifth ugliest airport in the nation.

Shamefully, New Mexico alone has spent millions to honor a butcher when these millions of dollars could have been spent better fixing the social ills that have plagued us and will continue to plague us if we do nothing, namely: drug and alcohol abuse, violence in the streets, jobs, education, and healthcare.

As you know, the heroes we choose to celebrate reveal much of who we are as a people. Read the news stories and sooner or later you will see New Mexico prominently fixed on one ruinous list or other. We are the most ignorant, the most violent and as shown from the news stories that keep on coming; the most politically corrupt. We should not be bewildered when we read the stories of drug and alcohol related crimes and violence. That we are one of the most violent states in the union shouldn’t surprise us, and it should not surprise us because we have in a way let it continue. When we stay quiet, when we do nothing even as we see the world crumble around us; we become part of the problem.

In 2004, I along with other Indigenous activists drove down through Mexico, down to the Mexican State of Chiapas, to San Cristobal de las Casas. We went down to help the Zapatistas celebrate the 1994 uprise against oppression. We drove for three days down, and three days coming back. We drove through desert, mountains, jungle, small towns and large cities. We spoke to Mayan community leaders in mountain villages, yet we never saw any monuments to the Spanish conquistador. Some would think that if there were a place for conquistador monuments, Mexico would be that place, but no. Only here in the American southwest do you see such a pitiful hanging on to a misrepresented and violent past.

New Mexico’s love, dependence and obsession with violence used to perplex me, until I realized that what I was seeing around me was a mindset, a mindset locked in stone long before drugs and immigration across our borders. What started with a glorification of a violent past continues to this day when we see our people so independently proud, yet so dependent upon the military industrial complex for our economic survival. Once a year in our lone Albuquerque newspaper, we read a story insidiously implying pride to be the birth place, of one of the most evil inventions ever to be conceived by humankind: the atomic bomb. I’ve heard many people refer to retired New Mexico Senator, Pete Dominici as “Saint Pete”. St. Pete of course championed our continuing nuclear arms research at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Every August, the morbid Santa Fe Fiesta is held. It celebrates the so-called ‘bloodless re-conquest of New Mexico’, which in fact was not bloodless at all.
When people love and obsess over violence then the communities and values become bedeviled by that same obsession. In a collective mindset, obsession with violence manifests violence.

When I was a young man, back in that booze-haze of a different time, I used to drink with this Acoma man. He is gone now. Beloved, he has returned back to the source. His name was Paul. He was a Marine and had just come back from the Viet Nam War. We would talk me and him, about all manner of things, but somehow it seemed our conversations would many times turn back to the good ol’ days, (those good ol’ days we all know).

And once he told me something that startled me because I knew exactly what he was talking about. I was taken aback because I thought I was the only person who knew this trivial, seemingly unimportant piece of my life. He said, “when I was I was in high school, I joined football just because the football team ate good on game days”.

That was me exactly. I was on the cross country team. I loved running, the nervous anticipation, the adrenaline coursing through my body, and the thrill of the competition. But man, how I looked forward the meals at those greasy spoon restaurants. It was my best meal of the week. Paul and I you see knew poverty in our homes.

It’s much the same even now with many of our youth and I speak of our Indian youth; our young women and men. Though not many if any, experience the same poverty Paul and I knew, the sad fact is that many experience the same lack of opportunity, the same lack of quality education in a school system filled with poorly paid teachers. Some of our young people feel that there isn’t much choice other than the military.

Many young people beloved, from Acoma, and our neighbors our indigenous relatives, the Din’e, Apache, Southern Ute, Cheyenne, Comanche, Hopi, Zuni, K’awaik’me, T’amayam’e , K’ewam’e, Ohkay Owingeh, Zia, Cochiti, Lakota, Kiowa, Taos, O’odham, on and on, have been to the endless wars: World War ll, Iwo Jima, Korean War, Cambodia, the Viet Nam War, and now the Middle East. They return and it is hard for them to get back to the values of these two most important things: the Land and the People. “Amuu haatsi e amuu hanu, the beloved land and the beloved People”. Beloved, they come back changed if they come at all. Without exception, we all know this to be true.

But remember this too People: that though the wars are unjust we must always, always respect our women and men who serve.

I praise all of you here today. By this act of being present you are doing something that the overwhelming majority of the people will simply not do; and that is to take action. It is not easy to take action I know. I have been doing my work as an activist for many years and I would have stopped a long time ago if I thought I was not making any difference.

I’ll tell you something that I heard years ago that helps me to continue. I was planning an event with a Mexican man, an older man and activist of many years. “We know, he said, that we are going to lose the battle, but we do it anyway. We continue to do it because it is the right thing to do”. That is why I continue. It is the right thing to do.

I try to make my way in these uncertain times as an artist. I pour myself into my work just like you. We all have much the same issues in different forms as we try to make our way. No one has it easy. It’s hard to devote time for social justice, but we must if we are to remake our communities. We belong to the community, and so we have a responsibility. Should we not be looking out for each other?

We see much unrest around the world today, Egypt, Libya and recently here in the U.S., Wisconsin. We see a mighty struggle for social justice, and it can be heartbreaking to such struggles against overwhelming odds. Yet, it is heartening to see that the People truly can possess power. We can make a difference if we speak in unity, and if our purpose is worthwhile. It starts here. The madness in the whole wide world can be remedied right here.

Write letters to the city council speak up when you see monies misspent; speak out against the ROTC programs in the schools. Denounce the glorification of conquistador celebrations. Vote and make sure you know the values of those people who propose to help you. Do something any big or small worthwhile thing. Our actions create a butterfly effect. Our positive actions can and do have an effect on everything else.

Thank you all for being here. I want to wish you all the blessings.

D’awa’e hauba, baa Druuwishatsi. Thank you everyone, may you fare well.

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Posted on March 28, 2011, in Imperialism & Colonialism, Indigenous Struggles and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Maurus Chino’s Anti-War Statement: From Conquistador Butchers to ROTC.

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