It’s disappointing to see that a bunch of high school students from McAdory create a banner of Trail of Tears to taunt a rival football team in their area. Then, a couple of days later, I read an article from Indian Country Today Media Network that another group of high school students from waved a Trail of Tears banner in a football game to intimidate their opponents. Comments from Facebook to Twitter blast nationwide as Americans grapple with the reality that their students are not truly learning the history of Indigenous people in the U.S.A. Not only that, this is a sensitive matter that offends all American Indians across the country.
This brings me back to my early post The Miseducation of Settler Colonialism when Sara Chase, a founding member of AlterNATIVE, mentioned that the lack of Native American narrative affects both American Indians and White Americans. The majority of high school students have no idea that 600+ Indigenous nations exist in the United States. Some react surprised when they meet an American Indian for the first time because they think that American Indians are extinct.
Newsflash: We make up about 5-7 million of American Indians in the United States and 100 million of American Indians in North, Central, and South America.
It amazes me more that some people find this matter irrelevant and even a banter joke. It is not irrelevant to the 100 million of American Indians and 500 million of mixed American Indians in North, Central, and South America. The Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw people were removed from their ancestral lands and relocated in the Midwest in 1848. During this harsh journey, the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw people resisted, fought, starved, died, cried, hurt, rebelled, lost hope, and resented the English Americans. This changed the lives of people today who lost complete control of their lands, languages, religions, and governments in current American society.
I am not a Cherokee, a Choctaw, a Chickasaw, a Seminole, or a Creek, but I am personally offended by the Trail of Tears banner for many reasons. My ancestors went through a similar experience in Ecuador in the past century. I am not sure if they had a Trail of Tears, but I can assure you that 20+ Indigenous Nations were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and relocated in different regions of Ecuador. My Wankavilka ancestors lost two-thirds of their original land to the Republic of Ecuador. They migrated to Northern Ecuador to join the Tsa’chilas Nation as early as the 1600s. The Wankavilka warriors who stayed in Santa Elena Peninsula were my ancestors who recuperated their lands and preserved their culture in the face of colonialism and genocide.
My Quechua ancestors had two options: work in the hacienda or leave the land. They had their own version of Trail of Tears in the 1600s. They lost everything: language, culture, identity, and religion. Today’s descendants live in Wankavilka communities as comuneros, but they have no clue about their Aymara-Kichwa language, their Pachamama and Tayta Dios, and their Sanjuanito dance.
In Latin America, there are about a thousand of Indigenous nations across the continent (including Indo-mestizo towns, villages, and counties). To some extent, their ancestors had to accommodate their lifestyle (using this word lightly) to make room for new migrants who snatched Indigenous lands, exploited their resources, and wiped out Indigenous culture.
The new generation gets angry when they think about what was done to their ancestors. They are determined to protect their people and be the voice of their ancestors, just like they are doing right now in the United States. The immigration dispute between U.S.A. and Mexico has a lot more to do than taking jobs away from Americans. The majority of Mexican and Mexican-Americans argue that the undocumented Mexicans and other South/Central American nationalities are not technically “illegal.” As a matter of fact, they are not illegal in any matter. The new generation states, “Mexican and Mexican-Americans walk freely in these lands because they belonged to their ancestors and still belong to the Aztec, Navajo, Pueblo, and Hopi nations. Therefore, nobody is an immigrant in under this collective definition.”
Imaginary lines serve to divide us, but American Indians and Indo-Mestizos do a great job showing unity in this context. The new generation use this platform to echo the voices of their Pan-American Indian brothers and sisters’ resistance to give in and fight Neo-colonization today.
It’s about time that we take control of how we call ourselves and how we want to live our lives. It’s about time that we creep out the shadows of fear and be the light, the sun, the life for our future descendants. It’s about time that we take action as warriors, activists, writers, dancers, poets, scholars, and much more to defend the right and recognition of our American Indian Nations.
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