As Indigenous youth, people, and elders across the nation push for the name change of the R-word today, this is also a day when “Latinos” and “Hispanics” of mixed-Indigenous and pure-Indigenous origins should support their North American Indigenous relatives in solidarity.
It’s time we reclaim who we are. It’s time we stand up together as One People to defend our Pan-American Indigenous identity, culture, and ancestral land. It’s time we come out of the camouflage of “assimilation” and bring out the Indigenous culture we’ve held on to for so many centuries behind closed doors. It’s time to hold hands and do a mega round-dance in our land. It’s our collective effort to push for recognition and respect towards our people.
I’ve been blessed this week for so many reasons. In my efforts to finalize my dance group, I met so many Latino” who were proud of their Indigenous culture. In their creative way, they bring their dances, stories, and traditions to the public. In the Ecuadorian Embassy, an elderly man gave me tips on the difference between Ecuadorian Powwows and North American Powwows. Yesterday, I went to Brooklyn to work with a leader/professional dancer who was teaching young children the dance of their Indigenous ancestors. On spot, I taught twenty five students El Sanjuanito – Indigenous folklore dance in Ecuador. I smiled all along. The new generation stomped their feet to the rhythm of the drum.
There is hope out there. There are people who are invested in pushing for national recognition of our Indigenous identity. There are elders who tell stories to the young ones about the importance of unity and solidarity. There are community leaders who make every effort to preserve Indigenous language and culture. There are young people in universities, volunteer centers, and nonprofits who work towards protecting Indigenous rights and lands. Since the 1960s, our generation of Native and non-Native leaders created a momentum and a strong voice to protest, demand changes, and speak for our people.
Today make the effort to hashtag #NotYourMascot on Twitter and be a part of the solidarity movement that will make our future brighter for the next generation. Even my cat is a part of it. She is annoyed by the way other people mock our culture.
But also, this makes me think about the mixed-Indigenous people in “Latin” America. We do not identify as Indigenous because colonialism taught us to be ashamed of our culture. We learned to bow our heads to authority all these years. We destroy each other by putting the other one down if he or she looked too “Indio.” To me, this is a start of a new movement for us, too. It’s time we also identify with who we truly are: Indigenous people. Let’s not let labels like “Latino” and “Hispanic” (determined by outsiders) confuse our identity. Because about two centuries ago, we became independent nations from the Spanish crown. That means that most nations in the Americas restored most of their original empire before colonial contact. Think about it. don’t let Spanish higher authorities thumb us down.