Some might call what
is happening on Turtle Island prophesy, whereas others will simply
say that given the continent's demographics, it was only a matter
of time that the centuries-old process of de-Indigenization would
begin to be challenged and reversed, commencing a process of re-Indigenization
or the Indigenization of the Americas. This process is envisioned
as bringing about peace, dignity and justice for all the peoples
of the continent ? the earth, actually, as opposed to a demographic
One of those challenges
is taking place in Colorado where Vivian Delgado has recently
achieved a long overdue de-colonial blow to that de-Indigenization
process. Up until a few weeks ago, her birth certificate had her
listed as white. After successfully petitioning the state's Office
of Vital Records, she is now listed as Indigenous Mexican Yaqui
& Indigenous Mexican Puebloan.
For some, this is heresy.
Yet, de-Indigenization has never been an accidental by-product
of colonialism: On top of land theft, it is the historic project
by Euro-Americans to destroy thousands of years of aboriginal
thought, culture, history, memory, language and spirituality on
this continent. Part of this has included treating Indigenous
peoples as less than human, and wherever possible, defining, Hispanicizing,
Anglocizing or Westernizing them out of existence.
Some began that sacred
count in 1990 when Indigenous peoples gathered in Quito, Ecuador
to press for the end of 500 years of dehumanization. Others began
it when the Zapatistas rose up in 1994 in Chiapas, Mexico? or
with the 2006 election of Evo Morales of Bolivia, becoming the
continent's first Indigenous president since the 19 th century.
Others note that European colonization did not terminate that
sacred count; it simply submerged it.
For Neanderthal bigots,
Mexicans are either subhuman Indians or mongrels. For them, the
mere presence of [brown] Mexicans is a reminder of a failed and
unfinished Indigenous extermination project. For others, Mexicans
reclaiming their indigeneity is a reminder of another unfinished
project: Manifest Destiny; the irreversible civilization, modernization
and Christianization of the Americas. (That's why for many, the
only modern solution is deportation).
The significance of
Delgado's victory is huge, with the potential to be emulated by
millions, thus accelerating the re-Indigenization of Turtle Island
(despite the historic U.S.-led effort at the UN to deny the ratification
of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).
In the past, due to
a desire to escape segregation, forced removal, slavery or even
extermination ? millions of native peoples across the continent
were forced to accept Western/Christian identities (non-Indigenous
mestizo, and in some cases, white identities). While a different
era, some of those discriminatory legacies remain. That's why
many Mexicans (Central & South Americans also) here have begun
to challenge the practice of automatically designating them as
white, on both birth and death certificates, notes Rocky Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, who sees
these practices as ethnocide, helped organize a "Free the
Spirit Day" forum in Denver recently that spurred on many
others to also petition a change in their birth certificates (Two
others have thus far been successful).
The forum, Delgado
says, was an "historical attempt to address our sovereignty
in this country? I believe as in the case of Indigenous Mexicans
that our race was constructed by assimilation policy supported
and enforced by the church and state. Race in this context can
also be de-constructed and corrected."
For example, many Mexicans,
due to de-Indigenization policies (reducciones), do not have tribal
identities. Yet, that does not make them white, says Delgado,
author of: "You're not Indian; You're Mexican." "To
automatically assume that Mexicans are white, is a violation of
their human rights at birth." They can still correct their
certificates. Being part of maize-based cultures, they should
[have the option to] identify as "Indigenous Mexican."
She believes that this
issue is in part tied to [denial of] land grant rights. Aware
of the contentiousness of such a claim, she is undaunted: "Our
culture is land-based, and we retain our foods and traditional
medicines. It's an inheritance that belongs to our children."
Then there's the U.S.
Census. Due to de-Indigenization policies, racism and shame, it
has in recent decades facilitated and counted people of Mexican,
Central and South American origin as white. The bureau, however,
supposedly no longer imposes identities ? yet nowadays, it is
nonsensically dividing up the entire nation into Hispanic and
non-Hispanic categories. By design or default, Hispanics continue
to be tallied as a white population. To be seen is if the bureau
will stand in the way of that sacred count? in 2010.
* For info re Freeing
the Spirit of the Americas -- on how to change your birth certificate,
write to:Vivian Delgado at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Rocky Rodriguez
at: email@example.com or Luis Torres at; firstname.lastname@example.org; For
info re the book, "You're not Indian; You're Mexican"
write to Delgado at email@example.com
© Column of the Americas 2007