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Dáanzho ha’shi ‘dał’k’ida’, ‘áá’áná’, ‘doo maanaashni’: Welcoming ‘long ago’, ‘way back’ and ‘remember’—as an Ndé decolonization and land recovery process

Margo Tamez, University of British Columbia, Okanagan (Faculty of Indigenous Studies)

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[1] Memory, re-membering, oral history and critical recovery are pillars of a Ndéi decolonization and self-determination process in indigenous peoples’ rancherías along the Lower Rio Grande River and Texas-Mexico border. The goals of this process are to dismantle the U.S. border wall bifurcating the customary lands of indigenous peoples; to reclaim dispossessed lands; and to revitalize Ndé ways of life in autonomy and self-governance. In the Ndé language, we can communicate in this way about a recovery process, Dáanzho ha’shi ‘dał’k’ida’ áá’áná ‘doo maanaashni’—‘long ago, way back’ and gain knowledge, insights and tools from our foremothers’ and forefathers’ struggles and resistance strategies. In October 2009, when the U.S. violently coerced and forced vulnerable peoples off the community lands along the Texas-Mexico border, and obstructed international covenants, treaties, and human rights laws, the discursive legal fiction of ‘terrorism’ was deployed to launch a massive land grab. At this stage, however, indigenous peoples along the Lower Rio Grande River were already involved in an ongoing process of restoring and implementing Ndé law and governance systems based upon women’s traditional knowledge and historical experiences in land defense.

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[2] This paper foregrounds Ndé memory, knowledge, rights, and re-membering. Current-day forms of violence, juridical dispossession, and hostile removals targeting Ndé in Texas and northeastern Mexico—also Ndé traditional territory—signify the entrenchment of settler colonialism. By recovering and animating Dáanzho ha’shi ‘dał’k’ida’ áá’áná ‘doo maanaashni’—‘long ago, way back’ in the same space of indigenous women’s de-colonial and anti-violence activism beyond borders, I have sought to create spaces where Ndé peoples across generations, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality (in a bifurcated region) could build upon and relearn the Ndé creation story in the current-day context of human rights defense against the oligarchic state. In doing so, my work alongside Elders, women, chiefly peoples and youth is decolonizing internalized assimilation connected to centuries of imposed Catholicism, discrimination and economic violence, and is revitalizing Ndé consciousness in land protection—a consciousness that is deeply embedded within our Na’ii’ees Isdzánałesh (‘White Painted Woman’) women’s land-based knowledge traditions. By recovering our language and philosophies—in the shadows of the increasing scales of militarization of the Texas-Mexico border, women’s knowledge and decision-making is slowly regaining a place in the center, as a balancing force between the Twin Heroes, Kó Nant’áhí ishkiyéén (‘Water Chief Boy’) and Indagoh Yeesi (‘Killer of Enemies’). Memory and re-membering, as core requisites of contemporary land protection and decolonization of U.S. borders, potently affirm the inherent, unceded, unextinguished Indigenous rights of Ndé elders, women, youth, families, and chiefly clan societies as the legitimate decision-makers in our customary land-base.

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[3] This essay contributes an indigenous perspective on Ndé revolutionary movements which predated and created new forms of resistance against U.S. neo-colonization of indigenous peoples near and on its heavily militarized territorial border with Mexico in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and northeastern Mexico. Indigenous activist research is both action and witness with, for, by, and alongside Ndé peoples struggling against the multiple human rights violations of an authoritarian State. This movement denounces and resists ongoing patterns of oppression that marginalize indigenous peoples’ voices, defiance, and is witness to bare existence in the heavily militarized Texas-Mexico borderlands.

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[4] I was born and raised in and in-between the urban industrial and the rural country side of Ndé homeland, in the current-day, trans-boundary region of the Texas-Mexico border.ii Daily life was, in retrospect, managed by the existence of a matrix of barbed-wired ‘pens’ and zones where ‘traffic’ in, and policing of, indigenous bodies has been hyper-naturalized. This scrutiny is one of a myriad of racist structures, a necro-political white supremacist process, or order, deployed to maintain control in the South Texas settler society.iii To engage and challenge the 19th century Texas creation myth within larger contextual debates on settler colonialism in North America is useful, as such work creates a shared analysis of indigenous cartographic erasures and decolonize the Texas creation myth and claim to sovereignty premised upon the genealogy of European legal discourses. These discourses conceive pre-colonial Texas as ‘empty/bare/waste lands’ and ‘terrenos baldios.’ Texas’ creation stories are rooted in terra nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery. Ndé protests and legal challenges against the border wall tease out the underlying sub-structure of Indigenous treaties, Crown land grants, and Ndé Aboriginal title predating and extending beyond the borders of Texas, the U.S., Mexico, Spain, and the Holy See.

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[5] In the 1960s and 70s, I remember that the only place we felt a minimum of safety was in our familiar places, in and between the rural rancherías hugging the thick carrizo cane, huisache, and old growth mesquite riparian strips along the Rio Grande River and the Texas-Mexico border. At the time, our sense of contiguous communities with blood relations in Tamaulipas and Coahuila was being severed by border policing and infrastructures for locals which reduced our movement, while increasing movement for tourists and ‘free’ trade.

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[6] Manipulative and exploitative policies towards Indigenous peoples and labor in the region of the border stem from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) which ended the war between Mexico and the U.S. and is the oldest treaty still in force between the two states. Richard Griswold del Castillo argues that, “[t]he treaty established a pattern of inequality between the two countries, and this lopsided relationship has influenced Mexican and American relations ever since.”iv The U.S. behaviors of cultural, moral, and historical superiority in treaty negotiations, structured the forced occupation and taking of nearly one-half of Mexico’s claimed national territory and framed this violent taking as “an event foreordained by providence, fulfilling the Manifest Destiny of the United States to spread the benefits of democracy to the lesser peoples of the continent. With an arrogance born of superior military, economic, and industrial power, the United States virtually dictated the terms of the settlement.”v The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo instituted a deep and corrosive pattern of inequality between Mexico and the United States and is the basis for the massive transfer of Indigenous resources such as surface and subsurface land, water, minerals, foods, and medicinals, to non-Indigenous (U.S. and Mexican) elites. It also created the material basis for instituting settler colonial rule in the Texas-Mexico border region due to how it legitimated the criminalization of non-assimilating Indigenous peoples in the U.S.-Mexico/Texas-Mexico border region. Indigenous peoples of all walks of life were and are third parties to the treaty; yet the Treaty disclaims Indigenous peoples through its dispossession and negation of us as anything more than obstacles in the way of normalizing commerce, trade and development for the state parties. Indigenous peoples, when mentioned in the treaty, are referenced only as a security problem requiring the enforced management by the United States, the more powerful of the two treaty signatory states.

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[7] According to Rosenblum and Brick, before World War II, “migration within North America consisted primarily of short-term, seasonal flows between Central Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. Responding to longstanding market forces, Mexicans were employed mainly in agriculture and railroad construction.”vi Migrant labor from Mexico was always narrated by political leaders and the industrialists they served through the interlaced discourses of Manifest Destiny, militarism, and capitalist expansion. The discursive construction of Indigenous peoples as violable and take-able bodies for labor, and the normalized reduction of diverse, distinct Indigenous nations in Mexico to ‘the Mexicans’ was steeped in social Darwinist and Manifest Destiny imperialist zealousness underlying expansion and competition to control Mexico’s resources. In the U.S., the desire for Indigenous Mexican labor was strongly tied to global economic forces which were informed by markets, consumption, and war. “High unemployment during the Great Depression reduced the migration inflows between 1928 and 1929. High [U.S.] unemployment during the Great Depression reduced the migration jobs magnet; and hundreds of Mexicans—along with perhaps an equal number of U.S. citizens of Mexican descent—were deported to Mexico.”vii During and after World War II, the Bracero Program was a temporary strategy by U.S. law-makers to take advantage of nearby labor resources in Mexico. The U.S. and Mexican government oversaw the Bracero contracts together: officials in Mexico encouraged and supervised policies that were by and large being steered from Washington within Mexico. This was one of the ‘grandfather’ contexts which predated NAFTA’s market-oriented labor and border enforcement policies. Indigenous sociologist, José Palafox, whose work has primarily been concerned with “the many ways in which U.S.-Mexico boundary enforcement and state repression affect the human rights of migrants,” asked, “why is militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border occurring when both countries are ‘embracing’ regional economic integration with ‘agreements’ like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? Is there a relationship between the ‘opening’ of the border for trade and commerce and the ‘closing’ of it to the movement of people?”viii Palafox argues that this trend cannot be separated from the social history of militarization, economic, and political domination of Indigenous bodies and lands in the region. The Bracero program brought into convergence prejudicial attitudes and social engineering which rejected, while seeking to assimilate, Indigenous peoples’ spirits, hearts, minds and bodies. The Bracero Program amalgamated power relationships between two states that violently subjected tyrannical and untenable systems upon Indigenous peoples. The competition over market-oriented profits founded in the elite appropriation of Indigenous lands and bodies, put the Texas-Mexico border region and the Indigenous peoples from that land base, at the cross-roads of U.S.’ aggressive anti-Indian policies and ideologies of Manifest Destiny and Mexico’s destructive programs of mestizaje—(official government erasure of Indigenous peoples’ real and lived presence from the state’s official discourses on the present and the past) in direct dialogue. This trans-national construction of indigenous lands and bodies persists today.

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[8] It is important to acknowledge that the pattern of inequality that marks indigeneities in the region is not only the result of, or particular to, Mexican-U.S. colonial history. Timothy Dunn has argued that border militarization and U.S. elite and corporate interests in Mexico’s natural resources and in maintaining surplus cheap labor is a reflection of the U.S.’ post-Vietnam and concurrent Middle-East interventionist policies relative to oil and mineral rich zones. The U.S. use of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) to achieve control in a cost-effective manner in various contexts is well-established. “Low intensity conflict is a limited political-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic, or psychological objectives. It is often protracted and ranges from diplomatic, economic, and psycho-social pressures through terrorism and insurgency. Low intensity conflict is generally confined to a geographic area and is often characterized by constraints on the weaponry, tactics and level of violence.”ix LIC characterizes statecraft on the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a well known framework understood by Indigenous families, clans, and communities up and down the Texas-Mexico border as an extended policy of reconnaissance, coercion, manipulation and greed implanted by Spain during the 17th century ‘entradas’ into our traditional homelands. We are forever reminded that the use of force to birth the settler commercial reality, is premised on taking away Indigenous life. The murder of Jumano Apache teenager Ezequiel Hernandez stands as one example of the violence of LIC policy that I lived close to home. I choose to mention this tragedy, because retrospectively, this event has come to be viewed by Indigenous peoples as a sign of the military ‘build-up’ and ‘anti-drug’/’anti-immigrant’ criminalization of local Indigenous peoples and residents in the region, both discursive and practical prefaces to the construction of the border wall in our homeland.

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[9] On May 20, 1997, Jumano Apache families in Redford ‘El Polvo’ Texas, on the Texas-Chihuahua, Mexico border, became another statistic in the U.S. low intensity conflict wars spun as official policy to spread capitalist democracy in Mexico and Latin America. During a clandestine reconnaissance and ‘anti-drug’ operation, a U.S. Marine shot Jumano Apache teen Ezequiel Hernandez, who had been herding and rounding up his goats for the evening. The possibility of this event, and of an undercover military mission in a remote and vulnerable Indigenous community, emerges within the context of a long history of Indigenous peoples in the region being constructed as an ‘enemy population’. By virtue of their resistance to assimilation, the continued occupation of Indigenous lands has been defended as the securing of ‘hostile topography’ that echoes a U.S. historical lens of ‘Indian country,’ a lens of strong salience on the Texas-Mexico border where to be dark-skinned, Spanish surnamed, and poor is conventionally conflated by non-Indigenous peoples with ‘Mexican’—a racial identifier which aggregates over 600 distinct Indigenous nations and languages into one hyper-Native ‘enemy’ Other.

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[10] Converging colonialisms in the border region, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, was a binational project which ultimately has disguised the appropriation of Indigenous peoples’ labor, lands and territories U.S. and Mexico’s ruling elites as ‘progress’ and as a ‘security’ issue informing policy making. The Bracero program, from an Indigenous border lens, may have been the ‘grandfather’ of numerous compacts, legislations, which would ultimately lead to the legitimization of militarizing trade and economic intercourse through the use of killer drones, gulag walls, infrared camera systems, thermal detection instruments, and the deployment of over 100,000 soldiers (from the U.S. and Mexico combined) established along borders between 1997 to 2012. This intimate historical relationship between policing Indigenous peoples’ movement, violent assimilation, and the armed dispossession of Indigenous peoples to make way for the settler ecology of mining, forestry, oil and agricultural development in the Texas-Mexico border region satiates the primary source collections of Indigenous knowledge keepers in the region, and dominates the current-day testimonies of Elders and families directly impacted by dispossession resulting from the border wall construction. The most noticeable disconnect in terms of memory and responsibility is that U.S. and North American scholars have paid scant attention to the accounts and perspectives of Indigenous peoples from the region. Between 1916 and1938, the violent Americanization of the region occurred with military ‘intervention’ to pacify armed Indigenous defense of land.x Growing up, we felt safer in the countryside pueblos and ranchos between these highways, the colossal ranches, and the settler towns that the highway patrol and white citizenry policed to maintain racial order. These spaces and the urban sprawl of San Antonio which served, and continues to serve, as ‘home’ to five U.S. military bases, chopped up our experiences between relatively secure and to tenuous and fragile. These locations, between the border industrialization programs, the rural countryside, the stolen lands confronting us in all directions, and the check points in between, demonstrated to me at a young age that we were the ones contained. I remember the consciousness of fear and repression, the feeling of always being ‘wrong’ or ‘in trouble’ fused with being supervised, surveilled, and disrupted.

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[11] While the ‘rural’ underwent an industrial transformation into an oil-cattle-cotton-alfalfa-citrus monoculture, the lands along the Texas-Mexico border became dumping grounds for the so-called ‘green revolution’ with the frequent application of DDT. The fractionating of Ndé customary lands by a border with Mexico—as a nation, place, and the name used by contemporary Nahuatl peoples to describe their language—has been guaranteed due to the white nationalist xenophobic and jingoist fear of ‘Mexico’ and ‘Mexicans’ as the hyper Native Mexican Other. It is the intensifying fear and exploitation of the massive shifting of indigenous workers from Mexico to the U.S. and Canada that has ensured the continuum of oligarchic land grabs, dispossessions, and settler ecologies saturating the local in a chemical-social-ecological “toxic stew.”xi

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[12] By the early 70s, South Texas elites not only dominated the monoculture agri-industry based in the maintenance of colonial white ‘boss rule’ of the mostly Indigenous local labor force, and de jure and de facto segregation, they also erected large-scale North American petro-chemical ‘refinery’ operations. Hence, the pollution of water and food intersected with the maintenance of colonial relations and normalized poverty, reducing Indigenous peoples’ traditional land use. This in turn seriously impacted subsistence and pastoralist practices. Since the 1990s, the increasing criminalization of indigeneity — of our philosophies, cosmologies, discourses, practices, and other collective enactments of our ways in our lands — has had serious impacts on indigenous reproduction, fetal development, family nutrition, and gender relations in Ndé territory. The toxification of indigenous border peoples and territory connected to coal, copper, uranium, oil, silver, and chemical development has occurred with impunity.xii

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[13] The South Texas landscape is a kaleidoscope of layered violence as naturalized in the Texas creation myth of the heroic pioneer ideal cultivator and large-scale ranch owner. These two identities in South Texas could not have developed without ‘natives’ (homogenized as ‘Indians’, ‘Apaches’, and ‘Mexicans’). White settlers derived power by ‘managing’ Indigenous peoples through a heavily armed kinship network. Ongoing colonization and its unrelenting violent applications–control, surveillance, deployment of sovereignty as a weapon of destruction—is distinctively marked by a mass disconnection from land as sacred, and Indigenous peoples’ forced displacement from lands, and the auto-repression of ceremony, knowledge, spirit, and memory derived from Mother Earth and indigenous place. Visiting Elders, activists, Chiefs, families and youth throughout Ndé territory in the last year, I was confronted by the chaotic, scattered feeling one gets when navigating against the threat of attack. Ndé peoples narratives continue to reveal the intergenerational dissemination of containment. Everywhere I journey, the people express the myriad ways we currently experience loss of culture, violence, crisis and rage in an occupied territory. As we decolonize through recovering memory and collective acts of remembering as resistance, the border wall reminds us that we are ‘chained’ to this body-level sensation of intergenerational carceral knowledge. I grew up in, what I now term ‘an open-air prison camp’ designed by the ‘me, myself, and I’ society, the mainstreaming, militant, private property, and industrializing U.S. society. From South Texas, this system of containment was exported trans-hemispherically to Canada, South Africa and Argentina, before I was born. In the contemporary period, the mechanization of death and the U.S. ‘war on terror’ stimulate technology transfers between the Texas-Mexico border wall and the border wall in Gaza. Nation-bound sovereignty is, in Ndé place, a violent and aggressive threat against Indigenous peoples; it is misogynistic, homophobic, racist, xenophobic, and always orientated towards global capitalism. While Indigenous nationalism has been advantageous for some, for the most part Indigenous nationalism has benefited from the nation-state’s militarization, exploitative, dispossession, and non-recognition of millions of Indigenous peoples in the Texas-Mexico border region. Thus, decolonization, memory, and remembering are key tools to re-think how the nation-state’s incorporation of particular Indigenous nations as new ‘prosperity’ partners maintains the destruction of Indigenous peoples, such as Ndé who refuse to cede territory, and who demand redress and restitution in human rights and Indigenous rights arenas

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[14] Movement in our lands is managed: barb wire, heavily armed gated communities, segregated sectors, check-points, Custom Border Patrol, plains clothed agents, Minutemen, private security guards, and death squads (hired by Texas ranchers, for example). The prevalent Ndé experience is that a certain privileged few in South Texas are granted impunity. This armory of infrastructure disciplines residents of the occupied territory to stop at all marked checkpoints. As a result of the U.S.A Patriot Act (2001) and the Secure Fence Act of 2006, checkpoints are both bound to land in particular places where the nation-state has re-asserted and is re-asserting its sovereignty along borders. In the process, the nation-state is re-asserting also the dictums of white nationalist groups. At the same time, checkpoints are being unbound from U.S. national borders with other nation-states, and are spatializing white nationalist territoriality and fear of displacement by the Native Other anywhere, anytime, and on any body which supposedly ‘fits’ by way of ‘looking Mexican.’ From 1962 to the early 80s, I navigated hundreds of checkpoints spatialized along each county of the Texas-Mexico border and inland 100 miles across every major road. This system embedded spirit, heart, mind, and body level existence of being Ndé, born and raised in our home land, and being conditioned in a “warehousing complex,” from the U.S. post-Cold War era to the present.

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[15] This narrative is the pre-context for engaging Ndé memory and re-membering today, post-9/11, in the ongoing implementation of the Patriot Act and Secure Fence Act, and in the shadow of the U.S. border wall as the infrastructure creeps steadily across the U.S.-Canada border. Yet, in the British Columbia-Washington state binational region, the question of the bifurcated Syilx ‘Okanagan’ Territory is muffled in the Canadian-U.S. discourses and practices of ‘cooperation’ and ‘smart border’ pact agreements. The two nation-states combine their efforts to embolden borders and resource control, glazing over local resistance with reassertions of Euro-Canadian and Euro-American legal sovereignty. De-territorializing indigenous peoples from customary land-bases and resource control are rationalized by the State with a discourse plaint of ‘counter-terrorism’ and ‘securing the border.’ Yet, to many Indigenous peoples on the British Columbia-Washington border, militarization and armed occupation are surreal, unbelievable, and unimaginable, something that is happening ‘in the south.’ This imaginary of U.S. imperialism is naïve and self-destructive as the U.S. border infrastructure along the Canadian border, as along the Mexican border, has and will continue to dispossess Indigenous resources and proprietary title. The U.S. border wall on the Texas-Mexico border operates to consume, repress, separate, and contain indigenous decolonization movements beyond its physical borders. This is a form of low intensity conflict deployed at and against indigenous peoples, and is partially masked by the State through its persistent identifications of local indigenous peoples as ‘domestic terrorists’ or ‘drug smugglers’. Ndé resisters from El Calaboz Ranchería, a stronghold of the anti-wall and autonomy movement, combined Web 2.0, digital networking tools, arts, language, political writing, community gatherings, leftist Indigenous Catholicism, physical resistance, protest, community radio, Spanish language translation, and Traditional Knowledge to out and demand that these new configurations of identity be unmasked, and be analyzed from indigenous and Ndé women’s, elders’, and youth’s perspectives.xiii

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[16] In the summer of 2011, Elders, women, youth, Chiefs, and allies gathered in El Calaboz Ranchería for a week-long gathering to elevate decision-making on the issue of Indigenous knowledge, lands, territory and human rights. While the context of colonialism, assimilation, and violence deeply pervaded the proceedings, it was a major step initiated by Indigenous peoples reclaiming and recovering Ndé ways, memory and re-membering in direct connection to 19th c. and 20th c. killing fields, land dispossession, gender violence, lynching, and poverty. The results made it clear that Ndé struggles for autonomy against state violence rest on the recovery of Kónitsaii Gokíyaa—Ndé home land. Indigenous place, as part of a significant oral history communicating Ndé migrations from Northern British Columbia to North Mexico between 900 AD to 1300 AD roots our stories of resilience, persistence, and survival as a core hemispheric story that punctures the myth of the Doctrine of Discovery, terra nullius, and Indigenous peoples as ‘minority’ ‘ethnic’ ‘groups’ marginal to the citizenry of the nation-state.

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[17] El Calaboz has been and continues to be a significant place where Ndé from all directions link the past to the present. Traditional Knowledge and contemporary activism for Indigenous and human rights is unfolding along the Lower Rio Grande River, where Ndé are and have been, active in anti-colonialism—across nineteen generations. The El Calaboz 2011 summer gathering defiantly opened up new places, while under heavy surveillance by the U.S. armed personnel, in order to gather Elders, youth, parents, and allies in a decolonization which supported difficult dialogues about reclaiming Ndé identity with clan systems and structures based in genealogies, and to embrace Oral Tradition and experience as the ‘book’ on Ndé Knowledge of place, predating invasions by Spain, Mexico, the slave Republic of Texas, and the U.S. Over the last three centuries, Ndé peoples have appropriated certain discourses of ‘rights’ and shaped them into locally understood meanings. Learning about human rights conventions (treaties) and about the rights of Indigenous peoples established within these, has positively affected how Indigenous peoples have shaped resistance to state power in local and regional struggles, and are making connections between how Indigenous peoples have interacted with the states’ and with rights discourses over time and place as a strategy of survival and defending land rights. Since 2007, I have worked alongside Indigenous women and elders in El Calaboz and the many lineally related peoples in rancherías along the Rio Grande River. Retracing the footprints of my foremothers, over nineteen generations, has provided us with models and methods for exercising contemporary forms of collective decision-making against state militarized force and nationalisms, though predominantly, the forces of militarization fractionate and push women and Elders into sites of crisis. Women have transformed sites of crisis into sites of defiance and resistance to the erasure of memory, loss, and grief. The indigenous collective body in despair and in mobilization against occupation has been amplified in Indigenous women’s re-taking of lands and refusals to permit the U.S. Army, Department of Homeland Security and transnational rights of entry. Though, as I continually engage the UN High Commission on Human Rights, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and as I engage with human rights experts working to open up spaces for critiquing and challenging the U.S. in the Inter-American Commission, of late, I have questioned the high cost to Indigenous women in the front lines of rights defense. Repression that targets Indigenous women doing human rights defense along the Texas border ensnares women doing visible resistance work into more isolated and marginalized places where it is difficult for a collective consciousness and will to shift power within the system. This system is oligarchic, and involves (patriarchal and familial) dominance in the church and work place, management of brown bodies by the Custom Border Patrol, municipal police, local county sheriff, local highway police, Texas Rangers, local Army Guard, and management by the patriarchal community leaders as well. The elaborate policing structure diminishes the larger potential and potency of an indigenous, anti-colonial, hegemonic movement.

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[18] The contemporary resistance to the oligarchic State by Ndé women in El Calaboz is situated within a deep history of intergenerational and clan struggles with other Indigenous peoples as well. Land-based resistance to armed land grabs literally began in 1546, when the Spanish Crown used Tlaxcalteca peoples as soldiers, and then as exemplifiers of an agricultural Christian colonization project across the Ndé home lands. Ndé and several other Indigenous nations and Euro-Americans battled it out severely before 1836 (and well into the 1870s), when a distinct Euro-American settler society ‘birthed’ Texas into an independent Republic with legalized slavery. Recovering much of this community history as the wall was being constructed, El Calaboz peoples’ denounced not only the U.S. and Texas’ claims to ‘eminent domain’ based upon conquest narratives, Ndé also denounced and challenged other Indigenous nations’ claims to resources, water, and rights in the home lands, and appropriated human rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to further articulate Ndé positions on lack of consent, consultation, and the theft of cultural resources by the State and other Indigenous peoples. Interestingly, as Ndé women took the lead in expressing these manifestos, they experienced backlash as well as new levels of support as these controversial themes resonated among indigenous anti-colonial movements both across the U.S.-Mexico border, in central and southern Mexico, and in Canada.xiv Indigenous transborder and transnational collectivities provided incisive critiques on behalf of communities directly impacted by the border wall construction. Obviously, the U.S., Texas and the Mexican governments, were equally culpable in the ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples. However, it was the collaborative work with Ndé by journalists such as Melissa del Bosque and Amy Goodman, which exposed the places where the wall was not constructed. Pointing to ‘holes in the wall,’ del Bosque built her analysis based on Ndé women’s research into the numerous transnational corporations and peoples who benefitted from the wall’s construction in dominantly brown communities. For instance, just a few miles down river from El Calaboz, there are places where the wall ‘skips’ over certain people’s residential areas, such as the River Bend Resort, a favorite spot for Canadian snow-birds who enjoy uninterrupted scenic views of the Rio Grande River. There are nations and transnationals which enjoy significant payoff from the wall’s construction in Indigenous place. Israel and the Israel-based transnational security contractor, Elbit Systems, took lead in the entire U.S.-Mexico border wall project. In the exposure of human rights violations in the forced construction of the wall in indigenous lands, Ndé women’s perspectives garnered broader attention to the local-global circuits of power asserted through militarization and sovereignty. Indigenous women’s defiance and practices of dissent against land loss were made more legible and muscular in the increasingly important knowledge spheres of cyber war, the academy, and international law. Memory, re-membering, oral history and critical recovery are four pillars of the Ndé people’s decolonization and land recovery process to establish and Indigenous framework for interrogating truth, and for constructing the path to Indigenous peoples’ inquiry into restitution and redress for Elders, women, families, and workers whose traditional lands and lives were taken through acts of violence and impunity—over many generations.

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Footnotes

  1. Ndé means ‘the real People’; Ndé are identified through colonial texts as ‘Lipan Apaches’, among many other descriptors. More than twelve Ndé bands trace Aboriginal footprints in (current-day) northern British Columbia, the U.S. Rockies, the U.S. southern Plains, the Texas Panhandle, Gulf Coast, the mountains and plateaus of West Texas, and northeastern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Coahuila and Tamaulipas.
  2. The unceded Ndé customary lands includes 6.5 million acres currently within South Texas, Southwest Texas, the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and eastern Chihuahua, also referred to in this article as a trans-boundary Texas-Mexico region.
  3. I mapped configurations of the Texas settler society in previously published papers. See, Margo Tamez, “Open Letter to Cameron County Commission,” 2 Crit 110 (2009); Ibid., “Returning Lipan Apache Women’s Laws, Lands, and Power in El Calaboz Ranchería, Texas-Mexico Border, Ph.D. dissertation, Washington State University, 2010; Ibid., “Our Way of Life is Our Resistance,” Works and Days, 57/58: Vol. 29, 2011, 281-318.
  4. Richard Griswold del Castillo, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1990, xii.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Marc R. Rosenblum and Kate Brick, “U.S. Immigration Policy and Mexican / Central American Migration Flows: Then and Now. The Regional Migration Study Group, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, August 2011, 3.
  7. Ibid.
  8. José Palafox, “Opening Up Borderland Studies: A Review of U.S.-Mexico Border Militarization Discourse.” History is a Weapon, at http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/palafox.html, accessed August 27, 2012.
  9. Timothy Dunn. The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home. Austin, Texas: CMAS Books, 20.
  10. Margo Tamez, Nádasi"né" nde’ isdzáné begoz’aahi’ shimaa shini’ gokal Gow? goshjaa haánáidiłí texas nakaiyé godesdzog [Trans., Returning Lipan Apache Women’s Laws, Lands, & Power in El Calaboz Ranchería, Texas-Mexico Border, 1546-2009]. Washington State University. (2010), see Chapter 5, “Nde’ genealogies and gendered memories of violence and resistance,” pp. 301-367, and Chapter 6, “Fractured Indigenous communities, fragmented Indigenous histories,” pp. 368-453. See also, Benjamin Heber Johnson, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  11. Margo Tamez, “Addiction to the Dead,” excerpt from Raven Eye, at Poetry Foundation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/239030, accessed September 30, 2011; See also, Margo Tamez, “Toxic Struggles, ‘Talk’, and A Living Language: Being Indian—Unsilent and Contaminated,” The Los Angeles Review, Mark E. Cull, Editor, 2004. 2012,http://mainstream.ucr.edu/CESA_2011_Fri_AM.mov.
  12. Nick A. Miersma, et al., “Organochlorine pesticides in elementary school yards along the Texas-Mexico border,” Environmental Pollution, Volume 126, Issue 1, November 2003, pp. 65-71..
  13. Kiera Ladner, “Aysaka’paykinit: Contesting the Rope Around the Nations’ Neck,” in Group Politics and Social Movements in Canada, ed. Miriam Smith (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2008), 228.
  14. See O’odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective, at http://oodhamsolidarity.blogspot.com/, accessed October 7, 2011

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