Indigenous Existance is Resistance in Texas: Yanaguana Indigenous People’s Week

By Iris Rodriguez

Recently in Texas, the Yanaguana Indigenous People’s Week was announced, a calendar of events celebrating indigenous roots across the territory.  This is historic, given the history indigenous peoples in Texas.  Six nations have imposed their flag upon the territory, which is part of an ancestral intercontinental trade route that lead to enchanted forests and sacred peyote medicine gardens that existed long before borders were erected.

Texas peoples were devastated by European diseases shortly after Spanish arrival in Mexico, later missionized by the Spanish in two separate periods (1519–1685; 1690–1821), occupied by France (1685–1690), then Mexico (1821–1836), followed by the Republic of Texas (1836–1845), the Confederate States of America (1861–1865), and lastly the United States of America (1845–1861; 1865–present).[1]

For a millennia parts of the Texas territory were considered holy lands by peoples from across the continent.  Yet Texas is also a birthplace of Monsanto and Agent Orange, the home of fracking, of military bases from every branch, and the home of the petrochem industry.  This is not coincidence – and it’s ties to indigenous history (and subsequent ursurption of land/culture and exploitation of said bodies) cannot be ignored.  Natives have been outlawed for expulsion and or death since 1838 and Indian Removal programs continue through today masked as anti-immigrant legislation (SB4).  We remain under attack at many levels physically and culturally in many ways (including, but not limited to) the border, proliferation of colonial perspectives via “Texas Edition” history textbooks, celebration of colonial and Confederate personalities, native mascots for sports teams, the desecration of our sacred sites, lack of tribal recognition, and the attack against women’s healthcare (in particular, low-income women and WOC).

The ongoing war on brown wombs, minds, and bodies has gone for hundreds of years, with its vernacular becoming more refined in each generation – yet somehow we remain.  Some still remember family names and life ways and others of us have been born into a geographical and cultural borderland that doesn’t offer most of us tribal id cards or equal treatment, much less our native tongues and histories.  Many families now have a lineage of serving as soldiers, especially with all branches of the military establishing headquarters and bases in San Antonio.  There have been moments in history when our peoples began to call themselves Mexican to avoid being identified as Indian.  They have many names for us such as mestizo, Hispanic, and Latinx – all which imply cultural and blood quantum politics to disconnect us from our historical memory and and justify (via self identity labels) the ongoing occupation and desecration of our ancestral homelands.

For many of us it is a difficult journey to decolonize and re-member who we are as a people.  The English and the Spanish are always emphasized, linguistically and culturally.  To some, we are immigrants because of our ties to present-day Mexico; to others we are cultural sell-outs because we don’t speak Spanish or know the names of the tribes we come from;  and to others we still have a seat at the sacred fireplace because of our ancestral relationship with the peyote medicine.  Somehow through it all we continue to exist – and resist.  People are coming together and prayer dances are spreading like fire across the territory as we reconnect ourselves to our relatives and identities.  Our front lines are vast and extend from the city barrio to the resistance camps along the pipelines.

Last year, an historic march was held against the Dos Republicas mine in Eagle Pass, Texas.  It united and evoked the presence of hundreds of indigenous peoples and communities and affirmed a quiet yet growing sentiment of individual/collective action to re-member and re-root ourselves into the land as a part of our journey to “wake up,” decolonize, and stand with our indigenous relatives in existence and resistance.  This year, the Yanaguana Indigenous People’s Week was announced by the Texas Peace and Dignity Journeys Committee in an event list meant to “keep our people informed of the diverse efforts to exert our existence and resistance through education, art, advocacy and protest.”

Community organizer, educator and danzante Madelein Santibanez shared these words about the event:

As Indigenous people we recognize the importance of walking on the path of justice, living in balance with our environment, honoring all our relations, and remembering our stolen history. But our mere presence is complicated by its fraught relationality to the persistence of settler colonialism, which always threatens to reappropriate, assimilate, consume and repress Indigenous identity and spirituality. They claimed victories over our bodies and continue to exploit our mother earth, but we continue to create, educate, organize, pray, love and survive.

The Yanaguana Indigenous Peoples Week of Events is a collective process and  undertaking that expresses the historical and ongoing Indigenous resistance and resurgence that many of our ancestors, spiritual elders and community leaders like Susana Almanza and Raul Salinas (may he rest in power) began generations ago.

As we present one calendar for all events happening throughout Yanaguana- acknowledging the traditional territories spanning from Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio, TX- we give thanks to the guardians of these lands and all those who came before us that paved the way for us to be here and assert our human rights.  Our indigenous existence is our resistance.

Yanawana in the Carrizo language “place where I rest my head” -acknowledging traditional territory spanning Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio, TX – we present one calendar for all events ❤️💪🏾#traditionalterritories

Defend the Sacred Rio Grande from the Dos Republicas Coal Mine
· Hosted by Equilibrio Norte and ATXEJ – Austin Environmental Justice Team

Finding Sanctuary in the Borderlands Conference Symposium
· Hosted by Center for Women in Church and Society at Our Lady of the Lake University

Indigenous People’s Community Day
· Hosted by Yasmeen Dávila and 6 others

1st Official Indigenous People’s Day Austin, come celebrate!
· Hosted by Equilibrio Norte and ATXEJ – Austin Environmental Justice Team

Re~membering Sacred Offerings for Abya Yala (the Americas)
· Hosted by AP Art Lab

2017 Sacred Springs Powwow
· Hosted by Sacred Springs Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Institute

OCT 15
Yanaguana Eastside Barrio Run
. Hosted by Texas PDJ

Madelein Santibanez is community organizer, educator and danzante born and raised on the Eastside of San Antonio. Her Indigenous background is rooted in the Pure’pecha and Mexica traditions. Through In Xochitl In Cuicatl (Song & Dance), she preserves an ancient tradition of prayer and storytelling.  She works with the Martinez Street Women’s CenterKalpulli Ameyaltonal TejaztlanTexas Peace and Dignity JourneysWarrior RootsSociety of Native Nations Youth Council, and is on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Workers Union.