Viva Evo, Viva Bolivia

Evo Morales is the first native person to ascend to the presidency of Bolivia. Evo, as leader of Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Torwards Socialism), won the presidency with the largest margin and with the largest voter turnout in recent Bolivian history. Before being sworn in as president in La Paz, Evo participated in a Aymara ritual in the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku near Lake Titicaca. He thanked Pachamama (Mother Earth) and was given the staff of command by indigenous leaders known as mallkus (condors). Near the Sun Gate at Tiwanaku, Evo is reported as saying “We are not alone. The world is with us. We are in a time of triumph, a time of change.”

Evo has a difficult task at hand. Bolivia is one of poorest countries in South America landlocked in the high Andean plateau. In addition to being one of the poorest countries in South American, Bolivia has the largest percentage of indigenous population in the region. Over sixty percent of the population is of indigenous decent while thirty percent are Mestizo. About sixty-three percent of the population, almost the same percent of the population that is indigenous, lives below the poverty line. It is a sad fact that the poorest countries in the region have the largest percentage of indigenous peoples. From these statistics one can make the simple observation that the poor are the indigenous. Evo’s inauguration promises justice for all. A new sun is arising over Bolivia, a new hope is emerging.

As Bolivia celebrates, I am cautious to see Washington’s reactions to Evo’s leftist policies. Evo will surely capture the attention of Washington who has never supported indigenous lead movements and has gone out of its way to suppress them in such places as in Central America. It is after all in Bolivia that Che was killed by the CIA operatives. I’m actually afraid that Evo will capture the attention of that would-be political-assassin right-wing evangelical-crackpot Pat Robertson.

Maya Mural Unearthed

Many news sites such as the New York Times are reporting what archaeologists are toting as the earliest discovered Maya mural. The mural, partially discovered in 2001 and unearthed this month is thought to date to 100 B.C. but I am sure the Maya date it using the long count. The New York Times article Earliest Known Maya Painting Found a quotes press release from the National Geographic Society:

The mural shows that early Maya painting had achieved a high level of sophistication and grace well before the great works of the Classic Maya in the seventh century.

There is a short video of the mural at The Daily Glyph that reveals a fragment of this wonderful find. From what I could tell the mural depicts a king wearing a beautiful headdress and offering blood sacrifice. To the right of the king there stands the false sun Seven Macaw sitting on top what I think is the World Tree. I have no credentials in Maya archeology so I could be totally off the mark. You can try to decipher the mural yourself by checking out the hi-res image located at Mesoweb. I read one blog quote that this is the “Sistine Chapel of the Maya.” The mural is located near San Bartolo in the lowlands of the Peten region of Guatemala.

Thanksgiving

Every summer we would gather the fruit of the yucca, grind and pulverize it and mold it into cakes; then the tribe would be assembled to feast, to sing, and to give praises to Usen. Prayers of Thanksgiving were said by all. When the dance began the leaders bore these cakes and added words of praise occasionally to the usual sounds of the music.

As families gather throughout the United States for Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to quote the words of Geronimo. The above quote can be founding Geronimo, His Own Story: The Autobiography of a Great Patriot Warrior As Told to S.M. Barrett. That said, lets all give thanks to the Great Creator.

NMAI

I had the privilege to visit the National Museum of the American Indian along the Capital Mall in Washington D.C. During my short stay in Washington I visited the NMAI several times, each time having lunch at the cafeteria there. The NMAI has a wonderful collection of Peace Medals given to chiefs to help solidify peace treaty that would too soon be broken. I love the sculpture of Allan Houser displayed there. Allan Houser is my favorite sculptor and in my mind he is the Native American Michelangelo. The patterns found in the Acoma pottery are the type of visuals that I have tried to achieve with computer graphics. The Nation Air and Space Museum used to be my favorite museum, but now with the recent opening of the National Museum of the American Indian, it is not even a close second. If you are ever in the area, stop by the NMAI to see there great collection and have some nice Indian taco and buffalo burger for lunch.

Speaking of Indian tacos, all tacos are Indian. The tacos you get at a Mexican taquería are based on the tacos that Moctezuma used to eat so saying ‘Indian tacos’ is saying the same thing twice, like saying “The Le Ristorante Restaurant.” Maybe a better name would be northern style tacos.

We Know So Much

“Our songs are so short because we know so much.” I always liked that line and often repeat it myself. I don’t know where I picked it up but I recently found out that this was the response of an Inuit woman to an anthropologist. Along this lines Chief Joseph said, “It does not require many words to speak the truth.” Thinking about the meaning of these quotes, I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from Native American Wisdom (see the KnowledgePath Book List).

I deeply admire the wisdom of Chief Joseph, for example he also said:

We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God.

In the spirit of KnowledgePath, here are the wise words of Chief Luther Standing Bear:

Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth.

The humility of the Native spirit cannot be better expressed than by the words of Red Dog when he said:

We are all poor because we are all honest.

And with the recent news of the melting ice caps, the terrible weather which has caused the horrible hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the torrential rains in Central America, lets keep in mind the wisdom of Chief Seattle:

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.

KnowledgePath Book List

Upon their arrival, the Spanish burned all but a few of the sacred books compiled by the Maya, Zapotec, Aztecs, and other tribes. But in a twist of irony, it is through Spanish authors that we first read about the splendors of the Pre-Hispanic world here in the Amerícas. No person embodies this irony more than Friar Diego de Landa who burned many of the Maya codices and latter went on to write Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. Other great works from the Maya that survived because they were written down in the Castillian script after the Spanish Invasion are the Popol-Vuh and the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Hernan Cortes’ Five Letters of Relation to the Emperor Charles V and The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz del Castillo contain vital information and first account descriptions of the world they helped destroy. The indigenous point of view of the conquest can be read in The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico.
Other great books include In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, Pre-Colombian to the Present by Miguel León-Portilla and Earl Shorris, Genesis: Memory of Fire by Eduardo Galeano, Black Elk Speaks, The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, and Book of the Hopi amongst others.
Other books that I have found to be great gifts are Native American Wisdom (from the Classic Wisdom Collection) and any reproduction of the ancient codices of the ancient Mesoamericans.

Subscribe

In the previous entry I wrote about how I had subscribed to the Amerícas, a magazine published by the Organization of American States. I whole heartily recommend this magazine to anyone interested in indigenous and mestizo heritage of the Americas. The two issues that I have, June and October, had articles on Monte Alban in Oaxaca (The Olympus of Oaxaca), the plight of the Guambianos in Colombia (Guambianos, High States for Tradition), and Jemmy Button’s odyssey to England in Charles Darwin’s ship (The Beagle’s Native Son) just to name a few. Amerícas is definitely one of my favorite magazines.
Another magazine I recommend is Native Peoples. Native Peoples has a strong focus the arts and lifestyles of American natives and in particularly the American Southwest.

Native Identity

Who is a Native American? Thinking outside the box, the United States, when I say Native American I include the indigenous peoples of Latin American. But the question still remains the same, who is a Native American? I have seen two distinct articles from two very different magazines touch on this topic recently. The September issue of Native Peoples has an article Indentity Crisis by Patty Talahongva (Hopi). Patty writes:

American Indians are the only ethnic group in the U.S. who must prove their heritage in official government documents if they wish to partake of the benefits offered in treaties made with the government.

Each of the over 550 federally recognized tribal nations are “free to set its own enrollment requirements.” Some tribes require a certain percentage of your heritage be of that tribe. Other tribes may require you to prove that your ancestors are on one of the different census such as the 1906 Dawes Roll or the 1924 Baker Roll.

The September issue of Wired Magazine also has an article that deals with the enrollment process of native tribes. To quote Blood Feud by Brendan I. Koerner:

In 1980, there were 50,000 members of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma: today, there are more than a quarter million.

The large influx of members in the different indigenous tribes is due in part to the federal laws that allow gaming on ‘Indian lands.’ Patty writes:

Indian gaming has changed the face of some tribes who are taking a second look at their enrollment process, especially if they hand out gaming revenue per-capita payments to members. … They are concerned about too many people trying to get enrolled just for the casino benefits.

Who is a Native American? This has been a hard question for many to answer and now it is being blurred by the neon lights of Indian casinos.

Mountaintop Ancestors

I recently subscribed to Amerícas, published by the Organization of American States. The October issue of Américas has great article by Michael T. Luongo entitled Unveiling Ancestors of the Mountaintop. The article covers the opening of the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (MAAM) in Salta, Argentina. The centerpiece of the collection at MAAM is the remains and artifacts of three children found in a mountain top in the Argentine Andes by a group of scientist lead by the National Geographic Society in the late 1990s. According to the article, the children are thought to have been left there as an offering to the gods some five hundred years ago. The dry and freezing temperatures of that Andean mountain top preserved the children and their belongings. From the article:

She [Katia Gibaja, of the Andean Information Center and Library] feels that the children were waiting on the mountain for five hundred years in the hopes that they would be found by future generations, in order to communicate the message of the ancient Incas. Here in the museum, they have indeed fulfilled their roles as oracles as the ancients had hoped.

The North American Indian

Edward S. Curtis, with a grant from J.P. Morgan, set out to photograph and record the history of, as he put it, “one of the great races of mankind.” It has been estimated that Edward Curtis took over 40,000 pictures of over 80 tribes. With the funding from J.P. Morgan, Edward Curtis published the limited edition 20 book series The North American Indian. You can find the digital reprints of The North American Indian on the Library of Congress website. The pictures are hauntingly beautiful and truly a national treasure. The Oath (Apsaroke) from volume four is as powerful an image as the image of marines taking raising the American flag over Iwo Jima. The image of Apsaroke Mother, also from volume four, is as maternal as any image of the Madonna and child. The images from The North American Indian archive will captivate you.