Tag Archives: Opinion

Cultural Theft

Here in New Mexico we live in proximity to three Native American reservations and nineteen pueblos.  The peoples who live in these lands are unique, each with their own culture and beliefs.  Their distinctive ceremonies and traditions have developed over the centuries and are truly their own.

Much has been taken from these peoples over the generations.  Their remaining lands may be small, but like a rock that a great river has flowed around, they are still here.

To learn more of these peoples is to be made aware that they are distinct and different in many ways. Never confuse a Navajo (Dineh) with a Mescalero Apache (or try to get them to live together as General James Henry Carlton did at Bosque Redondo). But like the great civilizations of history, their ways and beliefs are authentic, arising from a direct experience of the land and the lives of their people, leavened by a healthy dose of reflection and tested through the generations.

Which brings me to my Gripe of the Week:  White people should leave Native American culture to the peoples who own it.

Don’t show me any wealthy suburbanites stopping off at a sweat lodge on their way to the tennis courts. (Believe me, this happens.) You want to show respect to indigenous peoples’ spirituality?  Develop your own and leave theirs be. You can’t power shop for a spiritual vision or a value system.  And if yours is borrowed, it isn’t real.

  So honor Native Americans by reflecting on YOUR experiences, not theirs, and by examining YOUR own relationship to the land, not theirs. And then, once you have a better idea of who you are, where you are, and why you are here, maybe then we can all get together as human beings and help each other out a little bit.

Final Thoughts on Aztlan & a Post-Mortem on Bin Laden

As I mentioned in my last post, claims by Chicano activists (re: their entitlement to essentially the entirety of the American Southwest) rest on their assertion that this entire area was dominated by the Aztecs, whom they claim as ancestors.

Fact check: Upon arriving in the early and mid-16th century, the conquistadors found the Aztecs in control of only a small part of what is now Mexico. Most of the rest of “Aztlan” was then the homeland of numerous Native American First Nations (Navajo, Apache, Ute, Pueblo, Commanche, etc.). Before their arrival, the area was the home of the “Ancient Ones”, the Anasazi, who lived there from about 1200 BC until the early 14th century. Later, those parts of the United States that were once controlled by Mexico came to be that way not because of the Aztecs, but because of Spanish conquests, gained by Mexico on September 27,1821 when Mexico won its freedom from Spain.

Do the proponents of Aztlan expect the First Nations peoples to give way to their claims to their ancestral lands? The Aztlan assertions are as ridiculous to me as would be any claims by the descendants of the Hapsburg family to resurrect the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Let’s move on…


Are you getting as sick as I am about all the attention being given in death to Osama Bin Laden? By the time he was killed last week, Bin Laden had become an irrelevancy in the Middle East.  The photo of him in his squalid “Command Center” watching himself on TV illustrated how limited and solipsistic his world had become since 9/11. How does one say “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” in Arabic?

Some are trying to make a big deal about the fact that Bin Laden was apparently unarmed when he was shot and killed. I would just like to point out that the 2,966 people (including 14 from the high school I attended) who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks were also unarmed at the time.

Bin Laden’s irrelevancy, especially in light of the recent political upheavals in much of the Islamic world, demonstrates the persistent resonance of democracy and liberty in the human spirit.  And to that I say “Amen”.

Spare me the tears – part 1

Aztlán  is the mythical ancestral home of the Nahua peoples, one of the main cultural groups in Mesoamerica. Aztec is the Nahuatl word for “people from Aztlan”. Since the 1960s, the Chicano Movement has used Aztlán as a symbol for a proposed homeland for Hispanics in the Southwestern United States, called the Republica del Norte. (this description is taken from wikipedia)

For a quick study in group self-delusion, take some time to read up on this modern phenomenon of the American Southwest.  It is a thoroughly raced-based articulation of history akin to the Nazi mythology about Germany and the Aryan race. The Raza, or people of this movement, seek nothing less than the expulsion of all people of European origin from an area comprised of nine Southwestern US states and the incorporation of this “homeland” into an area that supposedly reflects the extent of the Aztec Empire prior to the arrival of the Spanish.


There are truly valid claims of injustices suffered by many peoples who lived in this hemisphere from pre-Columbian times. But the Aztlan prescription seems to be that the best way to re-mediate past injustices is through bloodshed and racially targeted acts of terror.  This will sound familiar to those of you who have read Mein Kampf.

As a retired teacher of history, I am stunned that such a clear  corrupción of historical events is actually being taught in some American colleges.  First, Aztlan as an historical entity never existed.  So teach it in a class on fiction or mythology.  It isn’t historical.   I will devote more time in my next post to a debunking of the historical claims of this movement. In the meantime, could we all please devote more energy and attention to making America a better country for all and less time to such flights of group fantasy and vengeance?