Preserving the cultures of Native Americans indigenous to Texas and northern Mexico and maintaining our covenant with sacred sites.

History

Our colonial history in Texas was such that our indigenous identity was stolen and we were forced to take on our slave masters’ Spanish names, learn Spanish and forget our language, take on Christianity and leave behind our spiritual belief systems, give up our lands so that when the U.S. took over we had nothing to trade for federal recognition as U.S. indigenous tribes/nations, and eventually become detribalized individuals mislabeled “Hispanic.”  However, most of us retained our culture that is commonly referred to as “Mexican” and in actuality is indigenous. We still speak an indigenous language (Nahuatl) within our Texas Spanish (sacate vs. lodo, cuate vs. gemelo, aguacate, zapatos, etc.). We eat indigenous foods such as corn, squash, beans, tortillas, tamales, etc. Our family structures are expansive and reflect the tribal communities of our ancestors. Our gatherings are ceremonial. Many of us continue to practice ancient ceremonies such as the Peyote way, danza, and sweats.  So here in Texas many of us who are identified as Hispanic are reclaiming our indigenous identity, working to decolonize ourselves, forming communities, and embracing indigenous ways and values. We identify as indigenous and work every day to be worthy of this designation.

However, most of us retained our culture that is commonly referred to as “Mexican” and in actuality is indigenous. We still speak an indigenous language (Nahuatl) within our Texas Spanish (sacate vs. lodo, cuate vs. gemelo, aguacate, zapatos, etc.). We eat indigenous foods such as corn, squash, beans, tortillas, tamales, etc. Our family structures are expansive and reflect the tribal communities of our ancestors. Our gatherings are ceremonial. Many of us continue to practice ancient ceremonies such as the Peyote way, danza, and sweats.  So here in Texas many of us who are identified as Hispanic are reclaiming our indigenous identity, working to decolonize ourselves, forming communities, and embracing indigenous ways and values. We identify as indigenous and work every day to be worthy of this designation.

Carlos Aceves, M. Ed., El Paso Spiritual Community Elder

DNA

The issue of DNA tests has developed some questions about the accuracy of the reports. Depending on the company, of which there are several, some may give totally erroneous information and the best will only give partial and not completely reliable data on which to base your ancestral lineage.  The company may tell you from which region they harvested matching DNA and tell you what tribes likely lived in that area, but that is not absolute proof that you are Coahuiltecan.

Reliable genetic testing requires in-depth processes and is very expensive, so are not accessible to the general public. And even if you had extensive testing, the results would not provide a tribal affiliation. If the DNA tester gives you a tribal affiliation, it is a fake and you cannot trust this company. DNA CANNOT identify your tribal affiliation.

 

These facts should not deter you from seeking and embracing your indigenous identity.  If your family has lived in a certain area or areas for as far back as anyone can remember, then that area is probably close to your original tribe’s homeland.  For example, if your family is from Coahuila, lived there for at least three generations that you can trace, and then moved to Texas and lived here for another five or six generations, then you are likely from the Texas/northern Mexico tribal area. If you have a Spanish last name that you can trace back to a hacienda or mission, then you probably got that name from a slave master or a priest, who replaced your indigenous name when they claimed you or baptized you.  So there are check marks you can make that say you are indigenous to the Americas.

White Shaman mural near Comstock, Texas

Responsibility

Please realize that claiming indigeneity is not enough.  If you choose to identify as indigenous, the demand on you is not “to know your tribe” but rather to serve your community of indigenous relations.  This is a much bigger challenge because you have to find an indigenous community, through your existing family or local people who also identify as indigenous, and seek elders and teachers to guide you. 

You will hear the term “decolonize” yourself – shed yourself of the Western way of doing and seeing – every man for himself, dog eat dog, best man wins – and embrace the indigenous way of community first and service to your people and your Mother Earth. And hopefully, involve yourself in authentic ceremony so that you can connect more fully (spiritually) to this responsibility.

Knowing this, you now have choices to make about your indigenous identity. If you want to claim your indigeneity then with that comes  responsibility. You can say, “I’m Native to the Americas and follow traditional ways.”   Following traditional ways means commitment to indigenous values and ways of seeing the world. This is a complex process and requires that you join an indigenous community that is trying to bring back the traditional ways through ceremony, gatherings, classes, activism, and other means. It means a commitment to decolonize yourself – which is also a very complex and difficult process.

Finally, consider organizing your family into an indigenous community and begin this journey together.

Miakan-Garza Band of the Coahuiltecan People
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