In 1848, the same year as the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the war between the United States and the Republic of Mexico, an experiment in techniques of colonization of the Indigenous Peoples and territories was initiated among the Donahguh (Seneca), one of the member nations of Haudenosaunee Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy. Traditionally known as the People of the Longhouse, the Six Nations are the aboriginal sovereignty of the territories that came to be identified by the geography of the European colonizers as first New Amsterdam and then later, New York.
The experiment was spearheaded by the Christian religious group known as the Society of Friends (Quakers), who had been successful in converting some of the Senecas to their belief system. These converted Christianized Indians were to serve as representatives of the Seneca Nation to the governments of New York and the United States under a new regime to be implemented under a tribal council established through an elective system. In essence a political coup, displacing from the decision making power over Seneca resources, membership and policy the traditional clan system of the Longhouse that had served the Haudenosaunee for generations, the establishment of elective systems with Tribal Council identities controlled by Washington began in 1848 with the Seneca and served as the model for federal control of native lands, populations, and identity for the next century. While these programs of colonization continue today in advanced form among the federally recognized tribes under United States jurisdiction, the resistance of the Indigenous Peoples and the resiliency of our traditional government systems has also been uninterrupted, continuing to be assertive of the Right to Self Determination by implementing our own ancestral forms of self-governance within our traditional territories. At the international level, this technique of collective political assassination by the creation of a political entity that usurps the symbolic identity of a native nation can be seen in the establishment of the Republic of Mexico in 1836 within the orbit of Hispanic control.
In the Xicano Studies courses taught by the University of Aztlan some thirty years ago, the question was asked “How could Mexicanos become U.S. citizens by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 when U.S. naturalization laws then in effect admitted into U.S. Nationality and Citizenship only those who could fulfill the racial criteria of being “WHITE”? These courses were sometimes assignments in self directed study, such as research missions to the primary sources of the studies by Lewis Henry Morgan; sometimes the study involved strategy and tactics of indigenous self defense such as the Wounded Knee conflict in South Dakota in February of 1973. In all cases, in all courses, the curriculum involved searching for the threads of our indigenous identity that had been shredded by 500 years of genocide and strengthening the community building capacity and skills of our movement in order to rebuild our Indigenous Nations. Along the way we realized that there was common element in the enemy concept, a psychological strategy that was being disguised as a form of jurisprudence: a legal system.
The Maoris of Aoteroa have called it the “jurisprudence of oppression” referring to the colonizer’s systems of law that are the psychological instruments of colonization, implemented by physical force, establishing the context of rights, responsibilities and wrongs for the human society of a particular territory. The bottom line is that these psychological systems establish the parameters of context for behavior and thought, identifying and protecting that which is “civilized” as opposed to savage, legal as opposed to criminal. At the international level, the systems coincide and collaborate within the context of what is described as the United Nations system, a system controlled by government states in proportion to their respective economic and military power.
All legal systems are based on the customs and traditions of the Peoples from which they derive. We too, as Indigenous Peoples have our own systems of jurisprudence; we call them the Tradition. What is critical, now more than ever, is an effective evaluation of the relationship of these systems to the precept of justice, expressed in terms of the reciprocal nature of our global humanity.
Our tradition as Xicanos teaches that the principle of equilibrium within the ecosystems of the universe of the FOUR DIRECTIONS is integral to the concept of justice in the human realm. This for us – defines for us, the courtroom of our collective community judgment. Self definition is the precept of self determination, and warrants self defense in terms of the current global campaigns of psychological warfare that dominate the agenda of the so called “civilized world”.
From this courtroom, from the OrigiNations themselves, a Warrant of Arrest is issued: not to incarcerate but to Liberate. From within, the swirling space of sacred elements resonates with a voice that emerges from the future generations: the voice is echoed by Totatonatiuh (Father Sun) and Tonantzin (Mother Earth). It is not one, but all Nations under God, and in terms of Civilization, here, on this our homeland as Indigenous Peoples – the West is a Guest.
Tupac Enrique Acosa