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 La Jicarta

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521


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Community Advocacy for Northern New Mexico

Inhabited "Wilderness"

"There is a place for wilderness, and there is a place for inhabited wilderness"

David Brower, Earth Island Institute

The question is not: do people belong in wilderness? The question is: where are the places in the natural world where people may live safely and sustainably -- and where are the places that should be left alone?

  • Much of the mountain terrain of northern New Mexico is a place of inhabited wilderness. In fact, a large portion of the lands the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management now occupy were the inhabited wilderness -- and land grants -- of Native and Indo-Hispanic peoples. If the US had honored its signature on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, this mountain wilderness would today be sustaining some of the last land-based cultures in the country.
  • The most recent tragedy to emerge from this injustice is a conflict that is tearing the people of New Mexico apart. On one side stand the advocates of pure wilderness, working to halt a toxic civilization by isolating areas away from human use; on the other, the Indo-Hispanic communities of the north, fighting for their lands, livelihood, and culture. Ironically, the conflict exists in the context of GATT, NAFTA, and the New World Order -- in which transnational corporation and government agencies have exploited the lands in question; in which both wilderness and land based cultures, here and around the world, are threatened with extinction.
  • We are supporters of both the preservation of wilderness and the rights of land-based peoples. We are bringing our best hearts and minds to find solutions in the midst of this latest tragedy.
  • We believe in addressing historical injustice. Just as we support Native peoples in their struggles for sovereignty, so we stand with the Indo-Hispanos in their claims to their lands.
  • We favor the creation of sustainable sanctuaries against the onslaught of corporate globalization, and we see the protection of inhabited wilderness as an invaluable environmental strategy for the future.
  • We, therefore support the rights of both Native and Indo-Hispano peoples to pursue the use of their traditional lands so that their unique cultures may survive. We support their right to sustainable forestry, including community-based logging and restoration, as well as hunting, fishing, herb-gathering, firewood collection, and water. And we honor their right to make decisions about the lands that, according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, are theirs.
Malcolm Ebright Center for Land Grant Studies

Gilbert Sanchez & Corrine Sanchez Tribal Environmental Watch Alliance

Henry Carey Forest Trust

Max Coll NM State Legislature

Edward T. Hall

Lucy R Lippard

Mark Rudd Albuquerque TVI

Steve Goldin Institute for Regional Education

Nina Wallerstein &David King Dunaway

Doug Conwell Earth Walks

Joan Halifax

Anonymous Tierra Amarilla

Alan Hutner & Elizabeth Rose Transitions Radio

Peter Alexander San Cristobal Research Center

Charlotte Lowrey Women's Leadership Institute

Anonymous Santa Fe

Diego Mulligan Connections Radio

Peter Malmgren & Lucy Collier

Consuelo Luz and Jeff Kline

Paul G Zolbrod Navajo Community College

Phil Harrison, Jr. Navajo Radiation Victims Committee

Lauren Reichelt Rio Arriba Family Care Network

Francis Huxley and Adele Getty

Mary Lou Carson

Fiz Harwood Rio Grande Bioregional Project

Beth Enson

Judith Duncan

Phyllis Hotch

Harmony Hammond

Anonymous La Cienega

Max Oelschlaeger

Suzanne S. Forest Center for Land Grant Studies

Dorothy Purley Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment

River Sterling

Charlie Jordan Dragon River Herbals

Johanna Maybury

John McCall NM Green Party

Lorraine T. Price Woman's Leadership Institute

Lehua Lopez Native Lands Institute

Tewa Women United

Daniels Wells Schreck Acequia Tedoroy Teodora

Richard Rosenstock and Mary Frei

Nancy Kleinbord and Jan Kleinbord

Anonymous Antonito CO

Jack Uhrich NM Green Party

Blair Harvey

Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice

Lynn Montgomery NM Green Party

Stever Perin NM Green Party

Bonnie Bramble

Manuel Pino Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment

John Ussery NM Green Party

Meridel Rubenstein & Jerry West

Ryan Temple Forest Trust

Nate Downey Santa Fe Permaculture

Mary Megalli

Linda Siegle

Bruce H. Rolstad

Art Goodtimes San Miguel County Commission (CO)

Alan Labb

Bill deBuys

Sabra Moore and Roger Mignon

Jack Kotz

George Sibley

Jan-Willem Jansen Forest Trust

Greg Cajete

Joan Myers

Patricia A. D'Andrea Rio Grande/Rio Bravo

Sharon Austin

Chris Brown NM Green Party

Eda Gordon

Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller La Jicarita News

Ian Aeby Northern New Mexico Community College

Chellis Glendinning Earth Island Institute

Organizational affiliations are used for identification purposes only.

There is a place for inhabited wilderness.

The Treaty Was Broken

The land of northern New Mexico was inhabited for millennia by Native people. Four hundred years ago, in the wake of the conquistadores, Spanish settlers began to arrive. Through intermarriage from Oaxaca to the Rio Grande, they became the Indo -Hispano people who, like their Native relations, inhabited the wilderness as land-based people.

The terrain was divided into land grants to serve both Native and Indo-Hispano people. After the Mexican-American War, the United States colonized the territory. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, which the US government signed, promised to honor the land grants.

The treaty was broken. Some grants were confirmed, but many were stolen outright by individuals or misappropriated by the US government.

(This appeared as a paid advertisement in The Santa Fe New Mexican.)

A Letter to Environmentalists

by Chellis Glendinning

The Santa Fe Reporter April 3-9, 1996

I would like to make a proposal: embrace and stand behind the politics of indigenous peoples. For us in northern New Mexico this proposal translates: forget this tortuous inching toward "compromise" with the villagers of the north; stand behind the politics of indigenous Chicano people 100 percent.

What? Your jaw is dropping? You are feeling betrayed by "one of your own"?

I know you will agree with me that the environmental movement as a whole is in trouble. Allow me to explain what brings me to this conclusion because I think it can revitalize our efforts.

First of all, the idea of wilderness we have been using is flawed. This flaw is never acknowledged when "white" or urban environmentalists gather because the concept has been driven into us so completely. But whenever indigenous people join us, the flaw is quickly pointed out. The notion of wilderness as terrain with no people is not how your ancestors or mine regarded things; it is a recent invention. We already know that the livelihood of mass society is not sustainable: to maintain itself it must expand, and with this expansion comes a myriad of horrors, including empire-building, colonization and ecological destruction.

This fact elicits a fracture in our thinking: on one hand, a voracious urge to destroy and plunder arises, along with ideologies to rationalize such behavior; on the other hand, resulting anxiety and grief are expressed by the idea that people therefore must be bad and if land is to thrive, people must leave it alone. Hence, wilderness.

Yet evolution tells us that people (living sustainably) have been as essential to Creation as have bears and stars and water, and our survival for a million years without destroying the Earth is testimony to the fact that people per se are not the problem. The problem is a system, a system run rampant, an ever-expanding system that produces both ecological destruction and social injustice.

It is hard for us to change old viewpoints. It is painful -- particularly after all the years of struggle, sacrifice, heartbreak, and now the conservative right assaulting what little accomplishment we have seen. But friends, there is a second veil to lift. Put most simply, this veil concerns our unthinking use of the word "we." We must save the forests! We must build a better world. OK, take a deep breath. How different are these statements from the outlandish manifest-destiny rationales used to conquer these lands in the first place?

The source of this lapse in our thinking springs from a chasm that separates the mindset we learn as members of a mass-dominating society from the mindset fostered in land-based, sustainable communities. our language expresses abstraction, distance, management. We are educated to problem solve for vast numbers of people over vast expanses of terrain. Corporate managers in New York make arrangements for workers in Chihuahua. Lawmakers in Washington oversee policies for Alaskan natives. Environmentalists in Santa Fe makes plans for villagers in Peñasco. We have inherited the mindset of imperialism.

Whose monte are they, anyway? The news to those of us who have come here under the protection of the US government is that the Chicanos of northern New Mexico are indigenous people. They are indigenous by blood: Azteca, Mayan, Tewa, Apache, Keres, Diné. They are indigenous by how they have lived on the land and lived in communion with the original native peoples of this place. And they are indigenous by law: when the norte americanos took over, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo sought to protect the 100,000 Mexican citizens suddenly residing in the US One of its provisions was to ensure that the Hispano land grants originally forged between Mexico and Spain would be honored. Of course, they were not. Anybody in Alcalde or El Valle can recite the myriad maneuvers that American citizens, businesses and government used to gobble up the land base "protected" by the Treaty. The result is that a once-sustainable people has increasingly lost its source of livelihood, been thrust into a cash economy that discriminates against it, and become poor.

The challenge you and I face, as Americans is some to make sense of this terrible legacy in the context of the fact that we do now live here. We care about this land; we care about its future. I propose that supporting the Chicano land and cultural movement is not just righteous; it is the most far-reaching environmental strategy you and I could embrace.

You see, we still live in that empire. Colonization did not end the World War II. The bankers corporate executives and government officials who stood to lose their wealth when the post-war struggles for decolonization succeeded, quickly restructured the world economy via such economic institutions as the Bretton Woods Agreement, the WorldBank, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A new form of imperialism arose, a New World Order that controls resources and people, not by the direct "ownership" previously used by nation-states like England or France, but by the most insidious consumer-mind control and cash-economy dependence generated by transnational corporations. It's no news to us that these entities view the world as an unlimited pool of resources for their usurpation and a unified marketplace for their accumulation of capital.

The New World Order is quickly arriving in New Mexico (although to indigenous people it is simply the New World Order Otra Vez). This "new" order looks like the continued insertion of the cash economy into once-sustainable communities, their loss of age-old traditions and, for some, turning to money-intensive operations like gambling. The New World Order looks like Santa Fe mutating into an international "Disney World" for displaced urban peoples whose psyches long for reconnection with something, anything, that seems earth-bound. It looks like outsider corporations over-logging the forests and over-mining the mountains. it looks like DNA-altered seeds that no longer produce plants that produce seeds and food "grown" in test tubes and factory vats. It looks like Los Alamos continuing to focus on nuclear weapons development to "make the world save for the Fortune 500."

The world now is divided between those who are dependent on the corporate economy for survival -- and those who are sustainable or have the possibility through the land and memory to become sustainable again. The frontline of activism toward ecological restoration then is the struggle for indigenous survival. The Chicano effort to reclaim their lands and protect their culture reside at the vanguard of global environmentalism because it would increase the acreage of this Earth residing in indigenous hands.

There is nothing more compelling or meaningful than a blossoming social movement. The most vibrant struggles happening today are not taking place withing mass society; they are taking place at its edges. The native movements in New Mexico -- both Indio and Chicano -- are part of a worldwide explosion of passion, courage and hope: in Chiapas, in Malaysia and India, throughout the African continent, in Peru and Brazil. Many of these people are forced by immediate survival needs to choose some practices you may not approve -- yet love of the Earth and memory of how to survive ecologically live with them.

My proposal is not merely another nudge toward another faltering coalition in which we defensively negotiate every little point. It is an invitation to a whole new way of thinking, working and being. But it means facing that wounded, insecure part of ourselves that insists on doing things our way. It means facing fear. It means letting go -- not of passion or courage or hope -- but of old ideas and old identities.

The rewards? New ideas, new strength, new comrades -- and best of all: to understand that "we" as it said in the indigenous way is something entirely different from saying it inside the empire.

Chellis Glendinning is a nationally known environmentalist who lives in Chimayó.

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Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.