Indigenous Quotient/Stalking Words
by author Juan Gómez-Quiñones
Reviewed by José Luis Serrano Nájera
In our historical moment, we have seen the people of the world announce a global crisis. In 2011 we saw the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East call for an end to oppression and foreign American imperialism. These calls rang a chord with the people of the United States who called for an end to capitalist greed through the Occupy movements.
Yet the problems of capitalism, hegemony, and the imperialism that binds the two are almost two centuries old and colonialism has produced similar outcomes since the first European invasions of Africa in the early 15th century. This is a fact that is well known among the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas since 1492.
Now more than 500 years later, we see how the material benefits of western modernity have come with the price of violence, gluttonous consumption by the privileged few at the expense of the have-nots, oppression on the basis of race and ethnicity, the exploitation of land, resources, hearts and souls, and the de-validation of Indigenous knowledge across the globe. The crises of today are an extension of this history and are like a nightmare we cannot wake up from. The irony of this is that many of us don’t learn how our current crises are part of long historic trends. More importantly, we don’t learn that for 500 years, the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have been trying to have us see there are ways to live our lives in accordance with the values of respect for all living beings and the land.
When educators at the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson tried to incorporate Indigenous values into their curriculum state officials shut these classes down and carted away banned books in front of tear-eyed Latina/o youth with the similar soul-crushing effect Nazi book burnings had on Germans who did not adhere to Nazi ideology in 1933. Or was it more like the conquistadores and Franciscan friars burning Aztec codices in the 16th century? Either way shared knowledge, written or oral, is a challenge to power and has been at the forefront of resistance to imperialism and colonialism for centuries.
In his book Indigenous Quotient/Stalking Words: American Indian Heritage as Future, Juan Gómez-Quiñones depicts how colonizers and imperialists have de-validated Indigenous knowledge to rationalize the exploitation and oppression of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. He is critical of Western forms of knowledge production because Western thinkers have used their written word to depict Indigenous Peoples across the world as backwards in an effort to establish Western supremacy since the 15th and 16th centuries. Continue Reading →