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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Which Flag?

by Phil/Felipe Duran

México lindo
México querido
México de Emiliano Zapata
México de revolucionarios
que resisten el menosprecio
de sangre indígena
el único oro colorado
que sostiene
al espíritu del pobre

sangre que pinta la piel canela
y ablanda al corazón de raza
raza mestiza olvidadiza
que traiciona al Indio que siente por dentro
y oprime al Indio que ve por fuera
cuya sangre solo existe para dar fuerza
al brazo de esclavitud

el rio carmesí
que fluye en venas puras
del Chole, el Tseltal, el Zoque, el Tojolabal,
el Chamula, el Tzotzil, el Lacandón

es más antiguo
que la misma patria
que los dejó abandonados

sobre el piso de polvo en sus chozas
corren lágrimas y luego sangre
esperando auxilio que nunca llega
anhelando su tierra natal,
tierra robada por asesinos
cuyas manos se ven limpias
pero están manchadas con sangre indigena

why do mestizos betray the Indio within
& oppress the Indio without
who becomes no more than
the strong arm of cheap labor?

who gives mestizos their cinnamon color
& softens the warm heart of raza?
who has honored the Creator
& respected the sacredness of Mother Earth
so that the world's future grandchildren
can enjoy clean land, air, and water?

a cloud of darkest truth
has concealed México's beauty
but the red nations within her refuse to die
& today are rising up again
as in so many revolutions past
nations yearning to be reborn
to be free again
to cultivate again
after 500 years of tortuous existence
inside the womb of an uncaring mother


she is so much younger than the crimson river
still flowing in the veins of descendants of the Maya,
she is more indigenous than European in her composition
but more European than indigenous in her disposition,
she was spawned by oppression,
born in the pain of conquest,
now locked in the grip of a Mestizo government
that still feeds the mouth of a hungry beast
the five-century-old pet of first-world greed
with new NAFTA fangs
to feed the rich & devour the poor

the campesinos know the name of the old beast:

it is death, despair, and dispossession
it is a life of death & forced denials
twenty cents a day to fill the bones with flesh
twenty cents a day to hope to live tomorrow
twenty cents a day to wish to die today
twenty cents a day they never see
because the strong arm of the Indio
only buys credit from the PRI
& twenty cents on Sunday they never see
when the women can be kicked and raped
with impunity
and the poor must work for free

babies utter the name of the beast with their cries
mimicking the gurgling sounds of the river of cholera
whose water they drink,
they feel a mother's love
but cannot understand why
she doesn't end the pains of hunger
or soften the effects of malnutrition

teenage women lose their sense of right and wrong
in prostitution houses of despair
granting pleasure to fun-seeking Americanos
who avoid the festering pockets of third-world reality
to see only the sights and hear sounds of a false México
& then bring back stories of conquered women

the campesinos dig premature graves
for the fifteen thousand with curable diseases
who will die again this year
just like the ten years before
when the doctor could not come,
for there's only one for every 1500 people
spread across a hostile jungle, not their native land
which they were forced to abandon four decades ago
where they lived in harmony with the biosphere
preserving resources for the world's future generations
which today's generation is destroying

here en El Norte
there is also the matter of lost land
for Chicanos, a treaty nation
whose language disappears in a single generation
whose song & dance help keep a culture alive

between shouts of ecstasy
during moments of forgotten pain
we strain to hear the liberating outcries
from the south, where desperate voices tell the press to
"let the Chicanos know about our struggle!"
"tell the Mexicans, workers, peasants, students,
honest professionals, and progressives from other countries..."

maybe they don't know about the beast in El Norte
that turns Chicano power into mild hispanic soup
& places ethnic minority labels on willing si-se-puede raza,
leaving only a few trucha/caring raza
to carry the heavy banner of freedom and democracy
across the northern half of México,
this lost land called Aztlan

why is the press here so silent?
why the hesitation
to be democratic, to expose the beast,
history's greatest producer of human death?
why do perpetual agendas persist
while major statements
from the nations of this Red Continent
reverberate around the world?

México lindo, México indígena,
Chiapanecas y Chiapanecos,
we salute you from El Norte,
but where is the flag that truly represents us?
which flag does not attack our culture
or take away our power?

which flag will not deny us our existence?
which one promises to heal the nations
of Turtle Island?
which flag, México querido, can we trust?
which flag?

The Lost Warrior

by Phil/Felipe Duran

In the warmth of home they called him "Pito"
short for Felipito, the affectionate form of
Felipe, the name of a colonizer
for his Indian name was lost
after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

He was conceived in the womb
of a loving mother
in his ancestral land
but poverty drove them away
and he was born on the day of arrival
after a hard three-day journey
in another land
still far from Mom's father
who died without her presence

And in that strange land
on the first day of public school
his name was changed to English
by English-speaking schools
where other languages were forbidden

and in that strange land
urbanized dark-skinned people like him
could use the public swimming pools
only on Wednesdays
when the dirty water was drained
and clean water filled the pool again
for use by whites

But one day the family returned
to the land of the ancestors
where he learned white man's ways well
but was ashamed of his dark skin
as he was taught that
all of America's heros were white
and he played "cowboys and Indians"
never wanting to be the Indian

Then fifty years later
a Tribal cousin finds him and says
her father was a full-blood
but didn't tell his daughters
for it was hard to be Indian
in those days when they were growing up

She says "come home, Primo/cousin"
your mother should be enrolled
for you are Indians like us
and I am now learning our language

So he studies day and night
to learn everything he can about
the ugly and neglected side of American history
and is traumatized, sometimes wanting to die
because of the lies in the first chapter of his life

He now tries to re-write the other chapters
but oh how hard
to fit new knowledge into old paradigms
to forgive the many betrayals
to hear the voices in Indian Country:
"you're not Indian"
and now be judged by his own kin
after being excluded by others all his life
despite many college degrees

Yes, there is still pain on both sides
of the frontier
a frontier that never vanished,
the pain of exclusion and the pain of inclusion,
both are right and both are wrong,
but oh what a feeling
to hear healing voices
to be accepted for who he is:
a warrior once lost, finally coming home
after finding the path again

He wants to be a good warrior
as his spirit endures
and is fighting hard, real hard
and is praying hard, real hard
for the rights of all his relatives

He wants to sing his last song
some day, among his people
as he follows the Great Spirit
all the way to the end of a hard journey
in the cycle of life
to "that place that Indians talk about"
will he succeed?


An Indian warrior is a person whose Spirit is one with the Creator...whose heart belongs to the People....whose life is a sacred gift given by the Ancestors....whose mind is the greatest weapon and shield in life's battles.

The foremost responsibility of an Indian warrior is to be true to one's self...to the People...and to the Creator. The purpose in life is to ensure the survival and well being of The People. An Indian Warrior transforms knowledge into wisdom and therefore understands that the greatest enemy in life is one's self. S/He must overcome weaknesses.

A true Warrior will sacrifice His/Her Heart upon the altar of life for the survival of the People. S/He may be wounded or killed a thousand times in battle, but the spirit cannot be destroyed for the spirit of a true warrior is eternal as the stars.

An Indian Warrior lives by a code of honor...beyond the reach of most mortals. An Indian Warrior speaks directly to the Creator and Mother Earth thru sacred prayer and ceremony, giving offerings of gratitude and respect. A true Indian Warrior is Proud...yet humble, with a heart full of love for the People.

The path of an Indian warrior is the most difficult path of all for S/He will know pain and suffering in ways no one else ever can. The pain of life's injustices will be absorbed into the whole of their being. S/He may be captured...imprisoned...and taken away from the People, but the Spirit lives in the hearts of The People....for S/He is one of The People and will always be loved an respected by the People...Unconditionally.

S/He will be forgiven mistakes by the Spirits and the Holy People because S/He has forgiven the self and humbled oneself before the People.

S/He will go to the mountaintop without food or water to pray to the Spirits of the land and cry for a vision. This sacred vision will lead thru the darkest hours of life. It shall lead to the light of the Creator. An Indian warrior must always believe in Him/Herself...in the Spirit helpers..and in the Indian Way of Life.

S/He must always speak and live the truth of who...and what...s/he is when standing before the eyes of the Creator. An Indian Warrior is not afraid of Death...and shall NEVER surrender to the Dark Forces of Life which attempt to break the Spirit...for the Spirit cannot be broken...the mind cannot be defeated..

The vision of life is that of the Eagle...with clarity and purpose in being. The wings are strong and carry the spirit to the highest levels of self-understanding and spiritual growth as a human being.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.