Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration – Photos

Equilibrio would like to thank all those who came out to celebrate with us last Monday October 9th for Indigenous Peoples Day. Thank you Vanessa Ramos for these photos.

Thank you to our speakers: Emerson Nez, Susana Almanza, Cynthia Perez, Gilbert Rivera, Marcos DeLeon, Anita Quintanilla, Gabi Padilla, Gerardo Marin and Rafael Gonzalez

Thank you to our partnership organizations: Alma de Mujer, PODER, Resistencia Bookstore, ATX-EJ,  and the Indigenous Women’s Network.

Thank you to all our volunteers and all others who helped us celebrate our community.



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October 16, 2017 · 10:40 pm

Indigenous Peoples Day – 2017

Last week the Austin city Council voted to honor indigenous peoples day instead of Columbus Day on the second Monday in October.  Equilibrio brought this resolution forward through councilwoman Ora Houston, and we’re pleased to see and 9-1-1 vote in favor of this historic change on the dais.  We were proud to host an official Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on Monday alongside Alma de Mujer, PODER, Resistencia and ATX-EJ.  Thank you to everyone who attended, helped out and supported.


Marking Indigenous People Day instead of Columbus Day is more significant now than ever.   Not just because we must honor the legacy of the thousands of years of history and culture of these lands. Neither is it merely to stop honoring the violence and brutality of this nation’s origins. Indigenous Peoples Day is not about the past – it is about the present.

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day is about our need to address the ongoing displacement of the natives of East Austin due to gentrification; it is about our need to confront the desecration of Native burial Sites in places like Eagle Pass and South Padre Island where multinational corporations build coal mines and fracked-gas export facilities on our sacred lands; it is about allowing the human right to migration to continue unabated by the militarized state, as we Native peoples have migrated across these artificial borders for thousands of years.

Indigenous peoples day too, is about the future. Is about future of this country and the future of this land and its people. How will we live 10 years from now or 100?   What are the guiding values of this City, of this region, of these rivers? Will we honor the displacement symbolized by Columbus and propagated by our current economic and political system, or will we honor the land, ancestors and relations that hold us?



Beyond a Liberal Gesture

We are in time when statues are being taken down, names are being changed, and public officials attempt to right the wrongs of the past. Parts of this history are obscure: an elementary school named after a little-known confederate General, a dorm named after a grand Wizard of the KKK or one to many statues subtly erected in the past, and even more subtly taken down in the present.   However, this history barely scratches the surface of our understanding or ability to confront the colonial, exploitative legacy of this place.

This place we call Austin – named after a slaveholder for sure, but not just a slaveholder. It was Stephen F. Austin who first proposed granting settlers land for every slave brought into Texas, creatively expanding both the displacement of indigenous people and the dehumanization of displaced Africans in a single policy. But more than his deeds or actions in the past, we must focus on the legacy of these laws and the distribution of these lands.   The foundation of our current system is embedded within this history.

The effects are not merely psychological wounds carried by our people, or ideological frames that can shift with the proper education or training. The true effects are material. Poverty and injustice still plague the descendants of the displaced – too the bloated wealth of land and resources still rests in the hands of a corrupt oligarchy. The political and economic system in Texas remains hyper colonial in its ongoing exploitation of land and people.

Moreover, every time any of us claim this place beneath our feet, we have to honor the name of a white man. What White man do you come from?   If not by blood then by designation of this place with that name, and of this land with that system.

And this is just one name, but there are many more. Lamar – one of the longest roads in our city –  is the name of a genocidal tyrant. However to erase the legacy of the boulevard in our city, by changing the name, would not challenge the unequal power held by the descendants of Lamar, and those like him – the racist lawmakers, exploitative landholders and unaccountable cronies who run this state. It is the cradle of bathroom laws, SB4 and the border wall, it is white supremacy that we need to be rid of, and this is more than a name.

It is beyond names where we are headed. Not a retrenchment of identity based categories, but a unifying appreciation for the different ways of knowing and connecting to earth. The outlier is capitalism – the poison all people are forced to drink. The antidote is our cultures – it is rooted in land. The antidote is decolonial. The antidote is indigenous. We celebrate the rise in consciousness as we create systems of justice and equilibrium.

Just as 500 years ago there was no concept of “indigenous” in the modern sense, we can imagine that 500 years from now the term will have no meaning. The present moment marks the center of the colonial struggle. We are now passing through the eye of the storm and the still of the still of the eclipse. This marks the pivot of the long dure’ of history. From here on forward we should think of all we create as decolonial and this land as indigenous territory.

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Defending the Sacred – from Standing Rock to Texas


The United States Corps of Army Engineers (USACE) has denied the building permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This breaking news signals a victory for the water protectors movement and the unity and prayer of Indigenous peoples who have taken the lead in protecting water for future generations. What has emerged through this experience has shed light on the injustice embedded within state development policy.

The fight for our water is tied to the fight for protecting all that is sacred. Protecting ancient burials, sacred sites help us protect our water. Standing up to Indian mascots, offensive logos and cultural appropriation helps us to fight against exploitative projects. All of these themes are present right here in Texas. There is still much to be done.


Back in April 2016, before DAPL was blowing up the news, Native Texans from across the state united to march in protest of the Dos Republicas coalmine in Eagle Pass under the banner #NativeTexansUnited. Natives stand against the mine because it threatens to pollute the Rio Grande River, which affects thousands of people. But also, Coahuiltecan, Carrizo, Apache and Comanche tribes all consider Eagle Pass a “sacred site” and claimed to have ancestral burial sites in the area. At the time, the corporation running the mine, North American Coal Company (NACC), denied the presence of any burials. It appears that they were lying as uncovered by a 2012 Cultural Resources Report document, which states clearly:

“The floodplain appears to have at least one sealed late pre-historic occupation surface that contains at least one burial. In the event that the area of the site containing the resumed Native American burial is not exempted from the mining impacts, deeper and more extensive trenching should be performed to explore the extent and nature of the occupation and demonstrate that no older occupations lie more deeply buried.”

It is common for archaic burials to be found in large numbers and while we are now in possession of evidence of at least one burial, we are suspicious of the authorities in granting us our rightful information for the remainder of the site. The dishonesty by Dos Republicas, NACC, the Texas state authorities and the USACE have operated in unison to deny the rights of the Native peoples of Texas to free and fair consultation. To our knowledge, there has been no further testing or excavation since the time of this report. However, there has been a commencement of mining in the area.

Desecration of sacred sites is not unique to Eagle Pass, unfortunately as has been uncovered recently with two pipelines currently under construction in West Texas. The Trans Pecos Pipeline (TPPL) and Comanche Trails Pipeline are both owned by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) the company behind DAPL, and they threaten some of the most historic places for Natives in Texas.

According to local news source, The Van Horn Advocate:

The TPPL will cut a 143 mile-swath through the last vestige of wilderness in Texas desecrating as many as one ancient Native American site per square mile of its path. The Trap Springs archeological site, a very recent and significant find is in imminent danger of being bulldozed despite evidence of at least 5,000 years of occupation and a pending nomination as a State Archeological Landmark.

Further west, Comanche Trail Pipeline cuts through Hueco Tanks, possibly the most remarkable archeological site in Texas. Hundreds of pictographs and thousands of artifacts including pottery and burial sites cover the Hueco Tanks state park and surrounding area. This land has been used for ongoing ceremony for a diverse array of indigenous peoples including the Mescalero Apache, Kiowa, Tigua, Comanche and Xicanxs of El Paso. This area has been fortunate enough to not be drilled or fracked by oil and gas expansion – however the Comanche Trails pipeline will bring this destructive development to the area in order to ship gas to Mexico.

Exports are driving the current expansion of oil and gas infrastructure throughout South Texas. Much of this fracking boon connects at three proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in South Padre Island. While most Texans know South Padre as the last clean beach in Texas, and a tourist destination, most don’t know that it is also home to an ancient burial site. The Garcia Pasture site contains an indigenous cemetery, an ancient village and numerous nomadic artifacts, all threatened along with the beach, the bay and the local economy.

All of this destruction and the gross disrespect paid to the sacred nature of burial grounds, life-giving sources of water or cultural and historic remains may come as a surprise. When we look deeper, we find that there is no mistake being made by the companies and no benefit of the doubt to give them. Their disrespect is calculated, and deep.


Insult and Injury

The logo of North American Coal Company is an Indian’s Head. Reminiscent of the infamous Washington Football team logo, this logo carries more negative implications than mere cultural appropriation. According to Barbara E. Munson of the Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce:

“Symbols like the Indian head in profile are called severed head logos. They have been used at various times in the colonial period and in later U.S. history to designate a place where whole bodies, heads and later scalps of Indian people (men, women and children) could be brought in for bounty payment. Blood stained scalps gave rise to the term redskins.” The bounty practice is one reason why many American Indian people are so opposed to the use of these logos. Bounty payments are about death and genocide not about athletic games and academic and music competitions.”

We can add mining company to the list of things that should not be by signified by a severed Indian head; and we can add to this narrative the aspect of grave robbery and bounty payment. Theft of Native land is a trophy for settler colonial society as it symbolizes domination over the land and native peoples. The present case at Dos Republicas brings these themes together, as land, bodies and images are all taken from native peoples in a single act of destruction.

NACC also operates the Navajo mine in Arizona – another example of them contributing to the dispossession of indigenous peoples while appropriating their name and culture. Recently Apache Corporation has acquired vast oil reserves, which threaten sacred Apache sites, including Balmorhea in West Texas. ETP’s Comanche Trail pipeline uses both name and homeland of the Comanche, while the gas they export will benefit no indigenous peoples. ETP also share a corporate headquarters with Chief Oil and Gas, another severed head oil company.

It is no accident that these companies overlay multiple expressions of anti-Indianness. In order for a faceless corporation to profit from destroying land, polluting air and water, desecrating sacred sites, appropriating culture and showing utter lack of dignity or respect, they can only do so by tapping into the lowest part of the United States’ culture. To claim an Indian name, or image is to claim rightful ownership over the land and is an act of colonization – this is beyond racism, it is genocide.


The System is Colonialism

Neither a sacred site nor a burial ground holds meaning to the state, while those in power get rich off of energy projects.   “Development” is the mechanism of state capitalism; upholding land seizure and industrial exploitation that keeps so much oil and land in the hands of the few. The corruption is deep, but the Texas Water Protectors movement is a response to this – and it’s not going anywhere.

The USACE did an improper consultation with tribes before issuing building permits for DAPL – this may set a precedent for the Dos Republicas coalmine.   It’s likely that the high visibility of DAPL will open debate on how consultations are done. However, focusing on the details of the procedure misses the reality of how state processes generally work and why and how they are so racist. Richard Hutchings — co-director of the Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism and a Research Associate at Vancouver Island University – said it well:

“That most archaeologists are employed by and answer directly to transnational development corporations is only the tip of the iceberg. More troubling is that while most archaeologists are white (like their employers and their employer’s stockholders), the majority of heritage sites archaeologists permit to be destroyed are Native American, raising the specter of not just environmental racism but a coordinated and systematic human rights violation.”

The consultation process is already overwhelmingly pro-extractive capitalism and consistently and publicly admits to hold an abstract economic benefit over the wellbeing of land and people. Said process is even less likely to recognize or respect Indigenous land, culture or life. The consultation process, or lack there of, is a continuation of a colonial relationship between the settler state and Native peoples. Reassessing this relationship will change more than the USACE and energy pipelines – it will change everything in American society.

The destructive development in Eagle Pass, West Texas and North Dakota demonstrates how colonial society justifies its own expansion by devaluing indigenous land and culture. State parks such as Hueco Tanks and Big Bend are unlikely to remain protected while Kelcy Warren, ETP CEO, sits on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Governor Greg Abbott will continue to support projects while Warren personally gave him nearly $900 thousand in campaign contributions. Warren gave over $100 thousand to Trump, too. What will this mean for the future of DAPL next month and beyond?

The government is not on our side. It took great sacrifice to earn a victory in North Dakota, and even this win is tenuous. It will be up to the people to come together to defend our water for future generations.

We will defend Big Bend

We will defend Hueco tanks

We will defend South Padre Island

We will defend Balmorhea

We will defend Eagle Pass

We are the Texas Water Protectors

We will defend the sacred



For more information:


Comanche Trails:



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Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day

It is time to stop celebrating Columbus Day. Columbus Day celebrates colonialism – and the dealings that directly threaten death and displacement of People of Color in the City of Austin, and around the world, are perpetuated by neo-colonialism.


The idea of a foreigner “discovering” someone else’s land and then exploiting those people and land describes the process of gentrification that is plaguing this city. The destruction of Mexican temples so that Catholic churches could be built on top is like the proposed demolition of the Montopolis Church of Christ in East Austin to make way for luxury condos – neo-colonialism presenté.

Another trending neo-colonial phenomenon is the vast amount of land being destroyed throughout Texas by multinational corporations. Many sacred sites face immediate threats, including:

Balmorreah – The largest freshwater spring in Texas –threatened by oil and gas fracking;

Big Bend and the Trans-Pecos – the largest unspoiled terrain of Texas – threatened by the TPP pipeline;

South Padre Island – the last clean beach in Texas – currently threatened by 3 LNG export facilities;

Eagle Pass ­– an important indigenous sacred site – threatened by the Dos Republicas Coal Mine.



Every one of these projects is for the export of fossil fuels and leaves nothing for the people of Texas, let alone the Indigenous Natives of Texas. While the riches are not sent directly to Spain, the similarity is painful for those connected to this land. Nevertheless, we have a rare opportunity for our messages to be heard. From East Austin to West Texas – we are all connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) resistance, the largest gathering of Native tribes in modern history.


New Treaties

The Sacred Stone camp against DAPL is one act in a long line of indigenous resistance to colonialism. Often Indigenous actions to protect land, water and lifeways are misunderstood in American society. Protecting isolated indigenous peoples who have been successful in resisting industrial capitalism is only part of the solution. The other part is changing the behavior of those who perpetuate the system – and that is everyone else.honorourtreaties.jpg

Industrial capitalism is dependent on the extraction, transportation and consumption of fossil fuels. The products of this system are staggering inequality – where One Percent of the population owns more wealth than the other 99 percent – and Global Climate Disruption, which disproportionally affects indigenous people. This political economy is bad for everyone – and, too, was founded through colonialism.

The US government violated every treaty they signed with Indians in order to control land and resources. Whites did more than conquer Native America; they claimed the land as if it had always belonged to them anyway. This spirit lives on in the ongoing destruction of land, robbing of native place names, and in the millions of “quarter Cherokee” wannabes that claim “Native” ancestry. Legal contracts under colonialism have never been honorable; the economic system of extraction, likewise, has never been honorable – both devalue land and people. The system that has dispossessed indigenous peoples of their lands has also dispossessed settlers of reality.

If modern settler society is ready to make right with the Sioux or any other Native peoples – they should sign new treaties and honor them. People see the treaty as a thing of past, but I encourage us all to take seriously the task of creating contracts to shape our human and land relationships.

Clearly Natives have no reason to trust the US government in making or signing new treaties, but nowadays non-natives are nearly as likely to be cheated. Corporations reap benefits from current laws and land-based policies – not the people. Perhaps a decolonial movement seeking justice and protecting life for everyone, such as that at Standing Rock, will reinvigorate a new era of treaty making and a new political and economic system.

How will the settlers renegotiate their governance or their relationship with the Earth? Will it be a reinvestment in Columbus – the genocidal buffoon – reproducing in tandem ignorance and arrogance in a mad rush for power? Or will it be by establishing Indigenous Peoples Day – at least one day out of the year to honor those who did not slip under the tide of exploitation that founded this society; that resisted their demise through maintaining attachments with their land and lifeways at all costs; those who still form ranks against the utter destruction of the land, water and culture from North to Dakota to Eagle Pass to East Austin?

We, Natives, are turning the tide. Join us in remaking our society an honorable one, where people evolve beyond the blind pursuit of power and towards equity amongst people and equilibrium with the Earth. Join us in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day!


Join Us

The City of Austin has issued a proclamation re-naming Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples Day – and hopefully next year we will celebrate a full resolution making this change permanent and marking the first step in a new age of treaty making.

Equilibrio will host an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration Monday October 10th at 7pm at Plaza Mariposa. We will have food and community, come celebrate with


Emersen Nez, Equilibrio

Juan Mancias, Tribal Chairman (Carrizo/Comecrudo)

Dr. Tane Ward – Equilibrio (Tlaxcalteco/Xicanx)

Reading of the Proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day

Council Member Houston

Honoring the elders




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A Quick Note on Equity and Austin’s New Equity Officer

The City of Austin just announced that it has hired a new Equity Officer. There has been a great push for equity in our city by community organizations such as Undoing Racism Austin and Communities of Color United in recent years; however, the city has not responded with any substantive recognition of equitable policy nor shown a clear understanding of what equity really means. Austin has suffered greatly over the years with a major loss of communities of color due to gentrification-induced displacement along racial lines. This leaves many in the community skeptical of the new position, so it is important for us all to ensure we will hold the new equity officer, Brion Oaks, and the whole city government, accountable for equitable policy and governance.

You may have heard a lot about equity lately – in particular reminded about the difference between equity and equality. At the very least, you may have seen this meme:



So instead of giving everyone the same thing (Equality), we ensure everyone has the same outcome (Equity). Sounds easy enough, but who is going to take the box away from the big White guy on the left? If this isn’t happening, equity isn’t happening.

It is easy in liberal society to say, “The poor should be less poor.” That is the message that keeps appearing after the release of the disparity studies that happen every two years. However, to say “The rich should be less rich,” is still left out of the conversation. When we complete the equity equation, we are left with a trickier set of politics than if we only go half way. So far, Mayor Adler and City Hall have completed exactly half of the equation. The equity officer position appears to be responding to a lack of city service to the less fortunate, and not focused on the Austin’s prioritization of elite interests.

There have been countless studies about poverty in Eat Austin and an embarrassing amount of LBJ policy school projects aimed at analyzing the disadvantaged in this city.  But how many studies have been aimed at the culture of greed emanating out of West Austin? How many studies have focused on the exploitation of East Austin perpetuated by those in West Austin? How many studies have looked at the gentry displacing POC throughout East Austin or the culture that excuses their naiveté? What about the narrative consistently pushed by the mayor and others that sells Austin as a great place to make money if you are already rich? As long as these issues are not dealt with, we are not doing equity work – we remain, at best, focusing on equality.


Power and Oppression

Racism describes a structure of oppression – it is also a very popular framework because it fits in well with the Liberal ideology. White Supremacy describes a structure of power – it is an unpopular framework because it confronts the powers that be. The difference between the two is that one focuses on the oppressed group, and the other focuses on the oppressor; one focuses on equality, the other equity. This country needs a severe shift in talking about race in terms of being oppressed. We need to talk about how race is a structure of power that benefits white people and allows them to systematically dominate other people, and that capitalism is the vehicle for this domination.

As long as Austin is promoted as a tourist destination for spoiled kids on vacation, investment opportunity for venture capitalists, a tech-city, or just a nice place to build your mansion – we will not be working towards equity. “Privilege” is not a happenstance; it is an actively desired status achieved through the policies driving development in Austin and the culture that justifies such privileges.

An equity officer should take a hard look at capitalism before suggesting policy recommendations. Austin is unequal and inequitable economically, politically and culturally. The people of this city deserve justice.  To merely focus on “access” to city programs without challenging the culture of the city and it’s history of systemic racism, this position unlikely to do any good.  Mr. Oaks – we are here if you need any advice on how to proceed.





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Native Texans Unite: March on the Mine

It was a great honor to organize and participate in the Native led Action Against Dos Republicas Coal mine on April 16th.  We thank everyone who participated and organized this alongside us, and honor all of the work that has been done in defense of this land in years past.  We, at Equilibrio, see this event as the beginning of what is to come.  Native peoples in Texas are coming together to protect their land and culture.  This is more than a political moment – this is a prayer.

Our ancestors need us; our forbearers even more.  We carry a responsibility in this lifetime to overrule the colonial society.  Our territory, and our relationship to it, is our own.  If not for genocide, the people of this land would never have submitted to the state process of colonization, which remains the dominant system today.  Nearly all land in Texas is held by settler-colonial elites and exploited through extraction of oil, gas and coal.  Meanwhile, our people are economically exploited through capitalism, and culturally dominated through state structures of education, military and law.  However, this system is on the verge of being superseded by our rising consciousness.  “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Through decolonial action we erode the structures of oppression.  We see another future is possible through reclaiming our land and our traditions.  We must change the way we live and relate to the Earth. This message hangs on lips throughout the world.  We are not alone in our decolonial work.  The Earth is directing her children to reclaim her.  Our moment to come together is directed by a higher consciousness – the Earth beneath our feet.  

The April 16th action was an expression of respect, compassion and unity among all of our people – this will continue.  We look to those who have maintained connection with their ancestral lifeways to guide us in our rediscovery.  We treat the wounded to heal in this movement.  We welcome the weak to gain strength in this movement.  We invite the ignorant to learn in this movement.  We come together now in a new way.  Like vultures we circle the decaying civilization of exploitation.  Like eagles we set our sights on the future; it rises before us.

Photos by Vanessa Ramos

Native nations people identify with from the march: Borrado, Carrizo-Comecrudo, Cherokee (Aniyunwiya), Chichimeca Jonaz, Chippewa, Chumash, Comanche (by proxy), Creek (Muscogee), Dine’, Hopi, Huasteca/Zapotec, Kickapoo,  Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Mexia/Nahua, Mi-Wuk, Otumban, Pacuache Coahuiltecan, Pawnee, Pomo, Purepecha, Raramuri, Shi’sh N’de, Southern Cheyenne, Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan, Tarahumara, Tewa,  Tongva, Xicana/o, Yaqui, Yoeme

Partner Organizations: AIM (Central Texas/California/Colorado/New Mexico),  Alma de Mujer, ATX-Enviornmantal Justice, Carrizo-Commecrudo Tribe of Texas, Maverick CountyEnvironmental and Public Health Association, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Sierra Club, Equilibrio

Solidarity organizations: Native Women’s Network, Shield the People, Black Mesa Indigenous Support, PODER


Timeline of organizing Native Led Action 

August 2015: USACE Meeting in Eagle Pass


November 2015: Strategy Meeting


February 2016: Natives of Texas Planning meeting

Texas Natives Against Coal Mining

April 2016: March on the mine


Stay tuned for next steps.

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A Naked Child Murdered in the Street

Last week a naked child was murdered in the street by a police officer in Austin, Texas. His name was David Joseph. There was public outcry – as there always is. The mayor promised justice and accountability. The police union defended the officer. One news outlet aired a report about how dangerous naked people can be. Now we are expected to wait, either for justice, or until this happens again.

Hyperlinks aside, conjecture; what does justice mean in this instance, and how does this incident affect this all-too-common drama? Conjecture aside; a naked child was murdered in the street. Let that sink in for a moment.


Injustice is embedded in Austin’s Past, Present and… 

David Joseph was murdered in the street – a Black child of 17, in a city with the fastest shrinking Black population of any major city in the country. In Austin, the powers that be: the city council, planning department, police department and economic elite, have created a city where, by the numbers, Black people are not welcome. Furthermore, the city shows Black people they are not welcome when police murder their children, and the inflicting officers are never brought to justice.

NCMS1There is no shortage of interlocking elements to this story. However, it is unlikely that the policy makers or media will focus on issues that may bring justice or healing. This is deeper than an officer making a mistake – it illustrates the contemporary political movement Black Lives Matter. While BLM has brought police brutality towards People of Color to new heights of national media attention – we are still too often left without empowering solutions at the local level. It is important to be clear on exactly how and why this happened, so that we can determine a remedy. Perhaps the unique political and cultural history of our city can shed some light on this national epidemic .

Austinites have organized for justice and police accountability for decades – recently groups have unified in addressing Joseph’s murder: the NAACP, Austin Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter, Peaceful Streets Project, People’s Task Force and Undoing Racism Austin. There is room for this organizing to grow in numbers, visibility, policy and strategy; however, there is also a strong cultural current working against it – Institutional Racism.

Cultural Legacies Die Hard

Similar to how White American culture was created on the falsehood that Black people are dependent upon and subservient to White people, in order to justify slavery; in the contemporary era, mass incarceration and police killings are justified through a cultural production of Black men as dangerous and criminal. Like all forms of racism, this is perpetuated at institutional, cultural and personal levels.

The Police Union President, Ken Casaday, has been vocal in justifying the shooting of David Joseph, asserting, “Just because someone is naked and in the street does not mean that they are not a danger to someone. I would tell you they are an extreme danger,” and “A person’s naked, running around the street, can kill you. They can take your gun, take your taser because they have an unhuman strength.” [Grammar errors in the original.]  Casaday alleges that naked people are even more dangerous than clothed people, assuming that they must be on drugs, which also cause violent behavior and give them superhuman abilities. This logic will be used in the officer’s defense, in order to establish their good judgment in using lethal force. That is all that will be asked of them.

NCMS2Our racist criminal justice system has upheld this rule each time the police murder someone in this city, and the narrative of the superhuman, violent naked black man is already being pumped out on the local news as a steady source of propaganda to cover the injustice of this murder. Casaday, through KVUE (the local ABC news affiliate) and KXAN (the local NBC affiliate), has now released a video of a naked Black man assaulting a police officer. Notice that this is not a video of David Joseph, but a completely different person in a completely different circumstance.

APD used this tactic in 2009, when the community sought justice for the police murder of Nathanial Sanders, another Black youth. The police released a video of the altercation, showing a Black man lunging at a police officer and being shot. However, the man lunging forward was Sir Smith, a different man who was also shot at the scene, but not fatally. Sanders, who never exited the vehicle, was shot in the back of the head through the window. This video was used as public evidence to defend an officer with a violent record  – justice was never served.

The image of the naked Black man alongside structural violence is a deep structuring element of American Society. The auction block and the lynching – violent practices of White Americans subjugating African Americans, was dependent on the dehumanization of the naked Black male body. Considering policy for police to video record all interactions through dash or body cameras has implications here. The police will have no shortage of justification for any of their actions if they simply substitute one Black body for the next. The media is already happily serving up this historic legacy of collective punishment and dehumanization of Black men.

As long as we allow the spread of dehumanizing propaganda, no amount of trainings, policies or cameras will mend this racist legacy. Overcoming the inherited violence enacted by both the police union and the news affiliate will be a cultural movement that refuses to yield the message that Black Lives Matter. Perhaps a good place for accountability to begin will be to ask KVUE and KXAN to not air such propaganda in the future (their contacts are here KVUE KXAN).


Right Wing Status Quo

As anyone savvy enough to navigate the comments section of online discussions will notice, Right Wing racists have had no shame in blaming David Joseph for his own death; thereby meeting the public exactly where they’re at. The police union has never committed to hold their officers accountable, even though to do so would, in fact, preserve the integrity of APD, and make the job of officers less dangerous. The police should strive for trust, not fear, from the public. A partial explanation to this utter lack of humility may be found in the Police Lives Matter marches, which in Texas have vastly outnumbered Black Lives Matter rallies.

A recent example from Austin demonstrates how police are currently valued in our society. Brandon Daniel shot and killed police officer Jamie Padron in 2012. A struggle turned deadly when Daniel was caught shoplifting $57 worth of goods from Wal-Mart. Despite the clear lack of premeditation or likelihood to recommit, last week Daniel was sentenced to death. The precedent is simple – cop killers will be executed by the state. That is to say, police lives matter more than regular peoples lives. Furthermore, the fallen officer has since had an elementary school named after him. The system in multiple ways is upholding the reality that police lives matter a great deal – that is already the norm.

NCMS3The Police Lives Matter movement did not simply spring up as a reaction to Black Lives Matter, but is part of a long history of Right Wing nationalism in America. For many, the police represent the status quo and order, and their infallibility is a retrenchment of Right Wing nationalism, that refuses critique.

Police Lives Matter serves as a public demonstration of allegiance to the historic dominance and political power of White America. The wealth and power of the ruling class of Austin, and the USA, was built and maintained through the exploitative subjugation of People of Color. Atrocities that should fill history books, perpetrated by the ancestors of those in power, are replaced by an imaginary history that passes for the truth. The ancestors of White America are National heroes who cannot be criticized; the Constitution is presented as a sacred document that cannot be criticized; the long history of violent displacement and human dispossession cannot be criticized – and so, unsure of history and the current predicament, people do not understand our issues and cannot resolve our problems. While Police Lives Matter seems like a misguided farce, it is actually entrenched in a larger institutional fiction.

Conversely, a vocal fringe within the movement for police accountability called All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB) intersects seamlessly with police brutality defenders. ACAB calls for the abolition of the police, and squeezes insult to every police officer in the world into a 4-letter acronym. Unlike their Right Wing counterparts, their message is sorely distant from popular opinion and subverts meaningful movement towards justice.

The assertion that anyone against police brutality is anti-cop is utterly juvenile, but ACAB plays into this narrative with disturbing ease. Most ACAB members are White and consider themselves anti-racist. However, they essentially follow the dominant narrative of a societal division with the police and order on one side, and People of Color and disorder on the other. This is likely why there is overlap with some of these activists and the extreme Right.

NCMS4The reality is that not all cops are bastards; the criminal justice system is racist – and these are two vastly different statements. Furthermore, the racist structures of society are much deeper than the police; they are the courts, media, schools, tax system and many other facets of government and civil society. The idea that the crux of justice and injustice is bound within the violent encounter, only perpetuates the hostile cultural climate where police are at odds with Black communities. Instead, we must realize that all communities, including African Americans, Police, and even Black cops, are damaged when we do not have simple mechanisms for justice and accountability.

The truth is that this country was built by Black people for White people, who dehumanized them in order to justify their violence while maintaining their value system. Our current system continues with the value system and the dehumanization in tact. Police discriminatory extermination of Black youth serves to maintain the stratification of society. It is through this lens in which all cops are seen as bastards by the dispossessed – they are agents of death and inequity. However, the police are mere pieces of a much larger system, which remains hidden when people focus on only the police.

Towards Justice and Healing

Last Thursday, Mayor Adler addressed the community and spoke of justice and accountability. Many may be skeptical because we have heard these words before many times, and we have never seen justice in this city. How much accountability will we see if people do not admit their own history or address the whole system?

 In order to move forward, this community must establish a common set of values and adhere to them. To expect respect, we must show it. To expect justice, we must administer it. To achieve accountability, we must build it, one stone at a time.

In this instance accountability and justice should mean an independent investigation, an indictment of criminal charges against the officer, an altering of policies that shield officers from justice, compensation for the child’s family, a renegotiation of the police union contract with community stakeholders at the table and accountability in mind, increased support for mental health facilities and first responders without guns, and resources for building community networks of neighbors who do not call the police on troubled youngsters.

Austin has yet to commit to preserving the historic communities of the East Side, neither Black or Chicano. Justice is in development policy, too. It is in refusing to see Joseph’s murder as an isolated incident.

Activists are now committed to hold both City Hall and APD accountable. The community deserves justice.  We put people first. The collective we form will be one of unity for all peoples, and will reject White Supremacy enforced by the dominant society. The police are only a problem because the system they protect is a problem. A society based in equity and justice is the answer to police violence. Let’s build it!


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A Tale of Two Republics: Native Resistance to Coal Mining in Texas

A Tale of Two Republics

Outside the city of Eagle Pass on the Texas/Mexico border a coal-mining project is getting under way.  The project was initially proposed in 1994; since that time seemingly everyone in the region has worked to ensure it never happen.  Resistance has taken an unfortunate step backwards recently when Texas Center for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) granted various permits and the US Corps of Army Engineers streamlined a state process for coal mining. Last month, to the dismay of locals, mining commenced.2republics.jpg

The proposed Dos Republicas coal mine is a lose/lose scenario for Texas.  This mine is different from the usual energy resource for pollution tradeoff.   All of the coal is slated for shipment to Mexico to be burned in the Carbon energy plant in Coahuila – the dirtiest power plant in the hemisphere. The mining process will pollute the water, destroy the land, threaten wildlife and cause air pollution, light pollution and sound pollution to the city of Eagle Pass, with no benefits of any kind.

On top of the regular down-side to coal mining is the unique territory where it is located.  The Rio Grande river basin is one of the oldest historical human settlement areas in all of the Americas and ancestral territory to many Native Texans including Carrizo, Coahuiltecan and Apache.  Comanche from as far away as Oklahoma have returned to Eagle Pass recently to publicly oppose the mine.  More than 100 archaeological sites would be threatened with destruction by dynamite blasting, surface mining and chemicals (nitrification), which are highly corrosive underground.  The proposed mine will completely destroy ancient burials, numerous artifacts, and sacred sites – many of which have not been identified.  In violation of federal law, there has been no consultation with any tribes . (see letter here)

Thousands have signed a statement in opposition to the mine, including the City of Eagle Pass, Maverick County and the local hospital district.  People do not support destroying their homeland to ship coal to Mexico, where the low environmental standards will send air pollution back to Texas.  However, the threat to 25,000 Texas acres is still a possibility because of the corruption embedded in the Texas land code.  Since 1971 TCEQ has approved 87,000 permits and denied only 15.  This appears as a cruel joke, and many surely attribute this type of governance to conservative politicians and the ‘good ol’ boy’ system in Texas.  Such roots run deeper than mere corruption, however – the antecedent to this destruction is the foundation of our state.  This is the epitome of colonialism; it is the ugliest face of capitalism, the least sensible notion of private property and an utterly facile application of law.

Colonialism: the long game

The case of Dos Republicas exemplifies the status quo of colonial society.  All the residents of the area, including the city and county, oppose a 22republicsdestructive and unnecessary project, but it moves forward in order to line the pockets of outside elites.  This is what happens when the people are denied sovereignty, and mirrors extraction based imperialism that has defined the European invasion of the Americas.

Because the genocidal project in Texas has been so thorough, there are currently no Indian tribes in Texas that are both federally recognized and claim Texas as ancestral territory (all of the federally recognized Indians: Kickapoo, Tigua and Alabama-Coshatta were relocated).  The lack of political rights has led to the misunderstanding that there are no Natives in Texas.  However, there are millions of Natives in Texas – millions of people disenfranchised by coloniality.

Colonialism affects different peoples in different ways.  The classification of Native groups into identity categories like “Indian” has been an important facet of colonialism, because it marked people as outside of society and devoid of rights.  Texas established rule of law in a flurry of genocidal advancement.  Mirabeau Lamar decreed it illegal for any Indians to remain within Texas in 1838.  The response was for many Natives to go into hiding, essentially assuming a Xicano (chi-cah-no) identity.

Xicanos, often referred to as Mexicans or Mexican Americans, are Native.  Since the term “Mexican” implies the nation to the south and immigration, this label is used by colonial society to disenfranchise Native claims by Spanish speaking mestizos. People identify as Xicano for political reasons – it is a claim to Native ancestry. Xicanos have been living in Texas since before the founding of the USA, before colonialism.  Even if people’s ancestors did migrate from Latin America, Texas is, in fact, ancestral land to peoples living throughout the Americas.  While Xicanos are not Indians, they are not settler-colonials either; they are Native, and therefore have a connection and responsibility to their territory.

Conversely, federally recognized Indians, who gained their status through warfare and treaty with the colonial society, were displaced from Texas to Oklahoma, such as the Comanche and the Tonkawa from the area around Austin.  Groups like the Carrizo and Coahuiltecans have ancestral roots in Texas – however their political organization was such that they were never granted recognition by the federal government.  Some of these groups have subsequently been recognized by the State of Texas, however state recognition is not a sovereign status.

So where does this leave the Settler Colonial society that has existed in Texas since the 1800’s? The imposed rule of law was established in order to extract power from the land and existing inhabitants and transfer it to White settlers.    People were displaced, animals killed off, land partitioned into private property and natural resources were funneled into the control of a small group of elites.  This is a common narrative of colonialism.  However, Texas is unique in having managed to maintain the unequal consequences of this history. We are now seeing the end game of colonialism.  Perhaps then, this marks a turning point.

The Emergence of the Twisted

How has the settler society fared in their conquest?  The invasion continues day by day with 18 active lignite strip mines across the state, countless frack wells for oil and gas and over 2000 refineries and chemical plants.   The colonization continues as over 95 percent of land in Texas is privately owned and 76 percent of that land held by only 4 percent of landholders.  It is amazing that after 150 years the majority of land remains with the direct descendants of displacers and is used to funnel the resources into the hands of elites.  All who remain, except for a few families, has inherited dispossession.   Dos Republicas is a perfect example of this.


Carrizo people, native to the area around Eagle Pass, have a story about what lies under ground there.  What the West defines as coal, the mineral, the Carrizo understand in a relational manner that goes much deeper.  According to Carrizo Tribal Chairman Juan Macias, during the beginning times there were lost souls that did not follow the harmony of the world.  The creator led these beings called Teme’t Somi’s, “twisted beings”, to caverns, where they were burned and turned into coal to keep them from wreaking havoc on the climate. The beings remain as coal underground, but mining releases them, bringing a twisted mayhem to the world.  Mining goes  against the harmony of creation. (READ CARRIZO STORY HERE)

What are we to make of the “twisted” spirit acting against harmony and creation?  This is relevant, because it explains the current inequity of our state and the change in our climate.  How else can we understand the violence committed against the Earth? How else can we explain a situation where everyone affected by the mine opposes it, but outside actors push it forward for their own gain?  Some call this evil, but we should take direction from the ancestors – this behavior is twisted, it is not the way it should be.  It is “against creation.”

There are yet more reasons to oppose the Dos Republicas mine, too many for this short article.  There is also an emerging opportunity to do so through addressing the colonial roots of the problem.  The process of colonization is a process whereby people are separated from the land and each other.  Decolonization is doing the opposite.  Our move is a transition away from the legal rights of corporations, away from private property, away from extractive industry and dehumanizing policies towards our fellow beings, human and non-human.

There are abundant clean energy resources and technologies.  Coal mining is an outdated relic of the past.  As more people realize this, so too will they begin to realize that our entire colonial system is outdated.  We must stop coal mining, fracking and other destructive practices.  We must undo the exploitative land practices established through colonialism in Texas.  We must respect the claims for sovereignty of the various Native peoples of this land.  We must transition to a society that is just and equitable for people and respectful to the Earth.  A beginning to this transition will be a unified front in opposition to the Dos Republicas coal mine and support offered to the Native peoples unified in protecting this land for future generations.


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Temet-Somis: The people under the coal

Juan Macias,  Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation Tribal Chairman

In those beginning days, Creator Yauna’k Akio would come occasionally to check on how things were developing and find order for the creation.  The order creator put together was harmonious and followed a pattern of growing and reproducing, creation would continue as Creator planned it.  Creator gave the two legged the responsibility to live in this harmonious rhythmic accordance of a life cycle.  Some of the two legged enjoyed this so well that they insisted in staying after Creator had provided the opportunity to travel to the River of the Stars (Milky Way which place of the ancestors.).  Those spirits that refused to go were accumulating in the Creation and cause disorder and havoc by playing tricks on the climate and on other creatures of land.  Some say that they caused the extinctions of Horse, Mammoths, some of the bears that kept the creation in order at the time.  The two legged would congregate In place that gave the wind sound and the lightning the surge to explode.  So creator led these lost souls , called Teme’t Somi’ s  meaning twisted beings to the caverns that were no longer used by the two legged .   Using these places gave the Teme’t Somi’s a sense of being at home.  Creator called the wind that now had sound to sing the song calling the Teme’t Somi’s to come to a banquet and when the fire was built by the bird people who provided Xai or wood called the Woyekue’l people or rock people to cover these Teme’t  Somi’s to keep in the place as the fire burned the rocks got hotter and meld in to one large hot topping. The creator continued bring wood for the fire and as it got hotter the birds like the vulture got to close and burned the beautiful feathers it once had from their heads.  Creator called birds that flew through the blacken smoke that brought the water to cool down the heated rocks Xam yatau or Crows and black birds.  As the water was poured upon the fires where these Teme’t Somi’s had been led to the rock now burnt became coal and subjugated those that would bring twisted mayhem to the creation at bay.   Yauna’k Akio become Patop’e, the Caretaker when the creator has business on the Earth to solve; and every time Creator leaves of part of Creator to remind us that the Creation is something beautiful and necessary for our people here.  Releasing those things Creator has created is to be against the creation as the Teme’t Somi’s were.

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10 Anti-Racist Actions for the U.S.A.

whitemilitaAs long as we are doing away with the Confederate flag, here are some other anti-racist actions that we can take in the USA

People are talking about Racism and white supremacy in ways they were not talking about last year, or the year before. Dylan Roof killed Black people in a church and made clear that his intentions were explicitly aligned with a politics of White Supremacy.  The usual “but why?” that we come to expect from the media gave way to a swift call to action to remove symbols of historic American White Supremacy

With the stream of white noise as filtered through the unfettered facebook feed and 24/7-news coverage, the immediate moment once again drowns out the vested understanding.  Its time for anti-racist action, based on ideas that have been kicking around longer than last week.10antiracistblog

People are seeking to understand how the culture of white supremacy is related to the violence that we keep seeing over and again. What is missing from the analysis of white culture and the confederate flag is something missing from the American discourse on race as a whole.  Culture is material.  Culture is in a constant state of being produced. It is structured by what we inherit; it is also fluid insofar as it embodies the qualities of our world – it changes.    When I say produced, I am not talking about memes. I am talking about physical, corporeal, environmental and economic effects.  America is racist and this needs to change.

We cannot use the word “change” in a nebulous Obamafied manner.  Others want change too, but not the kind we want.  White-supremacist nationalism has emerged as a menace to American ideals.  The change sought by many in this country is to revert to brute exploitation and away from governance, oversight, justice, peace or any idea that we could place our hope in.  The vast armed movement of White Supremacist, anti-government, Right-Wing militias in the Southwest have called for open war against immigrants and People of Color.  They intend a genocidal campaign, and have not been scared to say so.  However, these are not the actions of a fringe, but a reflection of a historic political legacy this country owns.10antiracist2

Symbols of Racism and Antiracism

In our era we focus too much on symbols.  We forget, or are led to believe, that these are representations of lived experiences. I have heard calls to remove statues, change names, stop using words and take down certain flags to a much higher degree than I have heard calls for redress to the lived conditions that these symbols represent.  I have seen slogans to either increase or limit insignificant bureaucratic oversight of everything from banks to prisons to elections – but I have seldom heard proposed solutions to these problems taken seriously. I have seen college kids protest frat parties for making fun of the treatment of undocumented immigrants, but not protesting the actual government policy incarcerating the immigrants.  We are accustomed to focusing on the phantoms – we miss the much more nefarious beasts.

I would rather see Obama disarm White Supremacist militias than ban symbols of racism.  The confederate flag looks and feels racist, and makes many People of Color feel trauma.  It is nice to know who the white supremacists are though.  Walmart will not sell any more White Supremacist emblems, but they will continue to sell White Supremacist killing machines.  Not exactly comforting.

As long as we are doing away with the Confederate flag, here are some other anti-racist actions that we can take in the USA:

  1. Disarm the KKK, the Minutemen and all other white supremacist militias.  It is a good time to implement the 2nd amendment right to a “well-regulated militia” and regulate all militias to the same standard as we hold for flags.
  2. Stop detaining and deporting immigrants.  People who clean up after you, take care of your kids and elderly, and build everything should not be kept in cages or treated like animals!
  3. Tear down the border wall.  A violation of our territory that is used to make money for the worst of all our people.
  4. End all foreign military operations.  Imperialism is another form of racism.  We should focus on caring for our own people – not controlling others.
  5. Stop supporting Israel.  Few countries enforce segregation based on race and ethnicity.  Why does the US support the most egregious contemporary example?
  6. Kick the White Supremacists out of the military and police forces.
  7. Give back all contested Indigenous lands. From The Black Hills to the recent government acquisition of Oak Flats there is ample room to begin land reparations to Natives.
  8. End mass-incarceration and the Drug War.  America has more imprisoned people than any society in history.  This is largely due to non-violent offenses.
  9. Redistribute wealth.  The 1% richest have way too much money.  Make them give it up!
  10. Free all political Prisoners.  We know the institutionalized racism has been wrongfully imprisoning people.  Let’s keep our hands off Assata and Free Russell Maroon Shoats

I’m sure I’m missing many more.  Feel free to add to the list


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