Monday, December 22, 2008


TERESA LEAL, OPATA-MAYO, is one of my teachers and mentors. She is a community leader in an urban border community, along the Sonora-Arizona international boundary, AMBOS NOGALES, and she, along with numerous women from more than 60 indigenous women's comunidades in Ambos Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, and Arizona, U.S. We have been comadres (matrilineal sisters-in-solidarity) since 2002. Teresa advocated for me to follow 'next steps' required by an indigenous women's network along the U.S.-Mexico corridors, and she urged me to support the communities' goals and objectives to gain access to academic knowledge. "Go for your PhD---we need you to grow even more and to work to improve the situations of Indigenous women through the university," Teresa said to me.

So, here I am with you, my students, ... I followed the advice of my teacher, mentor, and elder comadre.

Thanks to Reilly (!) for sending this Youtube of Teresa and her important work in Nogales. Teresa, like my mother, is always on the move, and even I, who studies and researches her work for my PhD, cannot keep up with her!!

She exemplifies how indigenous women's organizing for human, social, economic, political and cultural rights is robust and here to stay!




Indigenous women throughout the world are challenging the legacies of colonial invisibilities imposed upon them through deep structural violence by the states. At the same time, indigenous women challenge forces of oppression which occupy their traditional territories, not only by state institutions and actors, but also by ooppressors within indigenous communities. Racism, sexism, violence, militarism, poverty and blatant disregard for indigenous women's realities are issues which indigenous women tackle within indigenous communities corrupted and exploited by capitalist systems.


"The Nepal Government have identified and recognized 59 indigenous nationalities of Nepal. Indigenous peoples comprise more than half of the total 22.5 million populations of Nepal but the government’s census data has under enumerated and show that it is 37.2 percent only. According to 2001 census the total population of Nepal is 23,151,423 out of which more than half 11,587,502 (50.4%) are women and Indigenous women constitute 4,345,314 (37.5%) of the total women population. Social exclusion based on gender, caste, ethnicity, language, religion, culture, region etc. have continued unabated for centuries due to Hinduism, patriarchy and Unitary state structure. Thus indigenous women face multiple forms of social exclusion not only based on sex and gender but also ethnicity, language, religion and culture. It is a known fact that the state has not recognized the identity of indigenous nationalities women as they lump sum in general term “Nepali Women”.

"The first Asian Indigenous Women’s Conference was held in Baguio City in the Cordillera region, Philippines on January 24-30, 1993. The conference brought together 150 women from 13 Asian countries and a few others from Europe and the Americas with the bulk of the participants coming from local organizations in the Cordillera. Its theme was “Sharing Commonalities and Diversities, Forging Unity Towards Indigenous Women’s Empowerment.” Its general objective was “to convene Asian indigenous women to share their various situations, fully understand how global developments impact on them, and collectively define what they can do to address common concerns." The conference gave birth to the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN), which the participants then envisioned as a loose network that would help organize indigenous women in the region. The Cordillera Women’s Education and Resource Center (CWERC) was the key organizer of the conference."

"Himalayan Indigenous Women of Nepal have been intensively oppressed due to continuing racial, linguistic, cultural and religious discrimination. They are the victims of multiple forms of oppressions because of the fact that they are women, added to the fact that majority of them are illiterate and they are from remote areas of Nepal. Their educational status as well as their participation in the political and decision-making level of the country is almost nil in comparison to other women of Nepal. As a result, the rural indigenous Himalayan women are facing multiple burdens of discrimination from every sector of the development process."

"When the thirteen United Nation's working group on the indigenous population was held in Geneva in 1995, only three of the thirty African delegates present were women. The absence of the African indigenous women in these international meetings shows that they lack the apportunities to express their points of view and their interests at the international level.
The indegineous people in the entire continent find themselves in a situation of marginalisation and isolation. Although this situation is present in any indigenous organization in Africa, the indigenous women meet other obstacles related to their status of woman in the dominant community as well as in the traditional community. The goal of the first African Indigenous Women's Conference is to put an end to this isolation.
The indigenous women of Africa and their organizations should be able to better develop and formulate their claims and their points of view collectively. Thanks to these collective actions and the international co-operation, it was possible to achieve results during the former international conferences.
The first African Indigenous Women's Conference will offer the opportunity to exchange ideas and mutual experiences concerning the strategies towards the problems that they encounter, and to create a network of the indigenous women in Africa."

Testimony: "This week, 260 indigenous women like her are in Oaxaca, Mexico, to brainstorm about how to increase the political representation of Latin America's 25 million indigenous women and improve their health, literacy and treatment on the job.
Mexico has no national plan that specifically addresses the problems of its indigenous women, says Alfonso Alem, executive director of the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation, which organized this first Indigenous Women Summit of the Americas from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. Indigenous women are directed to programs for women living in poverty, as if "poor" and "indigenous" are synonyms, Alem says.
And, what government help there is, is useless, adds Maya, a resident of Mexico City since she was 2 years old.
"On the contrary, it makes us vulnerable," she says. "The most important thing that the government should give to indigenous peoples is education and work projects, instead of giving money."
Indigenous Women Are Invisible to Researchers
The scant research on the status of indigenous women in Latin America speaks to their lack of visibility, Alem says.
"If we look at the rates relating to heath, mortality, birth or education, the most terrible numbers are always concentrated on indigenous women," says Paloma Bonfil, coordinator of indigenous women's programs at the Mexican president's Office for Indigenous Affairs. Based on her nationwide investigations, Bonfil estimates that more than 87 percent of indigenous women older than 15 are illiterate, compared with 51 percent of indigenous men. Similarly, life expectancy for indigenous women in Mexico is 71.5 years, compared to 76 years for their male counterparts.
Indigenous women elsewhere in Latin America have a similar quality of life, says Xochitl Galvez, head of the indigenous affairs office. Indigenous women are the poorest of the poor, she says: Because of their limited education, these women often aren't even aware of their basic rights and are consequently exploited, receiving lower wages if they are paid at all. Indigenous women also lack access to health services, are often victims of domestic violence and generally work longer hours due to lack of infrastructure in their villages. Because many of these villages lack water and electricity, women must walk long distances to get water and scavenge for firewood, Galvez says."

"At the Fifth Session of the Permanent Forum, a UNFPA-sponsored event called attention to important intercultural initiatives taking place in Latin America. These projects focus on improving access of indigenous people to reproductive health, taking into account the importance of cultural values in dealing with this sensitive sphere of life.
Although overall progress toward the Millennium Development Goals in the Americas has been encouraging, wide gaps remain between national averages and the situation of indigenous groups. Data capturing the full measure of these inequities are scarce, but it is known that indigenous people fare poorly in terms of income, education, literacy and maternal and infant mortality. The stress of poverty, as well as a clash of cultures, often leaves indigenous women subject to gender-based violence, despite indigenous traditions of balance and shared lives between men and women. "

"The Indigenous Women's Network (IWN) was established in as a grass roots initiative at a gathering of over 200 Indigenous women at Yelm, Washington in 1985. The (Founding Mothers ) were and continue to be strong, committed Indigenous women activists who dedicate themselves to generating a global movement that achieves sustainable change for our communities. Under their visionary leadership, IWN has become known for inspiring, strategic, pro-active and affirming events that facilitates the inter-generational transfer of traditional knowledge to young, Indigenous women. Our training programs and publications reach and link Indigenous women around the world in a network of support that includes award winning artists, activists, authors, community leaders, educators, attorneys and traditional healers.
Over the past 21 years, IWN has evolved into an international coalition of Indigenous women from rural and urban communities who approach the resolution of contemporary challenges from a traditional Indigenous values base. IWN serves as a major driving force behind Indigenous communities, mobilizing change around issues affecting ourselves and our families, Mother earth and the environment, cultural/spiritual beliefs and traditions, health services and tribal governance."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

At the Intersection of 'Native Heritage Month', 'GLBTQ Awareness Week', and Thanksgiving Holiday at WSU Campus

The convergences of Native American Heritage Month, GLBTQ Awareness Week, and the upcoming release for 'Thanksgiving' at WSU is a perfect opportunity for those residing in our community to examine the inter-locking histories of colonization, racism, sexuality, punishment, hatred, and fictions re-spun every year for mass consumption, literally, as an 'economic opportunity' for the nation.

Native American Heritage Month, for many residents in the U.S., culminates in a quasi-robotic rush to the grocery store to fulfill the myth, fantasy, and imperial mandate of Wall Street. What is that mandate? "Buy turkeys!, Buy pumpkin pie! Be American! Act Like A Hypocrite!

These acts often go unexamined because they are ingrained so thoroughly into the American Origin Myth of Plymouth Rock, 'peace' between 'Indians and Quaker Pilgrims', and the Promised Land. Unfortunately, the myth continues to perpetuate that Indians are something from the U.S.' past, and has no relevance to certain troubling reailties of the present.
And, so the mechanism flows.

At the same time, the WSU campus community (including Pullman at large)in the last few weeks has just experienced a shattering new all-time 'record' of hate crimes, this time singling out GLBTQ community and leaving multiple communities whose lives intersect through social relations outraged, in fear, disgusted, damaged, traumatized, and above all, further marginalized. This comes along with the unsurprising reality of mediocracy deeply embedded within WSU administrative culture, coupled with apathy which resulted in the inadequate and dehumanizing failures of administrative bungling regarding the students' demands for justice on WSU campuses.

We have a new President-Elect Obama, who, during his acceptance speech, may be the first president to both acknowledge and claim all in one sentence both 'Native Americans' and 'Gay' communities in his vision of 'America' -- and his Transition Team. All the while, the Associated Press investigative journalism determined that less than 24 hours after Obama's election more than 100 directly related hate crimes against Blacks and Moslems were committed across the nation.

Yet, in the background of this violence. which the mainstream U.S. media fails to make connections to, is the long-term cultural commitments to violence within the U.S. origin myth of benevolent and harmonious relations with 'natives.' I would ask my students this semester to evaluate these convergences and to examine the ironies and untruths in order to tell the nation's more truthful origin story, related to the Indigenous First People and Settler Societies.

The connection between the past and the current human rights abuses occuring in against Native Americans, American Indians, Indigenous people was taken up recently at the 133rd Session of the Inter-American Commission/Organization of American States (of which the U.S. is a signatory member). Not surprisingly to Indigenous people and GLBTQ communities which are multiply-marginalized, the Commission took up the human rights abuses against indigenous people at the Texas-Mexico border and their struggle against state violence and the border wall--a symbol globally of fascism and totalitarian and authoritarian government, and the human rights violations against GLBT communities throughout the continent as two major concerns in the United States as well as other nationstates, such as Canada, Mexico, and numerous others.

This is really critical for U.S. residents to grapple with in a much more complex and volatile and globalized world in which we all live and in which we are participants in the circle, the web, the intricate relations which impact many traumatized and extremely valuable communities. Native American Heritage month should be not only a celebration of relationships that are working for the few, but should be a continental self-interrogation and purging of what is not working at all and needs major reform.

Rather, why not a commitment to Truth and Honor Commissions? These should be widely adopted from villages, towns, cities, regions, and beyond across the U.S., Canada and Mexico--which are countries where the "pilgrim" mythology are widely desseminated. This would help numerous communities of fractured, dispossessed, disabled, oppressed but resilient and resisting First Peoples; what new forums and havens can we invent and create for injured and healing communities of both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to get over the discomforting 'hump' of "Thanksgiving" and "Native American Heritage" month?

If we started really grappling with the truth, and honor the truth as a vehicle for mass change across our societies, that might be something truly worth striving for each November.

The past and the present shows us that violence against non European, non Christian, non heterosexual (performing) groups is not changing. Today, Indigenous First People communities are undergoing one of the most destructive epochs of the 515 years since this project in colonization began.

Our lands are hyperexploited and overharvested by the Department of Defense, and subsequently, a no brainer, Native bodies have some of the highest level of environmentally born pollutants specific to uranium, DDT, Toxaphene, Dioxin, and POPs, and at the same time are de-capitalized and in the highest level of poverty per capita due to the hyper-corruption and hyper-theft by the U.S. government and U.S. corporations (and the U.S. taxpayer who votes) of our communities' vital resources for self-developed sustainability.

Our foods upon which our Indigenous DNA depends upon for survival are being hyper developed by petro-chemical agriculture research projects and turned into monster-GMO foods, which are dangerous for human consumption. Our people, under intense forced assimilation by the State, go hungry and starve to death, or over consume terrible foods which are 'killer foods' for Indigneous bodies and cause mass levels of diabetes. Our people have some of the highest levels of crimes such as rape and assault committed against us by non-Indigneous people, and by the State.

At the intersections of mythology, violence, hatred, hypocrisy, and arrogance, Native American scholarship and Native American researchers provide alternative answers and paths to many truths, many complex understandings, and truly productive methods which can provide the university/college level learner to explore and research meaningful answers.

I teach my students, the majority of whom are non-Indigneous Anglos, that they are crucial to the sustainable futures of Indigneous communities and that they have a critical stake in ensuring that Indigenous knowledges, truth and priorities are taken seriously by them--future voters, policy makers, institutional actors, politicians, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, parents, teachers, and residents of places that are vital to Indigenous communities.

I teach my students that they must engage with intersectional thinking to be truly "critical" and "engaged." At the crossroads of 'Native American' and 'sexuality' is a critical space where we can have a more honest conversation about Euro-residents' history as colonizers, developers, settlers, and oppressors, and we can have a conversation about making change that is meaningful and productive for the 21st century, in terms that my students really 'get' and are desperate for in their tool kits, but which the system rarely provides to them, and in that way, really down-sizes their potential as engaged community members.

The opportunity to hear and speak with a scholar-activist such as LaFortune who brings a great deal of knowledge, engagement and real-life experience to a great number of WSU students, who are dissatisfied with inadequate curriculum that does not prepare them to grapple with real world challenges as social beings, and to see themselves (not someone else) as the stimulators of real world solutions, is a huge gift.

Our students here at WSU who study with Native American and Indigneous scholars, and learn the challenges of multiple methodologies that disrupt Western Legal Thought and Western Religious Thought, are seriously engaging the very tired stories that get repeated and institutionalized and they are often outraged to learn how much those stories downplay the enormous level of violence, injustice, abuse, exploitation and destruction that went (and goes) hand-in-hand with the hetero-normative version of 'America.' This kind of programming is way overdue, and I have high hopes that this is the beginning of a whole new era for Indigneous First Peoples and the GLBTQ community at WSU, and Pullman.

--Margo Tamez (Nde' Ha'da'didla)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blogging to Build Communities & Followers


There are important ways to gain a community, a follower group, and make deeper connections.

Your assignment:

1. Blog on one thing you feel confident speaking on, related to your mid-term topic.
2. Blog on one thing that you feel less confident on, and invite 7 people to give you feedback, and give them a interesting 'problem' that you need help figuring out! You can promote learning and build communities by giving your community incentives to help you figure out a mystery, and you can invite them to participate with you in your research in a fun way at the same time.

For Wednesday 11/5, let's see how many people will respond to your 'problem' and let's see what creative solutions other folks arrive at...

For Monday, 11/10, I'm holding a contest. Here's the deal:
The person with the most visits to their blog and the most 'comments' with interesting 'detective work' over the weekend, will get a whopping 4 whole points added to their final grade. Whoa!

If two people want to join a 'team', rather than go alone, then the two folks will coordinate the 'problem' and set 'clues' for other class members to 'follow'.

The two individuals will receive 2 points each.

Good luck!
Margo Tamez

Workshopping An Idea, An Image, A Concept

Today, in the computer lab, we'll be focusing our energy on workshopping some fundamental concepts that you are exploring in either:
1. your mid-term
2. your mid-term, which may be evolving into something more complex
3. something entirely new...

What you need:
Something you've already written (can be from mid-term, a class presentation, a blog you've written on).
A couple of copies to share with a couple of people.

Praise, Question, Polish, Extend...
(I'll explain)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


For next week you will be viewing the acclaimed documentary, "Maquilapolis."

The film facilitators will provide you with viewing response forms. Please fill them out give to the facilitator at end of class. If you need more time to complete them, turn them in to my faculty box in Women's Studies before October 27.

Here is a link to a synopsis on "MAQUILAPOLIS":


All the "Women and Change" selections through 10/27 requirement.
All the "Dissident Women" selections through 10/22 requirement.
"Strong Women Stories" to Chapter 3

The rest is optional.