The American Voice
Located in various places all throughout the Americas, starting on the Texas coast. Today, the local Indigenous people I listen to, few of them speak any of the ancient native tongue, nor have clear memory of their ancestral and tribal traditions, except what’s been transferred to them through anecdotal stories from family members and grand parents, or occasional Pow Wow’s, or social media and mainstream media, or even pop culture.
In a larger context, after interviewing many native people throughout this state, I am finding that for over four or five generations, the natives that live here are by no means extinct, however their connection to their ancestral traditions and language have practically been severed and ‘white washed’, by the federal government through laws and policies, beginning in the early 1800’s with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, and the newly formed U.S. Department of the Interior, to kill, eradicate and purge all that was ethnically indigenous in nature, including language, culture and traditions. All of it was done by way of systematic land dispossession, forced school assimilations, and ethnic cleansing.
Further inland, in San Antonio for instance, it’s been long thought that Indians and natives there are extinct and gone, but there is ample evidence that the descendants of Coahuiltecans, Comanches, Apaches and other indigenous peoples continue to live their lives as Mexican-Americans or ‘Tejanos’, many of which have adopted hispanic names and culture, and don’t even self-identify as Native. In fact, according to local archaeologists today, like the late Professor Alston Thoms of Texas A&M University, “Native Americans in San Antonio is a 15,000-year-old history.”
SEE to ACT, committed to providing a voice to natives in Texas who have lost their identities and heritage as a result of war and mass displacement. In collaboration with Vitruvius Creations, we are helping produce this feature length documentary film.
This film, The American Voice, is a means to give voice to people whose ‘American’ experience has been the reality of being native, of being indigenous, of being aboriginal in a land on which their ancestors have been part of for at least 15,000 years, and whose cultures, languages, and traditions have been ruthlessly extinguished as a result of European settlements that followed, mostly from Europe.
What does it mean to be native today? How important is it to reconnect with those forgotten or lost traditions? What does it mean for all indigenous cultures around the world? If tradition, language and culture defines what it means to have a home or a place we call home, what does it mean to be with or without it?