activism

DECOLONIZING AT YALUI VILLAGE

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“HONOR ESTO’KGNA/HONOR ANCESTORS” ACTIVISTS (L-R) DUCK LONGSOLDIER, SYMONE SAUL, AND GABRIEL MCMORLAND AT YALUI VILLAGE.

By: Symone Saul

Listen! Do you hear it? 

The gunshots ringing out like fireworks from Reynosa, across the Rio Grande to where you lie awake, nestled in scratchy blankets, mere inches of soft dirt separating yours from the bones of the ancestors. 

Do you hear the unpredictable pattering of wind against nylon or the all-too-predictable whirring of helicopters and Border Patrol trucks creeping past the village? 

Quietly focus on the sound of coyotes fervently yelping at the other dogs, or the bird calls of the human coyotes whistling their location to the migrants they’re escorting through cover of night under a glaringly open sky. 

Listening is an act of decolonization. Colonizers refuse to listen. They bring their facts, their language, and beliefs wherever they go and impose it in one direction. Dr. Curtiss Porter reminds us that the sensate nature distinct to African tribal and global Indigenous peoples has been lost to those firmly affixed to the materialism of Western cultures. Donald Longsoldier of the Oglala Lakota Nation will patiently describe the difference between “hearing” and “listening” with your heart and mind in tandem, if you can make out his soft mantras over the crackling of logs in the sacred fire. 

At Yalui Village in Somi Se’k, home of the Esto’k Gna, there is so much to hear, learn, and understand. While this is resistance– a sustained encampment built by the Carrizo-Comecrudo Tribe of Texas along a cemetery where the proposed border wall construction had been planned– this is so much more. 

As many leftist white Americans run around panicking in this maelstrom of imperialism, border and immigration issues, the increasingly blatant government corruption, and total climate apocalypse, so few of those people are ready to fight for the causes we claim to support. Doing so requires a type of sacrifice most people of privilege aren’t ready to accept. Doing so requires something deeper than protest, slower than social media, and more valuable than the most generous philanthropy. The only solution to the devastating effect of white supremacy must address the poisonous roots influencing well-intentioned harmful behaviors, to prevent them from sprouting. It is not enough to only address the toxic consequences of generations of settler-colonial society. It requires a long hard look at the way we live every moment of our lives and how we move through them. It is time to decolonize. 

The theme of this year’s Pittsburgh Racial Justice Summit, held January 24-25, was ‘Decolonize Our Histories to Reclaim Our Humanity.’ This is what Juan Mancias, tribal chairman of the Carrizo-Comecrudo, has been doing for decades, through his writing and teachings of the prophecies of his people’s pictographs; and now through the creation of encampments such as Yalui Village. While holding space on sacred land and protecting the gravesites and local ecology threatened by the border wall and LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) pipeline, while drawing the connection of the internment of migrants with the ongoing genocide of his people, Juan also reinforces the opportunity of the villages to bring his people back to their traditional ways. At the same time, non-Natives can decolonize by listening to these histories and learning to detach from their materialistic ways and helping others regain their sovereignty and natural strengths. Settler descendants can begin now to move gracefully into what will likely soon become an era of struggles for survival, where skills of the senses and spirit will be in much higher demand than the consumptive, competitive logic of capitalism. 

Every day at Yalui Village brings me more of these necessary skills and closer to remembering how to listen, feel and move with the earth in a sustainable and healing way. Eventually, the wind becomes more predictable, as it teaches me the patterns of its movements. Every day, the fears that I’ve wrongly carried with me from Babylon lessen – fears of insects and dangerous animals, fear of authority and surveillance, fears of ghosts or vulnerability. I begin to make friends with the open sky, the finicky fire and the ancestors grounding my steps. Being part of the resistance, we find ourselves post-resistance, pre-colonial, returning finally to peace.

Symone Saul serves on the Board of Directors for TMC and spent several weeks in December and January at Yalui Village.

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NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 1. February, 2020. All rights reserved.

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