Tag Archives: Indigenous

The Wild Hunt: The Tiger’s Leap


DAPL security truck on fire, October 27.

My The Wild Hunt article “The Tiger’s Leap” starts with Walter Benjamin’s theories about the constant “emergency situation,” especially as experienced by Black and Brown people in the United States. It further explores his ideas about the “moment of danger,” “exploding the continuum of history” and relating to the past through “the tiger’s leap into that which has gone before […] into the open sky of history.” It then looks at calls to “make it impossible for this system to govern on stolen land” and the anti-DAPL struggle in particular.

An emergency call from so-called North Dakota

I received this text in an email, and would like to share it with anyone reading this blog.


An emergency call from so-called North Dakota to all witches, pagans, and co-conspirators of earth centered spiritual faith to join us in resistance

This is a call. Not to be heard, but felt. A call to be moved. A call to action.

Many of you now know of the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and innumerable other indigenous nations against the Black Snake called Dakota Access Pipeline. The prayer and action camp at Standing Rock has been sustaining a vibrant community in resistance to the pipeline since the spring, slowing down construction and withstanding militarized police harassment on a near daily basis. The 20 mile injunction placed on construction by the federal government has been lifted, and construction is now within just 6 miles of the Mni Sose River and the encampment. The battle has entered its most decisive moment.

Our indigenous relatives from across Turtle Island have come here to continue a struggle that has been kept alive for over half a millennium. They have come here as the original and sovereign land tenders, earth defenders, and water protectors of this place. As the original walkers of the path of right relationship. They have come here to take back power and to show leadership in the fight against exploitation and commodification, against the culture of colonization and inquisition, and for a healthy and bountiful world.

We are humbled and inspired by their initiatives, and unconditionally support them. Now is the time for us as allies in this anti-colonial struggle, to call upon our fellow comrades to join us on the battlefield.

To all who pray to our Earth and the water that cleanses her and brings forth life. To all who cast a circle and call in the elements, spirits, gods and goddesses, and deities; who ask for guidance from the spirit world. To those who listen to the ancestors as our descendants lay and wait. To those who align themselves with the cycles of the moon, the seasons, and the tides. For whom the cycle of life and death does not instill fear and aggression, but strength and comfort. To all who know how to listen.

It is time now witches, to deepen our work not only of casting spells and hexes, but of breaking them. We call forth the de-spelling of individualism, empire, spectacle, domestication, and whiteness.

It is time now witches to join us. Join us in spirit and join us in humility on this land. Bring your magick. Bring your prayers. Bring your bodies to the frontlines to protect all of creation. Come ready to take decisive action to kill this Black Snake. Come ready to follow in the path of indigenous warriors. We call you to join a frontline battle in a spiritual war that has been raging for centuries. A war against a dead civilization for all life on earth.

If you cannot come in body, take action from afar; the form of life of our enemies pervades all around us. If you cannot come, pray, cast, gather the coven, go to the wild, hold ritual, plan attacks. Ground yourself and continue to do the work. Continue to be moved.

We toss you a bundle of thread sweet witches, from the beautiful homelands of the Oceti Sakowin in each direction. It is the thread of centuries of resistance. Weave with it.

-A Clandestine Coven at Standing Rock

The Wild Hunt: Pantheacon 2016

My latest article for The Wild Hunt, a report back on Pantheacon 2016, is now up. It covers presentations by indigenous people at the conference, hospitality and the guest-host relationship, oracles received during a devotional ritual held in honor of the Matronae, and thoughts about warfare and the slogan “accomplices not allies.”

Mount Diablo and Runaway Indians

Mount Diablo is a 3,849 foot tall mountain in the East San Francisco Bay Area. According to the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, the name comes from a successful act of resistance by “runaway” mission Indians:

The reference to “diablo” or “devil”, can be traced back to 1804 or 1805, when a Spanish military expedition visited the area in search of runaway mission Indians. At a willow thicket near present-day Buchanan Field, the soldiers encountered a Village of Chupcan people and surrounded it. But night came, and evidently all the Indians escaped, unseen. Angry and confused, the Spanish called the site “Monte del Diablo”, or “Thicket of the Devil”.

Later, English-speaking newcomers mistakenly assumed the word “monte” to mean “mountain”, and applied the title to this prominent east bay peak. A linguistic accident thus gave California its Devil Mountain.

The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association also lists several earlier names for the mountain:

Although we know this place as Mt. Diablo today, the mountain has had many Indian names. They include: Tuyshtak (Ohlone/Costanoan), ‘Oj-ompil-e (Northern Miwok), Supemenenu (Southern Miwok), and Sukku Jaman (Nisenan).

An early Spanish name for the peak was “Cerro Alto de los Bolbones”, or “High Point of the Volvon Indians”. At one time, most of the mountain lay within the homeland of the Volvon, a Bay Miwok group.

The label “runaway” refers to the fact that once a native was baptized at a mission, they were not allowed to leave. In “Indian Labor at the California Missions: Slavery or Salvation?” Robert Archibald wrote:

Before baptism, neophytes were warned that once they had become Christians their lives would be restricted to the mission compound. […] Absence, equated with apostasy, was punished swiftly and certainly. Either soldiers from the escolta, or mission guard, or soldiers from a presidial company were assigned the task of tracking and capturing runaways. The result was a whipping administered by a soldier or mission Indian, sometimes to the point of death.

A large number of natives ran away from the missions despite these risks:

Desertion was not an occasional occurrence but rather a persistent problem. Records enumerating apostates were not kept. Consequently only an approximation can be arrived at by comparing population increase with the difference between baptisms and deaths for a stated period. The result is a figure varying somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. This number includes only those fugitives who were able to successfully elude constant pursuit. A much greater percentage made aborted attempts at escape.

Absent Indians were hunted down by other mission Indians, soldiers, or a combination of both. Escapees in concert with non-mission natives frequently made violent and sometimes successful resistance to recapture. Truancy became so common that it was customary to send presidial soldiers after the fugitives at stated intervals and round up as many as possible at one time to be sent back to their respective missions. Disaster was sometimes the result of these expeditions.

The Walk for the Ancestors report “They tell on themselves: Stories of runaways and soldiers at Mission San Miguel” shares more stories of repression and resistance.

For example, “In 1798, Father Antonio De la Concepcion Horra, one of the first padres assigned to San Miguel, authored a letter to the viceroy [ruler of New Spain] reporting on the conditions of the California missions,” in which he wrote:

I would like to inform you of the many abuses that are commonplace…The manner in which the Indians are treated is by far more cruel than anything I have ever read about. For any reason, however insignificant it may be, they are severely and cruelly whipped, placed in shackles, or put in stocks for days on end without even a drop of water. (Quoted in Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions by James A. Sandos, pg. 272)

Fermín Lasuén, Junipero Serra’s successor as head of the California mission system, protested a proposal to withdraw Spanish soldiers from Alta California in 1797 on the grounds that soldiers were required to keep converts from running away:

The majority of our neophytes have not acquired much love for our way of life; and they see and meet their pagan relatives in the forest, fat and robust and enjoying complete liberty. They will go with them, then, when they no longer have any fear and respect for the force, such as it is, which restrains them. (Quoted in American Colonies by Alan Taylor, pg. 463)

And with the destruction of their original home villages by disease and conversion and raids by Spanish soldiers, many runaways formed new communities:

“Like runaway slaves in the American South, many struck out for distant parts, then congregated in remote areas, and formed large fugitive communities. By the end of the mission era, hundreds of runaway neophytes from Santa Barbara, San Miguel, and San Luis Obispo missions had accumulated in a swampy area of the southern San Joaquin Valley, near what later became known as Buena Vista Lake. According to Padre Mariano Payeras, they reverted to their pagan state and fought off soldiers sent to fetch them back, forming what Payeras described as “a republic of hell and a diabolical union of apostates.” (Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769-1913 by Richard Street, pg. 70)

The Wild Hunt Article: California Indigenous Struggles

Statue of Junipero Serra, Presidio of Monterey, CA. Credit: Kevin Dayton.

Statue of Junipero Serra, Presidio of Monterey. Credit: Kevin Dayton.

My latest article for The Wild Hunt, “Indigenous Struggles in California’s Bay Area,” is up.

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Canonization of Junipero Serra

In March, I reposted the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s open letter to Pope Francis expressing their opposition to the canonization of Junipero Serra, the founder of the California mission system which led to the death of many tens of thousands of indigenous people and the suppression of their cultures. Today, the Pope disregarded the numerous objections of indigenous people and went ahead with the canonization.

Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, was quoted on CNN for his reaction:

“We’re stunned and we’re in disbelief,” said Valentin Lopez, 63, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band located along Monterey Bay in California.

“We believe saints are supposed to be people who followed in the life of Jesus Christ and the words of Jesus Christ. There was no Jesus Christ lifestyle at the missions,” Lopez said, who has campaigned against sainthood for Serra.

Back in February, Valentin Lopez wrote about the implications that this canonization would have:

Speaking on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, we would like you to know that should you go forward with your announced intentions to canonize Serra, please know that we rescind the request we made in our letters to you for a mass of reconciliation.

The canonization of Serra will be a clear message to our Tribe that the church does not care about our true history or our historic trauma.

Furthermore, please know that if Fr. Serra is canonized, the Amah Mutsun reject the diverse apology offered by Pope John Paul to all indigenous people as our Tribe can only conclude that his apology, which was an apology ostensibly on behalf of the catholic church, was meaningless and insincere.

More of Valentin Lopez’s writings on this subject can be found at the Amah Mutsun’s “Opposition to Serra Sainthood” page.

CNN also interviewed Deborah Miranda of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation:

Fifty different tribes in California condemned the sainthood conferred on Serra, said Deborah Miranda, a literature professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and a member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation of California. She wrote “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,” a book about her ancestors’ experiences in the Spanish missions.

My objection and the objection of many California Indians is that he is being honored for in fact dishonoring many of our California ancestors. The missions ended up killing about 90% of the California Indians present at the time of missionization, creating all kinds of cultural and emotional baggage that we still carry to this day,” Miranda said. “It’s not a question of attacking the Catholic Church or attacking Pope Francis. It’s about making sure that the truth is heard and that injustices are not continued on into the 21st century.

But the Native American campaign to stop Serra’s canonization never gained an audience in Rome, Miranda said.

“We have gotten zero response from the Vatican, not a word. We do not exist, it seems, in Pope Francis’ world,” Miranda said. “They’re interested in his record and in how many people he managed to convert and in the fact that he at this point in time is a famous Spanish person when the church really needs some positive PR, so they are purposely overlooking the deaths and the cultural genocide of Native American people because it’s to their benefit.”

Book Review: Almanac of the Dead

Tucson. Credit: Matthew Schallan.

Tucson, Arizona. Credit: Matthew Schallan.

I have a review of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Almanac of the Dead published at Gods and Radicals.