As National Hispanic Heritage month starts to come to an end, I begin to reflect on my role within my community and of everything it’s taken to get where I am at today. Now, I’m not just speaking just career-wise, but what my own family had to undergo to get where we are at today. I was born and raised here in San Jose, California, and have always considered it a great privilege to live within such a beautiful culturally diverse city. It is something not to take for granted and during my upbringing my parents made an effort to show me the hardships they had to endure to get where I am at today.

A week shy of my son turning three months old I begin to contemplate into the future. I want to make sure he has the opportunities to experience the world as I have and to make sure he has all the tools made available to him to succeed even further. However, in order for him to have a shot at living within Silicon Valley, now one of the most expensive areas in America, we would need to undergo a paradigm shift. Just like many other cities throughout the United States there is a system in place that prevents many local children, from historically ethnic communities, from gaining proper access to opportunities that are taken for granted in more affluent areas. Many blue-collar families have become displaced due to increasing rent costs and have begun clustering into low-income areas, sometimes consisting of several different families living under one roof.

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“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

–J. R. R. Tolkien

 

We’ve all seen or at least heard of the legends surrounding El Dorado, a mysterious lost city of gold that lies somewhere inside the jungles of South America. It’s a story that had eluded so many conquistadors to search in vain for countless years, many of whom ultimately paid for the search with their own lives. For me it was indeed a story that had always captivated me growing up and over the years I began digging deeper and deeper into the subject. In Peru, the mysterious city is known as Paititi, the last of the Incan refuges with vast amounts of gold. It is a common conception that those who seek its fortune will never find the city but those with sincere motives will be allowed a glimpse inside. Will the city reveal itself to me? Or will I succumb to its power and parish along the wayside?

My life changed forever on July 10th of this year when my son, Luciano, was born. Nothing could have prepared me for the greatest adventure of my life, fatherhood. I had heard all the clichés before but the overwhelming happiness and joy that I experienced at that moment when I first saw my son was beyond words. I sat there carefully holding him in the hospital inspecting his every feature like a precious relic bestowed upon me from some divine intelligence; he was truly a gift from the Gods. In the darkness of the hospital room, I began to think to myself of the wonderful adventures we would go on in the future exploring far distant lands in search of mythical forgotten cities. A little more than two weeks passed and I now find myself in the extremely cold high Andes where my only source of warmth comes from the thoughts of my family I left behind. It’s my third time back in Peru and this time it’s been incredibly difficult trying set aside the thoughts and feelings of leaving behind my wife and son.

We had spent over seven hours on the road. As we began our ascent, I glanced over at my GPS, it read 15,111 feet (above sea level). I, along with members of my expedition team, had pulled over to watch an amazing red sunset over a mountain pass. As I walked over to take a few pictures, that’s when things took a turn for the worst. I began to collapse. My mind was unable to process any thought other than a sensation of panic. I felt like I was drowning and my mind began to overreact, my first real tangible thoughts were of my family and whether I would see them again. I fell helpless to what the locals call soroche, or altitude sickness. Had our journey come to an end before it even began? I couldn’t bring myself to quit now that I’ve gone this far. But what if it would kill me?

My Journey

My obsession with the lost city of Paititi hit its peak in 2008 after a discussion I had with anthropologist Juan Núñez del Prado while in Cusco, Peru. At the time, I was there with my university studying the mystical practices of the Q’ero, an indigenous group of the Andes who are considered the ‘last’ practitioners of the original teachings dating back to the Inca. Juan’s father, Oscar Núñez del Prado, also an anthropologist, was among the first to record the myth surrounding the hero-god Inkarrí held by the Q’eros during in 1950’s, who were prior to that time living in isolation. The legend states that after Inkarrí created the Q’ero and the city of Cusco, he retreated eastwardly down into the jungles below to the refuge of Paititi, the hidden city. I shared with Juan a little regarding the research I was collecting on lost civilizations, emphasizing the importance of mythology which would later be the driving force behind my first book. It was also during this first visit that in talking with the Q’ero that I had learned about supposed Incan roads (known as Qhapaq Ñan) and structures scattered around the villages in Hatun Q’eros. It was these rumors along with the legends of Inkarrí that greatly fascinated me.

Five years later I returned back to Peru some years later this time in search of any additional clues relating to the lost city. That search led me to Pusharo, a large rock wall that is covered in petroglyphs located within the Restricted Zone inside of Manu National Park. Some people speculate that the mysterious symbols represent a map which, if deciphered, leads to the city of Paititi. Academic researchers speculate that they are mystical symbols relating to ceremonial or shamanic ritual. Accompanying me on the expedition was Fernando Rivera, guide and director of EcoManu Expedition in Peru who has gone on countless expeditions looking for clues of the lost city. His reputation for exploration and expertise on the jungle has caught the attention of many well-known adventurers who’ve dared venture into the depths of the inferno verde, or green inferno.  During our Pusharo expedition Fernando began telling me about some of his recent discoveries within the Amarakaeri Reserve nearby after oil-company surveyors had come across Incan roads and a large stone face dubbed the Rostro Harakmbut (or Harakmbut Face). After returning back the second time I began collecting as much research possible and began talking with people who worked within the region which ultimately led me to Miguel.

Coca reading

I began sharing research and collaborating on an expedition with Manuel Roque Prada, an ex-oil company employee who was in charge of logistics while on contract for Hunt Oil.  Manuel was also among the first to come across the same large stone face as Fernando two years prior in 2010, while taking a shortcut in between the seismic lines. This discovery, along with other archaeological sites he had come across, had led Manuel to begin collecting the locations of previously ‘unexplored’ archaeological sites within an area known as Lot 76, a vast territory licensed to Hunt Oil for oil exploration. He had become frustrated with the approved ‘on-site archaeologist’ who would continue to dismiss archaeologically important sites that he and his team would come across. Lot 76, which covers most of the native Amarakaeri Reserve, was deemed to not have any archaeological sites and many locals feared that the company would destroy the sites in order to prevent further government restrictions. “I saw a map that Hunt Oil had marked with all the archaeological sites,” an activist had told me back in 2014, “they knew there where sites were!” After his contract was up he began compiling stories and the locations of potential archaeological sites not just the people he worked with but from previous oil exploration groups in the past.

Manuel, who now works as an animal nutritionist for the Institute of Investigations for the Peruvian Amazon, has had his home ransacked twice in the last few years and in both instances, they stole his maps. Fortunately for him, he always hid his original carefully marked maps in a secure location. In this part of the world words travel fast and rumors travel faster, any mention of gold or a lost city immediately ignites a furry. Within the Madre de Dios region of Peru, illegal gold mining and deforestation are the main sources of economy. Over the last few years the environment has taken a dramatic toll and the government has slowly begun to crackdown on these illegal mining operations (which has increased by 540 percent between 2006 and 2015). However, out of desperation they continue with little regard to the impact that they have on the environment. Likewise, as a result of these recent crackdowns many miners have been left without work and with rumors of lost cities nearby, they have nothing to lose and they begin encroaching deeper into the unknown reaches of the jungle. This desperation is precisely why Manuel had gone to several institutions in hopes of funding a full-fledged expedition to locate these archaeological sites before they became looted.

He took his research and expedition proposal to various institutions such as the University of Puerto Maldonado, Ministry of Culture and lastly, the Amarakaeri Reserve. The only one who listened was Luis Tayori, from the Amarakaeri Reserve, to whom Manuel shared some of his findings, including the location of the Rostro Harakmbut, on the condition that he be taken along for the expedition to further his research. Shortly thereafter, Luis Tayori travelled to the site without Manuel leaving him very distrustful towards other people. Over time word got back around regarding other smaller groups of non-local investigators that were moving in deeper and deeper into these uncharted and isolated regions leading Manuel to believe the very people who had turned his expedition down were the very same who were turning over the information to other well-funded institutions (presumably from the United States).

The ‘Rostro Harakmbut’

The original plan was to head deep into the region with a well-manned team of explorers including indigenous representatives whom he trusted from FENAMAD (Native Federation of the Madre de Dios). I originally planned on joining Manuel and his expedition team to explore the sites he had be planning to travel to. However, people slowly began backing out and with lack of proper funds all that remained was a bare bones team with limited gear. Many of the locals who were planning on going greatly feared the region, even to them it was extremely dangerous and they had heard stories of what may lay hidden inside. At this point, even I had to back out. With the anticipated arrival of my son I knew the risks involved and I wanted to do everything in my power to come back alive. Over the next few weeks I began putting together the perfect expedition team for something new. I knew if I couldn’t venture into the area, I would at least try and validate rumors of this city by matching corresponding sites and more importantly, the ancient route used for entering the jungle. I began talking to professors and other valuable sources that testified finding Incan tools within the Amarakeri Reserve and my own map began to take shape. The question still remained, how did the Inca reach so deep inside the Amazon? All the other previously speculated entry points, such as into Mameria, Paucartambo and Quince Mil, were all so far away there had to been a more direct route to these archaeological sites. And that’s when I remembered what the Q’ero had told me about the Incan roads in the remote area of the high Andes.

The Expedition

In 1955, archaeologist Luis Barreda Murillo from the Univeristy of Cusco, was the first to document the presence of Qhapaq Ñan (paved Incan roads) and tambos (checkpoints) within the communities of Q’eros. Barreda speculated that these roads that connected various villages at different altitudes were likely already established prior to the Inca. During the Incan expansion, they built upon these already pre-existing trails and roads in order to establish a direct route for valuable resources from the jungles below. This was the missing piece of information to validate a direct road into the Amazon below. Could this have been the same route taken by Inkarrí to the lost city of Paititi? If so, was Q’eros the gateway?

This would be a two-leg expedition; first we would explore these routes and possibly validate a direct path into the Amarakaeri Reserve, and secondly, I would go into the jungles below travelling village to village collecting anything I could regarding the lost city. To explore the main Incan roads around Hatun Q’eros (the largest of villages within Q’eros) I got in touch with one the best guides/explorers who was familiar with the area, Charly Symond Pinares, an ex-military outdoors expert who more importantly was also fluent in Quechua, the language of the Inca that is still used today. For the second leg of my expedition I again entrusted my good friend Fernando Rivera, who had recently finished organizing an expedition back into the Amarakaeri Reserve for an exploration-based television show. As I began compiling more research, I shared with Manuel my plan to head up to Hatun Q’eros to which he was very skeptical…at first.

Upon arriving in Cusco I walked over to the main cathedral located in the Plaza de Armas and prayed, something I have not done in years. I asked that my family be protected and that I would be safe during my travels. The cathedral itself was built upon the ruins of an ancient Incan temple which was destroyed and later converted into a Catholic Church. The most important of the ancient Incan temple remnants can be near the door of the cathedral where traditionalists line up and place their hands upon the ‘egg-shaped’ stone which was symbolic of creation in Incan mythology and which originated within the sacred temple. Unfortunately, the Spaniards used the stones as a door stop for many years. This cathedral represented everything I wanted to help restore a balance to and bring back a sense of pride to the people who are slowly looking away from ancient traditions towards something ‘modern’.

Manuel in Hatun Q’eros

Manuel and I finally met up in Cusco on a cold winter’s morning a day prior before we were scheduled to both go our separate ways. I again shared with him the research I had collected regarding the routes connecting Hatun Q’eros but more importantly a direct road leading back to Cusco! He was convinced and decided last minute to join Charly and I on our expedition to Q’eros.  We began to make our final preparations for the following days. Manuel had his gear ready for the hot jungle and not for the freezing Andes, so he ran off to buy what he needed to stay warm. We bought the final food that we needed thanks to our amazing cook, Luis Delgado Huallapa, who also spoke Quechua and had years of experience trekking through the Sacred Valley and the jungles.

To Q’eros

We had everything set for our pickup time, which we had confirmed with our driver a few days prior. However, after an hour and a half passed I began to worry. Apparently, the driver never showed to pick up Luis and we had to hop on a series of cars to finally get to Paucartambo where Charly was waiting for us with another driver who was going to drive us the rest of the way to Q’eros. It’s not an adventure until nothing goes as planned. We continued our ascent up the mountains higher and higher and it wasn’t until we reached 15,000 feet when the pressure inside my head became unbearable. It was a scary experience not knowing what to do. I knew the consequences of altitude sickness and dying was the first thing that kept popping into my head. Likewise, I had completely underestimated the temperature; I knew it was going to be cold, but not this cold! At the overlook, we stood around staring at a beautiful sunset and at the red hue reflecting the low moving clouds on the valley below. A cold mountain breeze hit us and we shivered for a second, and that’s when I began to collapse. Yuri, our driver, began to grow very concerned at the sight of me not being able to stand. He was to later tell me that he feared that the cold wind were actually the spirits from the cemetery just below where we were standing. Luckily for me, back in Cusco I had bought an emergency supply of Diamox which I believe ultimately helped me through the rest of the night.

Despite my condition we pressed on driving along the dark winding roads until we came to the village of Challmachimpana. There we were almost immediately greeted by Juan Apaza Soncco, a Q’ero and practitioner traditional Andean curanderismo (i.e., healer, shaman). Charly had explained to him in Quechua of our intentions and upon hearing about my condition he immediately walked over and without question tried everything to comfort me began to perform a healing. “Hampe, Hampe…” he kept repeating as he then began calling forth the various Apus (mountain spirit gods). Hampe, meaning ‘to remedy or cure.’ Juan offered us to stay inside two of his traditional stone houses. After we slowly got settled in in my dazed state I decided to walk over to the larger communal house where they were in the middle of a celebration. It was there that I met Ruben Machacca Flores and his grandfather Francisco Quispe Machacca, a respected Q’ero elder

and curandero. Ruben Machacca, was a fearless 18-year-old, who, like many others his age, left Q’eros in search of gold mining work near Puerto Maldonado. There he found it difficult to live and decided to come back to Q’eros where he now is picking up the ancient Q’ero traditions.

Ruben Machacca, young curandero in training

Inside the communal house they were in the middle of celebrating having performed a traditional llama ear-piercing ceremony of their herd from earlier that day. The Q’ero were very inviting and open with us. And upon seeing me with my hands pressing up against my head they asked what was wrong, after Charly explained the situation a few began taking turns to try and help me. It was a beautiful thing to see, something we rarely see in our everyday modern society, communal festivity. People of the village gathering together to achieve a project or task during the day and then coming together at night around a warm fire to exchange stories over a drink of chicha, a traditional Andean corn brew.

The next morning, I had to make the decision if we should return back to a lower elevation or continue on. I ultimately decided to stay one more day in Challmachimpana to acclimate before descending to Hatun Q’eros roughly 11,500 feet which takes about four to five hours on foot. Walking outside in the morning was a peaceful majestic experience as the gentle snow fell around me and the clouds slowly cleared I could see mountain peaks in the distance. During the day I began to wonder where the rest of the people were. There seemed to be a lot more houses than there were people. They explained to me that almost everyone now lives in Cusco. Not many remain in the Q’ero villages due to inaccessibility to basic supplies. That, along with a new financial necessity for the access of goods made life very difficult and as a result many left behind the traditional alpaca and llama herding way of life in exchange for a city life.

As the sun set on the second day Manuel and I slept on opposite ends of the house while Charly and Luis slept in the other. Due to the coldness of the night Juan allowed us to use some of his thick blankets he had hanging up to help combat the cold. During the night Manuel’s blanket began creeping down. He pulled it back up and again it started slowly pulling down. It happened one more time before Manuel yelled to stop it. At this point, someone started calling his name. He was too tired to care and continued to ignore what was going on. After some time a light started shining on his face but he just dug his head inside his sleeping bag and went back to sleep. At the same time I had just woken up and could see a strange light shining through the inside of the house. I also, however, was too tired to care and fell back asleep.

We woke up early and began our hike down to Hatun Q’eros. It was a steep incline, but luckily for us we were heading downwards. After a few hours of hiking we had begun entering a dense thick fog until we successfully reached Hatun Q’eros in the mid-afternoon. We quickly came to the realization that there were only two families living in the entire village. It was a rather big village that I remember reading about having a lot of people. But alas, the people had moved up to the villages closer to the roads while the majority left for Cusco.  It was rather depressing to see such a beautiful village without people and left almost abandoned. It was a haunting scene walking through the dense fog with ancient stone houses surrounding you.

Before we could get settled in he had to get up and go on top of a small mountain that overlooked the village in order to perform a despacho ceremony with Ruben, Francisco and Juan taking the lead. As we climbed up the slopes we passed by ancient Incan-style structures complete with stone A-frame and niches used for the adoration of idols. Some of the structures were so old that almost nothing remained but the piles of rocks that resembled the fountain. Once we reached the top we unpacked our things for the despacho and began sorting out the coca leaves. The despacho is an offering made to the Pachamama (mother earth) in order to receive something (e.g., good fortune, health, etc.). Our despacho, in this case, was made for the hope of a successful expedition. They carefully adorned a large sheet of paper with flowers, candies, confetti, colorful wool, and a llama fetus which symbolizes a vital life force. After the proper invocation of the Apus they began the process of burning the offering. If it was unable to be burned, that signified that the offering was not accepted by the earth. Fortunately for us, our offering was accepted and it was burned there among the ancient stone ruins.

On the fourth day we began our expedition down the trails that led down into the jungle. We worked carefully with the Q’ero to map out and determine what trails led where. The particular trail we were mapping out led down towards the main river that swung back down into the Amazon. We were entering Kosñipata, or land of smoke. We could see various stages of the trail from crude dirt trails to well-formed stone paths. In some instances, the roads would split and recombine further down, a clear indication that some trails had been altered during different times. We walked carefully along the end of the valley hillsides following the river below. The Q’ero had used these trails up until recently. They would take their alpacas down these different trails down to the forested areas below to allow them to graze. Likewise, that climate was perfect for growing corn and they maintained fields of maize for their communities. But slowly, over time they stopped taking their alpacas down these trails and maintenance of the fields of maize became too difficult to take care of due to the main village being so far away. Ruben, was one of the few people who still utilized much of these roads as he would still use them to catch small fish along the river. He would trek for days at a time by himself. He told us that this particular trail comes to end at a riverbank, after which it is almost impossible to continue as the trail becomes nonvisible.

The Qhapaq Ñan (Incan road) splits into two different trails, one older and one more frequently used.

After our trek, we began speculating that Hatun Q’eros was the main village where all these ancient roads once intersected. This was the gateway for the ancient Inca to venture down into the forests below. Manuel was convinced that this was the true entrance to Paititi, the city of gold. With our maps we began connecting the dots. This was a search almost 500 years in the making! This was the city that Spanish conquistadors desperately wanted to find but never could. Over the years I had begun combing through countless manuscripts pertaining to Paititi and it was had separating the truth from rumors. Much like the California Gold Rush the core stories became over-exaggerated and rumors spread like wildfire. Hatun Q’eros had to have been where all the Inca retreated during the conquest of Cusco. It is incredibly difficult to find and access and if the Spaniards were travelling via horseback it would have been near impossible.

We began discussing our research in depth with the Q’ero elders who were indeed fascinated and believed that hopefully that it would bring a renewed interest in their communities. As modernization began to take hold of the Q’ero many left behind the hard life that once sustained them for countless generations. Hatun Q’eros and the city of Paititi would have been incredibly strategic for the Inca due to its proximity to an ancient gold mine (which today accounts for 2% of the entire world gold production). We speculated that the main source of gold for the Incas, came from the Huaypetue mine down below, from there they would transfer it to Paititi to process or store the gold before carrying it back to Cusco passing through Hatun Q’eros. The Q’ero elders stated that the walk back to Cusco takes about two weeks from Hatun Q’eros. Not far off from the 10-day walk mentioned in the document found within the Vatican archives.

We returned back to Challmachimpana the following day. It was incredibly more arduous travelling upwards that I could have imagined. Thankfully, Ruben had horses which we used to carry some of our gear back and that I used to ride most of the way. That final day Juan’s family had returned back home to greet him. His wife had travelled back from Cusco while his son and daughter-in-law had travelled back from Puerto Maldonado. We ended up sleeping our final night inside our tents and woke up to a beautiful cake that Luis had stayed up very late to prepare. As with all our food, we shared it with the Q’ero who very much enjoyed it. As we began to gather our gear they asked me if I wanted to become the godfather of Juan’s granddaughter, Alondra Valentina. Using a small cup with water I made the sign of the cross on her forehead and it was done, I was her godfather. The family was extremely happy and we took a lot of pictures to celebrate the occasion. It was a very beautiful and joyous experience for everyone there.

After our expedition we all split ways. In Paucartambo, Charly and Luis headed back to Cusco while I was going to wait overnight before heading down into the Amazon. After Q’eros, Manuel was extremely excited and wanted to make a run for the lost city knowing that everything we collected and saw only validated his research. He would go in solo if he had to, but hopefully he could convince some friends to go with him. We knew this wouldn’t be the end, but only the first step in uncovering the lost city. Everyone had their own invaluable expertise to bring to the table and only time will tell when we will reunite and go all the way.

From here my adventure was only half over. I would be travelling down into the jungles below visiting villages in hopes of collecting more research that would further validate the work we had compiled. Hopefully the second leg of my expedition wouldn’t be as difficult as my first…

 

 

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brazil-indigenous-environment

Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Then will you find that money cannot be eaten
.”

–Native American Prophecy

     Where did it all go wrong? Throughout history there has always been an ongoing trend of inequality based on racist views. Such views, in this instance are based on the Eurocentric notions brought over to the New World. The Native Americans first viewed the Europeans upon first contact as equals, while the Europeans saw them as inferior. That was the first beginning conflict that was to help pave the way to the ultimate destruction of a whole race. The colonization by the English, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese populations created resistance from the beginning. It is estimated that around 112.5 million indigenous people lived in the Americas prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. However, it is now estimated that there are less than 54 million indigenous people left. Disease was to be the leading cause for most of the deaths within indigenous populations. Europeans over a span of their evolution built up immunities to viral diseases (primarily due to being exposed to subpar conditions), while the indigenous people did not, making them more susceptible to disease. This was more than just a simple conquest…this was massive genocide.

From upon first contact, conflict arose between the indigenous populations and the Europeans. This is evident everywhere from the east and west coasts of the United States, up from Alaska down into Argentina. The fall of the great Aztec and Incan Empires was a signal to all others; beware. Word quickly spread regarding the defeats of the Aztecs so that when the first white explorers ventured into the heart of the United States in search of legends regarding the ‘Seven Cities of Gold’ known as Cibola, the natives they encountered already knew of their presence and their defeat over the Aztec Empire as well as of their weaponry (Hernando Alarcon 1540). As a result, various tribes around the Americas met the various expeditions  with total fear or blunt hostility. Slowly, the tensions started to build as these European settlers later began encroaching into their ancestral lands.

By the 19th century the idea of  ‘Manifest Destiny’ had begun. This concept proclaimed that as natural born citizens of the United States, as Americans one should inhabit the land from Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The underlying theme being to rid the ‘unoccupied’ territories of the indigenous people to make way for western progress. ‘Manifest Destiny’ was not the first decree declaring direct conflict between Europeans and the indigenous, but rather, the Spanish had beforehand implemented the mission system in California whereas countless native villagers were enslaved and were sent to live within the various missions. While in the missions they were forced to do hard manual labor and to leave behind their sacred traditions. For the Spaniards, this was the only means of spiritual redemption in order to become servants of God.

On the mission system many organized rebellious takeovers, this being some of the first generation of resistance fighters recorded within what was to be the United States territories. Within Baja California the indigenous neophytes living within the mission system took over the missions one by one, however, later they were to be executed once reinforcements arrived from Mexico. Word of this quickly spread to the missions in Alta California to the north and with the prophetic visions of a medicine woman named Toypurina, a new resistance sparked massive counter attacks instantaneously within the various missions. These indigenous fighters took over the missions using the Spanish weapons against the deployment of support troops. All Spaniards living within the Missions (including the fryers) were executed by these resistance fighters (Journal of Sigimusndo Taraval 1734; Beebe & Senkewicz 2001). A period of minimal violence took place for the next hundred year, and after the Mexican independence from Spain, California remained intact.

As the United States began to grow things were getting tougher for the Native Americans. President Andrew Jackson implemented the “Indian Removal Act” which basically gave the rights for Americans to use means of force to get rid of the indigenous peoples. Many different relocation programs started to move into effect with the help of the military. While the eastern United States was going through this trouble it was not until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848, that California was to later became part of the United States and brought forth real repercussions to the indigenous populations. Whereas the primary objective of the Spaniards was to assimilate them into their culture, the white settlers, who later came after 1849 into California, felt that they needed to be exterminated.

With the discovery of gold leading to the Gold Rush, settlers came in and started taking the land from the native people. Massacre after massacre took place, leaving very few tribes to gather together and help protect what little they had left. ‘Manifest Destiny’ around the 1850’s started to slowly take shape. Hundreds of settlers started to venture into the unknown territories to the west of the great Mississippi River. More organized resistance started taking shape, and with the help of the United States military, started to organize detailed attacks (McDermott 1998). The raiding of villages happened more and more frequently along with more organized military power proved to be an unstoppable force. Bounty hunters began to be employed. For many failed prospectors this was a means to gain a quick dollar for each scalp there was a substantial reward by the government.

Pressure started to mount as resistance fighters from different tribes started banding together. A good example of this was the Modoc War of 1872 which helped paved the way for other tribal units to come together and fight a common enemy. In northern California some of the tribes that had historically been enemies refused to relocate to a small uninhabitable reservation and under the leadership of Modoc warrior ‘Captain Jack’ they helped fight the United States infantry for over a year. It was to their advantage that the infantry did not know the landscape as well as they did. After long battles they would retreat into hidden underground caves well replenished with drinking water, while the infantry remained out in the hot rugged terrain. The stronghold remained steady until ‘Captain Jack’ was betrayed by some of his own men. He was later put to execution and his head was severed from his body and sent out to a museum. The Modoc War went into the history books as one of the most costly wars in our nation’s history. (Glassley 1972)

Massacre after massacre, raid after raid in Native American villages started to take place across the United States. The amount of books written on these events would take up several volumes. Many treaties were given to the various native tribes, all of which were broken by the United States government. “If they are to act upon, rather than silently suffer, their omnipresent grievances, peasants much have ‘internal leverage’ or ‘tactical mobility’. They have this to varying degrees according to their position in the total agrarian social structure” (Goldstone 1994). Theda Skopol’s analysis of the various social rebellions from France, Russia and China can be used to analyze the rebellions amongst the oppressed indigenous of the United States. Instead of stating that the peasant insurrections were caused by means of the ‘landlords’ one can easily apply this model to indigenous populations, who like the peasants, lived off the land. And instead of a ‘landlord’ one can easily apply it to the United States military complex. This is in terms of a totally different form of oppression, an extreme oppression to isolate the people, and kill those who refused.

Another good example of an organized Native American rebellion comes from the Arizona in the American Southwest. The man by the name of Geronimo gathered together many different tribes who were willing to fight against a common enemy. For many years the various tribes were massacred by both people in the United States and also in Mexico. Geronimo and his gathering used strategically well documented tactics in order to fight against both the United States and Mexican troops. Despite the small number of people in Geronimo’s resistance group, they managed to avoid defeat by 50,000 armed fighters. Geronimo refused to accept the American government’s terms to  land ownership and reservation relocation programs. Once captured he was relocated to Oklahoma, where many of the remaining survivors of the Modoc Wars were also relocated, never again to return to their homeland. The United States government lost more money fighting the Native Americans than it would have ever have cost to let the reservations be on the land they already inhabited. The social consequences started getting more and more out of hand, the Native Americans living on the reservations started getting more and more frustrated.

In May of 1890, word reached to the United States War Department from Pierre South Dakota, that Lakota tribes were planning on secretly leaving the reservation. As it turns out a Northern Paiute shaman by the name of Wovoka, out of Nevada, started a movement known as the ‘Ghost Dance’. A visionary religion and prophecy that united all tribes to reclaim their land that were granted to them by the Creator. Word quickly spread to the Lakota regarding the rituals of the ‘Ghost Dance’. Ceremonies followed as they began wearing ‘Ghost Shirts’ which had the supposed ability to stop bullets. On December 29, 1890, the final ‘official’ war (massacre) was fought at Wounded Knee. 500 troops were deployed to the escaped Lakota and Sioux encampment and without warning they opened fire. Only a few of the Natives had proper means of weaponry, as they vowed to fight those who stopped them from going back to their homelands (as the prophecy of Wovoka entailed). Those who survived fled into the snow covered plains where they eventually died of exposure (Peterson 1999).

The social impact of these final battles is evident even to this day. Many of the indigenous languages are nearly extinct and the culture is slowly following. The last ‘Wild Indian’ came out of the wilderness in 1911 and by that time all people that spoke his language were long dead. Anthropologists had a hard time figuring out what he had to say. To this day people have the illusion that everything in America is so great, but there are people living within the various reservations that basically would be considered third world conditions. No running waters, no electricity, and no basic health care. As American companies keeps tapping into the natural resources those living on the reservation suffer. What little resource they can obtain from the rivers are now being polluted, the soil in which they live are being depleted and the air in which they breathe is becoming unbearable due to the chemicals nearby companies release into the air. In Arizona, various legalization was put forth to relocate some of the reservations to other parts of the state, during which the Peabody Coal Company is tapping into underwater aquifers which lay directly underneath the Hopi and Navajo reservations. 40% of Arizona’s water comes from these underground aquifers, most of which goes straight towards the watering of lawns in major cities (May 2006 Natural Resources Defense Council). There are now also underground radical native movements such as the Oh-Toh-Kin (meaning strength from our ancestors) who since 1992 hoped to unite all tribes in order to reclaim their ancestral land. Similar oppressions are not only limited to the United States but to Mexico and South America as well and in most cases the indigenous populations do not have a say at all with what happens to their land.

During the Mexican Revolution many of the revolutionary fighters teamed up to help support the indigenous populations who at that time were still being maltreated. Pancho Villa (1878-1923) born a poor share-crop peasant one day was to change his life due to a tragic event. He came back to his home to find that his younger sister was raped by the landowner, Pancho Villa then shot him with a revolver and took off by horse. He lived as bandit for many years. And when the Mexican Revolution took place he wanted to help fight. And in hopes of supplying his men with arms, they paid the United States a lot of money for weaponry. But when they refused to hand over weapons Pancho Villa and his gang massacred a town in Columbus, New Mexico (1916). Pancho Villa was later ambushed in 1923 on his way to a party. Before he died he started one of the greatest movements in Mexican history; Division del Norte (Seperation from the North). The Division del Norte was basically the division from the United States in its acts of cruelty and hatred towards Mexico. This movement supported the ideals of giving indigenous people the same rights as everyone else.

“There is a place that the Spirit of Truth has prepared so that it shall be from there from which will be born the Liberation of the Indigenous Peoples. It is called AZTLAN, which means Paradise; it is where the Spirit of Truth lives.” –Yaqui Tribal Elder Rafael Guerrero, Coronel, Division del Norte de Pancho Villa. It was the Yaqui Resistance that played a vital role through various battles leading up to the Mexican Revolution and through which help win a new profound amount of respect towards freedom. (Kicza 1999). At the same time the southern revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919), was doing the same but was taking more of a non-violent tactical approach.

Emiliano Zapata was born also a poor farmer and spoke Náhuatl, which is one of the native languages found within Mexico. Zapata was one of the great leaders in the Mexican Revolution from the South, while Pancho Villa remained in the North. Zapata, too, tried to fight that which was oppressing the indigenous people of Mexico; the centralized government. One day government armies wanted to hold a meeting with him in regards to fight with him against the president at the time. But in a cruel act of injustice, the meeting was merely a set up and he was killed. One of his most well-known quotes is, “it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” After that the Zapatistas disbanded, however, it was to become reinvented in the 1990’s. The overall belief is held that the indigenous people should stop being oppressed by the large landowning people. To this day there is a large Zapatista organization stopping at nothing but to start a new revolution and give the indigenous people its land and respect that it deserves.

Comandante Marcos is the leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Little was known regarding the identity of Marcos, but what is observed was that he fought a large scale revolution which is still being supported by various different countries around the world. This revolution took place in Chiapas, Mexico. The movement is trying to strive for a new form of government which allows free and democratic elections to ALL people as well as dignity, food, health, education, autonomy and peace to the indigenous who do not have a voice. EZLN went active the day after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Organization) went into effect. NAFTA opened the doors to land which could be used for cheap mass produced products for the United States (such as agriculture and livestock). Massacres at that time were taking place on small villages by certain people who’s funding could be traced back to United States interest groups. One example is that of the Acteal Massacre in 1997 where 45 indigenous people were killed. The Zapatistas use nonviolence as a mean of getting their message across, however they remain armed at all times in case of conflicts that might  ensue.

The exploitation of natural resources in order to take away from the land rights from indigenous populations extends well down into South America. The indigenous people of Peru are fighting against the exportation of their resources such as petroleum and copper. In turn, the amount of pollution released has contaminated the air, rivers, farms, and has killed livestock as well as people. Peru also happens to have the largest indigenous population in all of South America. The economic globalization in resources has pushed many of the different cultural groups to come together and fight against American corporations in the courts. However, many violent conflicts have sprung out as a result of public demonstrations.  Many who feel frustrated regarding the way things are going, have taken into a new level of resistance within Peru. The tactical growth of guerrilla warfare has put forth new pressure on the Peruvian government to take more strict action against the injustices. Of course, the most negative results being that of guerrilla warfare, more specifically that of the ‘Shining Path’. The ‘Shining Path’ withhold strict communist and Marxist ideals in hopes of taking similar actions to those of the Cuban Revolution. The Peruvian government has taken in many of the groups leaders in the 1990’s, however the group still continues to thrive while also working with other guerrilla groups to conduct ‘acts of terrorism and brutality’. And the group’s new ideals are working against the minority of the indigenous population and killing them along the way.

Likewise, the Yanomami and other tribes of the Amazon also face a depletion of natural resources as well as dwindling populations. With the discovery of gold, miners flocked throughout the Amazon in hopes of striking it rich. It is interesting to note the similarities between the Amazonian gold rush to that of the California gold rush, however the Amazonian gold rush is on a much larger scale and clearly more destructive. The miners brought with them diseases of which spread throughout the populations. There have also been evidence of massacres for land rights. Genocide is the indirect tactic being implemented once again. The natural resources are vastly being contaminated as well. The use of mercury is needed to help find gold where it all ends up in the rivers. The rate of mercury is so high that is would be deadly to consume anything from inside of the river. The indigenous brutality in Brazil, as another example, dates back to the early 1800’s, in contrast to today where many indigenous movements took place to help win over some land and rights, many of them were used as virtual slaves (Treece 2000). The Yanomami have brought much needed attention directly into the Brazilian government. On the federal level they are fighting to make the Brazilian government to take action on the situations within the Amazonian territory. As of very recently the Brazilian indigenous populations have come together to protest in front of Brazil’s congress to prevent further destruction of the Amazon ecosystem in which they live. Brazil recently planned to build infrastructures that would cause more bad than good for the indigenous tribes. More and more of the population continue to die, 90% of the 4,000 indigenous people (in direct proximity of western Brazil) are infected with malaria and over half have hepatitis. This is not including the over 170 ethnic groups totaling between 450,000 and 750,000 people in Brazil.

Today, individual freedoms are still limited to those living within the mainstream social structure. The amount of racism that still exists towards Native Americans is rather appalling. On a more personal note, I’ve had several conversations with several individuals of Native American ancestry from the area who visit various reservations along the southern states. One specific story really got my blood boiling. He explained to me that he and his family stopped at a diner in Texas, and as they walked in everybody kept just staring and them. A Hispanic sheriff then approached them out of ‘respect’ (because nobody else would) and clearly stated that they would not be served because they were not welcomed. I see this same type of un-direct or institutionalized racism evident even in Mexico today. There is a bit more respect for these cultures than in the United States however, it seems that most of the ‘racism’ is more institutionalized than anything. In Mexico, they do not have reservations, and they people quite literally live off the land, but seeing as there is no more land for them (in most cases), they live off the streets. Walking in various villages, towns and major cities you pass hundreds of indigenous children and families begging for money. It very emotional to just walk by these people, and after a while become numb to your own emotional intuitiveness. “These people who watch us walk through the streets of the town are a defeated race. Their states are tame, almost fearful, and completely indifferent to the outside world. Some give the impression they go on living only because it’s a habit they cannot shake,…standing over the small frames of the [Peruvian] Indians gathered to see the procession pass, the blond head of a North American can occasionally be glimpsed. With his camera and sports shirt, he seems to be (and in fact, actually is) a correspondent from another world,…” (Guevara 2003).

With activists such as Edwin Chota (Peru), Jorge Ríos (Peru), Luiz Alberto Araújo (Brazil), Isidro Baldenegro (Mexico), or Berta Cáceres (Honduras) who were all assassinated fighting for indigenous rights within the last few years (2014-2017), advocacy has become a dangerous game. Since 2012 over 150 Brazilian activists have been murdered due to the illegal logging which accounts for 80% of overall Brazilian trade and 25% of illicit world timber production. Within 2015, 66% of worldwide activists were murdered just within Latin America. Within Peru and Mexico we begin to see a trend of illegal profiteering by allowing loggers and other illicit groups access to rural areas which maintain various indigenous communities. As with the 1994 passing of NAFTA, many indigenous communities are pushed out of their homes or murdered as a result of trying to maintain their land. We’ve entered a critical irreversible threshold whereby the intersection of human rights and environmental protection could change forever. We begin to see events such as the over mining of the Madre de Dios in Peru or the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota bring more awareness to the public sphere but has done very little to change actual policy. The end result in those instances would be beyond reprehensible and yet, there will be causalities regardless of non-confrontational protest. Even today the Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous people of southern Brazil have the highest percentage of suicide rate in the world. The Guarani-Kaiowá have previously threatened mass suicide due to the ongoing destruction of their ancestral land which has been depleated by 95% (for use of plantations and farm land). Similar effects are taking place within the United States reservations which maintain the highest amounts of suicide rates (almost double) than any country in the western world. It is by no means a continual take-over remnant of previous policies but rather a continuation of a slow genocide that will not stop until action is taken.

Conflict arises through ignorance and in the case of the indigenous peoples a misunderstanding through some god-given ‘superiority’ many westerners possess. In most cases the Native American populations of North America did not posses a ‘Old World’ form of monarchy or ruler, and the invading Europeans felt that the land needed to be declared in the name of their own country (as it was undeclared). And through these European-minded invaders these savages who occupied the land were merely A.)possible followers of Christ which would help further glorify the Christian religion or B.) a problematic obstacle. The Russians who came down through Alaska and as far down as the San Francisco Bay Area, after the discovery of the ‘New World’, used the indigenous people of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest as slaves. They cared neither for the spreading of religion nor for the removal of these people, they could care less if they ruined their culture. The Russian fur trade deteriorated many of the tribes, enslaved many of the people to help hunt seals/otters, and brought forth disease after disease which decimated the population. The indigenous populations were in a sense true victims of circumstance. They did not posses amazing weaponry nor did they did not posses the immunities. Because of all these circumstantial lack of things, they were already victims from the start. As a current minority is there any way these indigenous people can rise up and take back what is rightfully theirs? According to Ted Robert Gurr in many countries there have been an impact of small revolutions consisting of minorities who have not quiet successfully taken over, but rather have not as of yet failed completely. There seems to be a new form of revolution on the rise from the small minority populations gathering more attention so that others can help support the overall cause (Gladstone 1994).

“Over a period of time I have had many, many dreams that showed the coming of the Earth changes… I saw a time when the cities wouldn’t exist in their present state. During the changes the most dangerous places will be near cities with nuclear and chemical plants. But all major cities will experience a breakdown in services. In my dreams, I’ve seen great garbage piles on the streets, the electric service out of order because of storms and earthquakes, broken water mains, and no more gasoline because of a major breakdown of the system.

I also foresee race riots in the big cities, with street gangs engaged in uncontrolled fighting against each other, using guns to get what they want. When there is no money to pay their salaries, the police will not be there to protect the people in the city. Instead, in one of my dreams, I saw the police banded together in groups calling themselves the ‘Brothers of the Gun.’ They were using their guns to take whatever they wanted. This is already happening in other parts of the world…

I see the cities being hit by major epidemics caused by bad water, toxic chemicals, or other things…

I see about one-fourth of the world’s population surviving. All those who do survive will come through with a higher level of consciousness…

I saw camps of people around natural water, such as rivers, creeks, and springs, working hard to produce their food, but thankful to be alive, for only here and there were small bands of people alive, and they were thankful to the Great Spirit that they were. When people came together they embraced with love, even those who were strangers before that moment, because they knew.

There were only a few people surviving these changes. I’ve seen major destruction, and people fleeing great cities, and other people dying from pollution, and cities abandoned, and I wondered how, until these last few years when I see California and other places which no longer have the water, electricity, or natural gases to care for their cities.

Then I understood what I saw before. We were told that our people would lay as if dead in the dust, and then we would rise up on the land again. We were told that the sons and daughters of the possessors of our land would come to us and accept our ways, and that we would live together as one people sharing the land and sowing love and understanding for each other.”

~Sun Bear’s Prophecy

(died June 19, 1992)

 

 

Bibliography:

Alarcon, Hernando.1540. Hernando Alarcon Expedition & Diaries

Beebe, Marie  & Senkewicz, Robert M. 2001. Lands of Promise and Despair; Chronicles   of Early California

Churchill, Ward. 1993. Struggle for the Land; Indigenous Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Expopropriation in Contemporary North America

Dillon, Richard H. 1983. North American Indian Wars

Glassley, Ray H. 1972. Pacific Northwest Indian Wars

Goldstone, Jack A. 1994. Revolutions; Theoretical, Comparative and Historical Studies

Guevara, Ernesto ‘Che’. 2003. The Motorcycle Diaries; Notes on a Latin American Journey

Kicza, John E. 2000. The Indian in Latin American History; Resistance, resilience, and Acculturation

McDermott, John D. 1998. Guide to the Indian Wars of the West

Peterson, Scott. 1998. Native American Prophecies

Treece, David. 2000.Exiles, Allies, Rebels; Brazil’s Indianist Movement, Indigenist           Politics, and the Imperial Nation-State

Woodall, Bernie. 2007. “Indigenous Peru group threatens to sue Occidental”.

Reuters News. Retrieved May 3rd 2007 (http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSN0325876520070504?feedType=RSS)

Unkown. 2007. Javno News. “Indians in Brazil Against Infrastructure”. Reuters News. Retrieved April 18th 2007 (http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=36382)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Follow me as I travel around Paris exploring different esoteric movements that helped shape the modern world.

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We go in search of the ancients of Northern California known as the Wa-gas, a race of mystical beings that once largely inhabited the Americas. There are many variations of this myth, but none are so extensively described than by the Yurok, who maintained a deep connection with them. In the legend, they said to have departed back to their homeland in the North, though some others believe they went into hiding. Could this be the origin of the Lemurian legend of Mount Shasta? or, are these two legends unconnected by a string of truth?

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Exploring Northern California, Part 1; In search of Bigfoot.  We go in search of legends regarding the legendary creature known as Bigfoot in the Northern California wilderness. We travel through the epicenter of sightings and camp in some of the most remote and secluded regions that were known to birth the modern Bigfoot craze.

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South America, Part 8 (Finale): Stranded in the Amazon; After being stranded in the village of Santa Cruz we managed to hitch a ride out on the back of motorcycles. With our expedition gear and backpacks in tow we crossed through rivers, streams, and jungle…at night! The jungle at night is a beautiful place. Once we reached Salvación we jumped on a balsa raft and explored a little of the area around Machuwasi (an oxbow lake). I give my final thoughts on our incredible journey and enjoy our last days in Cusco as the sun sets over the snow-capped mountain.

Places featured:
Santa Cruz, Peru
Machuwasi, Peru
Salvación, Peru
Cusco, Peru

Special thanks to:
Fernando and Ruth of Ecomanu Expedition

Additional music by:
‘Ojos Azules’ (traditional) sung in Quechua by Jaime Salazar

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