Urracá—The Power of Unity

How one persons efforts can affect history—Preserving a beautiful way of life

The Indigenous Peoples March in Spokane happened over the weekend. Latinagem (my wife) was invited to attend, while others from tribes across the US, Latin America, and the world marched for indigenous preservation and awareness (D.C. we witnessed how far we have yet to go).

On the way home, she stopped by the grocery store wearing her Ngäbe-Buglé native dress from Panama 🇵🇦 and the seas parted. People opened doors, paid respect, made way, complimented her politely, and extremely courteouslike a royal. That, got me to thinking (of course) about the colonials need to assimilate the natives and erase their histories. Other than outright theft of wealth, but because they naturally commanded respect in their own element—a threat.

Post script: The man I encountered was a magnificent-looking fellow—John Dunbar – Dances With Wolves

I realize that’s a book and movie, but the words ring true—only propaganda of the ‘savage redskin’ relegated them to sub-human.

The attack on an encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians by Colorado volunteer soldiers that left an estimated 200 dead in 1864. In 1890, the Seventh Cavalry butchered 300 Native Americans at Wounded Knee—and on and on it went.

In Latin America it was no different. Propagandizing and stereotyping among humans is as old as religion. Justifying your cause by demonizing the “enemy” gets volunteer recruits to do your killing.

Atrocities too numerous for a blog post, Bartolomé de las Casas recorded—”We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifty million”.

They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features...They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want“—Christopher Columbus

This weekend the plight of the American Natives continued. A history, culture, and language erased, with permanent cultural and genetic erasure on the horizon through DNA testing. We all share 99.9% DNA. It’s .1% that separates us all. With Native American sampling’s extremely low (distrust) it is in the near future that, because the history of mankind is one of migration, eventually it comes full circle and there will be no classified native anything. Now the tribes are fighting for their identity and land based on culture and tradition. They know who they are, we just have no use for that any longer.

“Crows, they are fearful. Mighty warriors too. In my opinion Crows is the handsomest Indians there is”—Bear Claw – Jeremiah Johnson

“They strive after a sincere honesty, hold strictly to their promises, cheat and injure no one. They willingly give shelter to others and are both useful and loyal to their guests. . I once saw four of them take a meal together in hearty contentment, and eat a pumpkin cooked in clear water, without butter and spice. Their table and bench was the bare earth, their spoons were mussel-shells with which they dipped up the warm water, their plates were the leaves of the nearest tree, which they do not need to wash with after the meal, nor to keep with care of future use. I thought to myself, these savages have never in their lives heard the teaching of Jesus concerning temperance and contentment, yet they far excel the Christians in carrying it out”.—Francis Daniel Pastorius, founder- Germantown, PA (1700)

The conquest of Panama was more political tale. After beating back of the Spaniards for several years by Urracá (who succeeded in making alliances with tribes that had been traditional enemies) Bought the Ngäbe-Buglé enough time to relocate to the mountainous regions of Panama to preserve their way of life. Only in In 1997, after years of struggle with the Panamanian government, the Ngäbe were granted a comarca, or semi-autonomous area. The majority now live within its boundaries with about 250,000 native speakers. A success story how one mans ability to unite, was able to hold back the tides of assimilation for 500 years. Finally captured by conquistadors and heading out of port on a Spanish ship, Urracá escaped heroically to continue the struggle to preserve old Panama.

This is my wife’s heritage surviving and thriving on the Azuero Peninsula where Urracá called home. This is my home. The fortitude, tenacity, and genius of the men and women is still amazing as it was 500 years ago. American natives south, central, and north—a heritage worth preserving.

Slave Ship Haikus

Wet clad irons shackled—

Chains rattle through scuttles grate—

Peering through portals—

Mephitic mass longing thirsts—

Vanishing homeland—