As a filmmaker, what is happening in this coastal area of Texas, are reflected in the various stories I hear from the native people today, whose life, identity, culture, and traditions since the early 1800’s have all been close to becoming extinct, and the renewed desire to re-connecting with them.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
“We’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people, we’re the human beings.”John Trudell – Poet & Activist
About the director/producer Hayden de Maisoneuve Yates: “I make films about the human spirit, and focus on the processes of our struggles that eventually lead us to what inspires us as human beings.”
Resources in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, TX: The Tehuan Band of Mission Indians, Apaches Tribes of Texas, United San Antonio Pow Wow Association, Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, American Indians in Texas, Texas A&M University, Archaeologist Alston Thoms, Larry Running Turtle Salazar, Anthropologist Dr. Fred L. McGhee, South Texas Alliance of Indigenous People, Louisiana Black Apaches, Cougar Bear.