Pushing back against narratives of Coahuiltecan extinction


people, texas, call, mission, spanish, san antonio, missions, indian, archival, indians, archive, pueblo, adrian, history, work, minnesota, fact, ceremony, archaeologists, indigenous



Adrian Chavana, Iris Rodriguez


Iris Rodriguez  00:05

Hi, everybody, this is Iris and I’m checking in from Mexico. Today we have an amazing interview with an old friend of mine, Adrian Chavana. Hi, Adrian.


Adrian Chavana  00:19

Thank you for having me.


Iris Rodriguez  00:22

I’m so excited to chat with you today. Adrian is checking in from Minnesota. Is that correct?


Adrian Chavana  00:30

Yeah, I am. I’m here in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which is about an hour west of Minneapolis, St. Paul. So, yeah, I’d like to acknowledge, you know, that I’m sitting here on the ancestral traditional and contemporary homelands of the Dakota and Ojibwe people. Many who have become my close friends and colleagues since I’ve been here for about six years, doing my graduate studies at the University of Minnesota. And in fact, you know, Minnesota itself is a decoder word. It’s actually a phrase, Mnisóta Makhóčhe, which means “land where the water is so clear and reflects the sky.”  So a lot of people don’t realize, but most of the 50 states us come from, from the Native people, either their language or something dealing with their geography, or their culture, like Tejas, right? It’s like a Caddo word that means friend. So yeah, I’m excited to talk through sort of the things that we talked about in the in the pre interview discussion. And it’s been a long time coming, like you said, we go back a long time back to our MEChA days at the university. So yeah, thanks for having me.


Iris Rodriguez  01:53

Wow, it has been a long time. I think we both been on quite a journey because we, we met in MEChA, and crossed over. So yeah, it’s been a long journey. We met in MEChA, but a lot happened over this past, what, 15-20 years from stepping into the radical world of, I don’t know, Chicanismo I guess you could say, which is like a pathway to where we are now. I mean, we’ve been through ceremony…there’s been so many layers to this. So I guess we’ll just take it from the top.  So really, really quickly. I’d love to read your bio.  Adrian is a PhD candidate at the Department of History at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, is a native of Houston, Texas, and he specializes in American Indian and Chicano History. His work on tribal resurgence in Texas puts American Indian history Chicano history and US Mexico Borderlands history into a direct dialogue. His dissertation, Reclaiming Tribal Identity in the Land of the Spirit Waters that that belong for will take a nation is a case study of the modern day descendants of the 18th century Mission Indians of San Antonio, who are in the midst of a tribal resurgence and actively pushing back against narratives of Coahuiltecan extinction. Adrian employs Indigenous research methodologies, including centering Indigenous ways of knowledge and being of service to the Indigenous communities that inform his work, along with traditional historical methods of archival research.  Adrian, I’d like to ask you a few questions: I know that you’ll be defending your dissertation this December and officially completing your PhD. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey, your cultural heritage, how you got to this point?


Adrian Chavana  04:00

Yeah, so I’ll start sort of with the immediate grad school, and how I got to Minnesota, and then I’ll sort of take it back to my childhood. So yeah, so, about six years ago, so I was teaching middle school in the barrios of North Houston, where I’m from, I’m originally from Houston, Texas. And I taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade, which is like Texas history, world history, and US history. And I did that for about eight years. And as you know, you know, things are going from bad to worse in terms of what teachers can teach, right. And for those of you that don’t know, for example, the  state of Texas just passed a law outlawing critical race theory in K-12, which in reality most K-12, teachers don’t teach critical race theory. But that’s another way of sort of skirting around the issue of actually teaching the truth or just what really happened in history, right, really basic historical facts that that are a challenge to, really, to the white supremacist structures that inform those kinds of decisions.  So after about eight years of teaching middle school history, I decided that I really love history, I really love teaching history. And what I really wanted to do was original historical research and write and, and teach at the university level. So I got my application in order, which we can talk about that later, sort of demystifying the application process for graduate school, because it’s way different than applying to undergraduate program. And then I got accepted, and I prayed about it, I had a ceremony for that, for my for my journey, that would be my journey for the next several years here in Minnesota.  So at that going away ceremony, I had so many so many relatives show up inside of that teepee that it was triple-rowed, if you can believe it, three rows inside of that teepee. And that’s how much love and support and community was behind me to send me away. And I told them that I would be going up north to do this to do this work. And that I would be bringing all of them with me. You know, that’s what we do. We leave the ladder down, and then we bring our relatives with us. And so this mezcal necklace was actually given to me at that going away ceremony. And it’s sort of been one of my protectors since I’ve been up here doing doing the work that I do. And so yeah, that’s sort of the immediate of how did I get to Minnesota?  But going back, like, as I said, I’m from from Houston. My parents are from the Rio Grande Valley. So my mom is from Laredo, which I guess technically is not the Valley (they get upset that we say that.) And my dad was born in Corpus Christi, but his parents are from McAllen, which is on the you know, one of the border towns like Laredo. And so I would grew up going to Laredo and to McAllen to visit my grandparents as a little kid for the holidays. And you know, that Tejano identity was something that was instilled in me at a very early age. My dad would jam Roberto Pulido and Little Joe on Saturday mornings, just blasting down in music as we cleaned the house and, and then my grandma, on my father’s side, so my paternal grandmother, that Amenia Balli de Chavana.  So she, ever since I can remember, she would always tell me about these land grants and land grants and the land grants. And I was like, six or seven. And I’m like, what the hell are you talking about? You know, I had no idea. And she would tell me, you know, this side of the family, they come from nobility, their standard Spanish nobility that were nobles, and they had land grants. And I was just like, yeah, okay, whatever. And so well, it turns out that the Balli family is one of the five largest Spanish land grant families in South Texas. In fact, when I would teach Texas history, my family was in there, my name is sort of one of the first Tejano families. But as I started growing up, obviously, we don’t, I don’t look like a Spaniard, right? So I knew there was like another half of the equation that was missing. And I knew we were ethnically Mexican and ethnically Tejanos. But you know, I always wondered, well, what does that mean? What is what is the complete story here?  I remember actually taking Texas history when I was in seventh grade. And I remember her name, the teacher’s name was Mrs. Perry. And she would talk about the way she pronounced the Co-wheel-tekan Indians, and the Co-wheel-tekan Indians. And there was sort of this real you know, one of those pictures of the guy in the loincloth with the spear, and the narrative was that they were extinct. And they, you know, and I remember thinking, What do you mean they’re extinct? Like, where did they go what happened to them? And so that that actually just stuck in my brain, you know, as I went through to my formative years and thinking about that all the time.  And so, by the time I got to high school, I started to get more, more radical and involved in local politics. I remember one of the first marches that I went to, was a march against police brutality where they had killed, HPD had served this warrant, they went into this house, and they probably had the wrong house if I remember, and then ended up like emptying like, multiple clips into this guy. And, you know, I was like, 14-15 years old, marching for justice for this man that had been wrongfully killed at the hands of HPD. And that really sort of set my path of radicalization. And then I go, you know, turns out my brother was going through the, our garage one day, and he found this box of, of newspaper clippings and buttons, and they were newspaper clippings of my father and when he ran for city council under Raza Unida in San Marcos. And so my parents were involved with the Raza Unida party. They never talked to us about it, they never spoke to us about it. So that activism and that radicalism was already in our DNA. That’s just how it came to be.  So by the time we got to the university, then my brother was in MEChA so I joined MEChA and then got involved with, you know, immigrant rights struggles, the police brutality, but also reaching out to high school students.  We would have these, we call them the Raza Youth Conferences, and we would bring them in. I remember, a couple of years, we had a captive audience, we were working with a charter school, and they were like, “make these kids just sit in detention for the whole Saturday doing nothing.” We’re like, why don’t you just let us come in, and then we’ll have a whole workshop, a whole day of workshops for the students. So we did that for several years. And, you know, we provide information about how to apply to college, financial aid and scholarships. And then of course, you know, the cultural aspects of life. Fantastic, right, Aztec dance and how to, you know, the basics on how to read the calendar, and history and culture and that sort of thing. And then, so, it was through those, through those types of activities that I started to meet, you know, people around Texas that would participate in, you know, sweat lodge ceremonies, temazcales they would, they were involved in la danza Azteca. And then eventually, people involved with the Native American church.  One person in particular, an elder by the name of, Conrado Acevedo, he started taking me around to all these meetings, Native American church meetings, all over Texas, really, a lot were in San Antonio. And so I just started expanding. I was at that time in my early 20s, and sort of expanding my network of people involved in this in this Red Road. But I would look around and I would see, this is something distinct, something very rooted, and a deep, deep history, that, that nobody’s written about, that nobody studied. And so, you know, as, as a practitioner of those Red Road ways, you know, I actually met Karla Aguilar along the way. And actually, she just recently told me this story a few years ago, when I was back in San Antonio doing my my dissertation research. But that it was at one of those, after one of those encounters for the for the high school youth, that we had a sweat lodge. And then I invited her because she was a speaker at that at the Raza Youth Conference. And so that was the first time she went to a sweat lodge. And, and from there, she’s sort of, you know, sort of finding her own way on the Red Road.  And then, so, you know, as I as I get into graduate school, and I started thinking about my project, you know, I knew I wanted to do something with the Indigenous people of Texas, the Tejano people, the Coahuiltecan people, the medicine, the Red Road, the peyote way. And I’m formulating these ideas, which has really not been written about, at least in a scholarly way. I mean, there’s been a history of a Native American church, but, you know, I think it sort of excludes Tejano people, right? And, you know, we’ve played a large role in the peyote trade, even as dealers. One of the first, actually the first federally licensed peyote dealer, was a Tejano woman, right? And so Grandma Cardenas they call her, and but even before that, she was, her family, generations of her family was in the peyote trade, selling it as a medicine like that.  So Karla’s like, hey, I’m working with this tribal community here in San Antonio. And they’re, they’re lineal descendants of the San Antonio Mission Indians who were who built and lived in the San Antonio missions in the 18th century. And she’s like, “would you like to meet them?” I said, sure, I’d love to meet them. So like that. And then she arranged a meeting. And I went, they had a nonprofit organization with a really nice office there, just on the west side of San Antonio. And I presented myself I took some gifts for them. And I just explained who I was, and what I was doing. That would I would be really interested in working with them to sort of do a case study a tribal history of the San Antonio Mission Indians and their modern day descendants. So that’s how the project really came to be.


Iris Rodriguez  16:29

Could you tell us a little bit more about the struggle at the Alamo? You know, I’m a San Antonio girl. So I have stories that my mother told me that our people are buried there. But you know, very few of those details actually made it through all the layers of colonialism and colonization that generations of our people have gone through, right. So that’s one of the bits that I know, but then it stops there. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Nation and why the struggle that they’re going through, with the Alamo, with this body of work is so important, not just to San Antonio, but to Tejanos and Native peoples from the Southwest in general?


Adrian Chavana  17:23

My research has taken me to several traditional archives, right, including Our Lady of the Lake, old Spanish missions archive, the Spanish colonial archive, which is curated by Bexar County, the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, the tribal community at the center of my study, they themselves have maintained quite, quite the archive. And so it’s my understanding that I’m the first person that they really opened up their archive, their tribal archive, and trusted me in that way to spread but also at the same time, protect traditional knowledge. So it’s a pretty big responsibility and I don’t take it lightly. So let me see if I can share this screen here. One second.


Iris Rodriguez  18:29

I’d also like to make a quick note for those that are just starting their journeys, and are getting interested in their lineage and in going to dig for their roots, these archives that Adrian is mentioning, they’re not all curated in one place.  It is a huge amount of work that he has gone through to pull together the tidbits of facts and names and dates and information. So I commend you, Adrian, because like I barely scratched the surface with my own family, and I literally had to go to these little pueblos, to the first Catholic Church to look at these records that are falling apart. So this is critical work. Thank you so much for doing that.


Adrian Chavana  19:15

Yeah, that’s a good point, Iris. In fact, going back to my grandmother, who wrote that book about the Balli side of my family. She had, I think, an eighth grade education. But genealogy was her life’s work. And she had the oral histories of her family as a starting point. So I would recommend to people who are…(this is the big thing now, especially with so much technology at our fingertips, right?)…that are you know, colonialism, colonialism…oh man, it did a number. It did what it was supposed to do. And so now we have these little fragments of history and oral history and identity and culture and food ways that we’re trying to piece back together.  […]I have one of my colleagues, he’s a Genizaro scholar. So they’re the, they’re basically the mestizo people of New Mexico. And he said in one of his books we’re both the slave and the slave owner. And so that’s a heavy colonial legacy that we deal with as mostly mestizo people. And so, yeah, you’re right, it’s been a lot of work. They’re not all in one place. They’re scattered. At one point they were scattered literally all over the world, including the Archivo Nacional, Archivo de las Indias, something like that. The Archive of the Indies, which was located in Spain. So this is the imperial archive, that these Spanish chroniclers, as they’re writing about Native people, they’re sending it back to Spain and putting it into the official imperial archive. And to as far south as Guanajuato, down there, which was like the legislature or the juridical home, I guess you can say. In other words, if there was, let’s say, a trial in what’s now South Texas, eventually, it would (in colonial South Texas) you would wind up you know, being heard in Guanajuato because that’s where the judicial…I don’t know what you call it…area. You know, the court system that was in charge of colonial South Texas was somewhere down there. But yeah[…] Oh, and one more note about archival work. The last thing that I was doing was that I had three rolls of microfilm (I don’t know if you remember old school microfilm) shipped to me from San Antonio just a few a few months ago, and I happen to live across the street from a library. So un-digitized. I spent the last several weeks digitizing three rolls of archival film, and I’ll show some of those records in a minute, which spanned from like 1703 to 1860. Right. So yeah, it’s been quite the archival journey, but also, you know, guided by oral histories, and really good people and archivists along the way that have been really helpful, too.  So, I see, we’re already kind of 30 minutes into it, I want to be respectful of your time, so I’ll try to get to some of the highlights here, what I found in my research.  So here in certain in the encircled area, you can see what is the traditional homeland of the Coahuiltecan people. And that river there, that we now call the Rio Grande River, that was just another river. And so archaeologists tell us that they they settled in that region about 11,000 years ago. And as a result, there, the multiple languages that were spoken in this region. Their language, what […]linguists call language isolates, which means they’re not related to any of the other, I think it’s 53, American Indian language families. They’re standalone languages that are not related to any of the other American Indian languages. And that’s a result of being in one place for so long. So like other parts of the world where you see language isolates, that means that those particular people have just been there for a long time.  And so this picture on the left, that was sort of the picture that I remember from my Texas history text textbook, when I was in seventh grade, and the narrative was. And what I’m pushing back against through my work is that they simply went extinct. […]So here’s putting in a bigger context: they’re not, they weren’t living in an isolated vacuum. And so just as we think about like nations with with diplomats and diplomacy, so two are the Coahuiltecan people engaged in this diplomacy with with their neighbors, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa…later the Lipan Apache…and the Comanche would come.  I think one of the important things to notice is (on the right) as you see a sort of a Texas history textbook map, and if you notice, the demarcation at the Rio Grande River, it just stops there. And then if you look at the Mexican (from a Mexican textbook on the left) the picture on the left the same thing, look at the Rio Grande. And the demarcation just stops there. So, both countries I think their national histories and their national stories….I think I’m complicating the those national narratives by engaging in this sort of research and thinking about a transnational people that continue to be a transnational people that have always been a transnational people. And so that’s kind of sort of putting it into a bigger perspective.  Here’s a map of all the Spanish missions that were established in Texas between 1632 and 1793.  And then this one, sort of with the most central importance to the missions in San Antonio, this was established in 1702, just south of the Rio Grande River, Mission San Bernardo, what some historians have called the gateway to Spanish Texas. And so I think there was actually three missions at this complex, this is one of those three missions. It’s still standing, as you can see this modern day photograph of the actual structure.  One thing that I think scholars haven’t really done too much of, and which I’m beginning to do in my work, is to put all of these colonial projects into a larger conversation, right? Because not only do you have the Spanish, but you have the Portuguese, you have the Dutch, you have the English. And [when] we think about the reservation system…we think about the Indian Wars of the plains, the Great Plains, and the Lakota and the Dakota.  But really what nobody has really written about or thought about, at least that I have seen is, if you think about it, the Spanish were like the first imperial force in what we now call the Americas. And the first thing that they did in those Caribbean Islands was to round up the Native people and basically put them on a reservation. Removal, Indian removal, began in 1492, not in 1830. And so they were called, they call these basically, what was the term for them? (The name escapes me, and I’m sure it’ll come. I’m sure it’ll come back to me.) But essentially, they were, I would argue, the first reservations in what we call the Americas.  These missions served…reducciones…that’s what they call them. So they call them reducciones. So in places like the Caribbean and Central Mexico, these reducciones were basically reservation towns where Native people were removed to, they were not allowed to leave that particular town. And the missions in colonial Texas served the similar purpose. They were established to detribalize Native people to round them all up. And by detribalize, I mean, make them forget which particular Indian nation are they from. Because if you go back to that map of the Coahuiltecan territory, within that Coahuiltecan territory, there were hundreds, hundreds of distinct, Coahuiltecan bands, each with their own language, each with their own cosmology, each with their own traditions. So they would put them in these missions.  And a lot of them didn’t, we’re not able to, even though they were all Coahuiltecan people, a lot of times they were not able to communicate with each other because of those language barriers. And so Coahuiltecan or Pakawa (and actually, as I’ve also learned, it’s called Pakawa, sometimes it’s also called Tejano) that’s one of the languages that became the sort of the lingua franca of the missions in Texas, so that they could communicate And so these missions were established under Spanish colonial law. They were established as semi autonomous Indian pueblos. And so what does that mean? It means that, that the Franciscan missionaries were sort of the legal trustees. But within the mission system, the Native people had had a form of, of self government like we see in modern day reservations. And so this is why I keep making those connections that nobody’s really talked about.  So at the time, there was the Pueblo Cabildo, which was the, the mission town council. So it was a council of the mission residents. And they would make, they would sort of make communal decisions about the daily life. And then at the head was the gobernador, or the governor. And so the Spanish are drafting these titles. I’ll call the gobernador, Pueblo Cabildo Mayor. And it created these dual parallel systems, which was called La Repubblica los Indios, and La Republica de los Españoles. And those two ways of life were not allowed to cross. But of course, history is messy. And they did. And so that’s sort of, especially in the late mission era, where we begin to see a lot of intermarriage between the mission residents and then the Spanish soldiers, because they didn’t bring their womenfolk with them a lot of the times. And so I’ll just show this one here.  Probably the most famous mission in San Antonio without a doubt is Mission San Antonio de Valero more commonly known as the Alamo. It was established in 1718. And a lot of those folks that established the mission we were just looking at, moved from there. So just south of the Rio Grande with the Spanish missionaries to establish Valero and then soon thereafter, for more missions were established, each one again, being considered a semi autonomous Indian Pueblo under Spanish colonial law, each with its own gobernador and its Pueblo Cabildo. And, of course, the goal is to detribalize again, and then convert them to Catholicism.


Iris Rodriguez  31:58

I have a question. So this period that we’re looking at, is in the 1700s. But this is like, what, 100-150 years after contact, after we’re part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade[…]do you know, roundabouts the date of first contact in the written record and for Texas?


Adrian Chavana  32:29

Yeah, that’s a good question. And, and thank you for for stopping me. That’s good. Please stop me at any time. So that the viewers, you know, I’m sure if you have a question, they also have a question.  So the first European contact in Texas was Cabeza de Vaca. And he was shipwrecked right off the coast of what’s now Galveston, and most of his crew died. But him and a handful of survivors were able to survive and they were only able to survive, because they were nursed back to health by the Karankawa people who nursed them literally nursed them all back to health. They weren’t I mean…they were shipwrecked on Galveston, they were gonna die. And so it’s interesting, because I’ve heard some scholarship about that event. Long story short, he wanders through South Texas for like 10 years. So he meets multiple bands of Karankawa and Coahuiltecan people, some of which are welcoming, some of which not so much, understandably. Eventually, after 10 years of wandering around lost in South Texas, he makes it to some Spanish settlement. I think he was already way out there in New Mexico or something like that, then eventually makes his way back to Mexico City, then back to Spain, and he writes his memoirs. So you can read those memoirs of Cabeza de Vaca, which is the first European contact in Texas, but that’s early, that’s in the 1500s or something. 150 years before they would come back.  And so if you read his chronicles, he says that he became a medicine man amongst the Karankawa. But what historians have argued is that that was sort of his interpretation of what was happening. And I think he was planting the seed, basically letting them know they were going to come back and they were going to come back with crosses. So basically Texas goes on unsettled by the Spanish for the next 150 years or so and then in 1690, all of this that would become San Antonio starts drumming up again. And that’s that’s sort of how that happened.  But that’s a good point because Texas was sort of like the last frontier of the Spanish Borderlands and the north. And, and because of that, you know, the, the, the Indians in the missions, were able to subvert a lot of the stuff that they were not able to subvert in Central Mexico, for example. The peyote ceremony, in fact, I argue, in my dissertation, that it’s because of the missions not, not in spite of them, that the peyote ceremony was able to not only survive, but to spread to other other Indians, in particular, the Lipan Apache, who would also…a handful of them would come to live in the missions. And then from there, of course, you would take up, you know, further north, the Tonkawa, and the Lipan Apache and then eventually, you know, Quanah Parker, and then well, that’s already taken us into the 20th century.  But yeah, they would go into the end…and because of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 in New Mexico, which was basically the one, of the first major, if not the first major Indian uprising in the Americas. They ran the Spanish out of town in New Mexico, and they kept them out for like, 12 years. But that’s because they were so excessive in stamping out Indigenous spiritual ways and Indigenous identity that Native people revolted. So when they got to Texas, that was 1680 was the Pueblo Revolt, 1718 Valero was established. They said “weve got to do something different.” So it became sort of the end[…](you can find this in the archives, the archival record) became the official policy to look the other way, when the Mission Indians in San Antonio would go into the woods and have their peyote ceremonies. And so the father’s realized we got to give some sort of concession, or we’re going to have another revolt like we did in New Mexico. And so that’s one one interesting thing of as much as this Catholicism is sort of being shoved down their throats, they still find these ways to resist and to maintain their Native identity. And in fact, the mission becomes this mission, I argue, in my dissertation that their new identity. Because this thing about Indian identity, it’s not static. It never has been static, we’re always changing. We’re always evolving. If not, we don’t survive, we don’t survive as a people. So that’s sort of my argument about Coahuiltecan survival, we still carry those seeds. We still have that DNA. We’re still here. We didn’t go anywhere. We, we speak a different language. And we have different traditions and customs. But that’s like half of our DNA, if not more. And so I’m getting carried away. But yeah, that’s good.  […]So here’s just something, if you go to the missions today, the lower four missions are, are curated. They’re a part of the San Antonio missions National Historical Park. And so each one of them has a small museum. And this just shows the daily life of the Mission Indians, as they’re becoming acculturated into Spanish society. The idea was, once they would become Christian, they would get baptized. They would get indoctrinated in the Catholic ways, and then they would become what the Spanish called Gente de Razon. So they’re no longer Indios Barbados. Now, they’re people of reason. And so they were the subjects of the Spanish crown, and then they’re able to leave the mission system and become subjects, regular subjects of the Spanish crown. So that was the ultimate goal of the mission system.


Iris Rodriguez  39:23

I’d like to interject here also. So I in my own, personal research, I learned that once they were converted, they were given Christian names, often the surname of the father or padrecito that converted them. And so Rodriguez, which is my last name, there’s Rodriguez everywhere in San Antonio because there was a father or padrecito going around town, but converting people. And so I think there’s also a lot of confusion about that, you know, some people who haven’t done this work are like, “Oh, well, I’m Spanish. My last name is this….” But there’s reasons why we ended up there.


Adrian Chavana  40:03

Yeah, exactly. In fact, that’s what what we’re going to look at these three documents here. And we’re going to see how Indios were literally written out of existence. In fact, this is what scholars call a paper genocide.  And so in, in my dissertation, I do what we call a lineal descent study. And so basically, I started with a modern day descendant of the Tap Pilam and worked backwards building on the incredible work that he had already done. But you know, as scholars, we have to verify this stuff, we can’t just take it at face value. And so this was […] this is the the ancestors of one of these contemporary mission descendants. And the name of a couple escapes me, forgive me. (Forgive me, I’m already like working on my last chapter. This is the one I just wrote. And so I’ve kind of put it away for a minute till I get back to the revisions.) But this is some of the archival showing some of my archival work.  So you have a couple here a married couple. And basically they entered the mission system in I want to say the 17…I want to say the 1770s. Okay, so that’s where  we first see them in the archival record? Let’s see…Diaz…okay. I can see it here. That so this is the Diaz family, that Diaz family and it’s a married couple with several children.  So in the 1793 census of, I believe this is San Juan, they’re listed as Indios. Okay. One year later, they’re listed as…there’s no casta listed. So it doesn’t say Indio, doesn’t say mestizo, doesn’t say Espanol. But in 1796, the couple is listed as Espanol.  So between 1793 and 1796, through the written archival record, they’re able to whiten up from Indios to Espanoles. And so they’ve become gente de razon. And then, you know, again, this is sort of that paper genocide. And we think about that, again, in more US terms, then to think about it in the Spanish colonial terms is, I think, something that nobody’s really thought of […] Let’s see. Let’s see if I can read it.  It says Manuel Diaz, Indio. Officio: labrador natural del venado. Casado con: Gertrudis Gonzales, India, natural de esta villa. So it tells you, you know, not only does it have, lists them, but it gives all of this biographical data. And so we really begin to see who these people are, what professions are they working in? Where were they born? How long have they been at the missions? And a lot of times with these old mission families, you see them. And that’s just where they’re from. That “natural,” it means “born at.” So you see that through that list that we saw, she was born in that mission, right? That’s how long those families generations. And I think this is sort of, maybe not the typical experience, because most people would, would come and go.  They would use the mission for food for safety from the you know, particularly from the Comanche and the Lipan Apache, and as a place to just hang out for a while. And then they would bounce, they’d go back to their traditional ways of living, and then come back in for a little bit. But this particular couple, I followed them across decades in the San Antonio missions, and I found that really interesting. Um, do you have any any questions or any thoughts about this?


Iris Rodriguez  44:10

My mind is blown. My mind is blown. Wow. So honestly, like we have been…they’ve been writing us out of the record multiple colonial […] what is the terminology?…occupiers, settlers, multiple colonizers have tried to write us out. This thing with Texas history and critical race theory…this is not new. We’ve been at this for generations at this point. Wow.


Adrian Chavana  44:48

Yeah {…] and so […] going back to that piece that you said about, “Oh, well, I’m Spanish, I’m Spanish. This is why, right. Because that’s what they were told. And so in other words, the project worked. The colonial project worked the way that it was supposed to.  So the Mexican War for Independence 1810 through 1821, basically marks the end of the mission system in San Antonio. And so what ends up happening, actually going back to this, this, this is the later period. What ends up happening in this later period is that we see a larger mixture, intermarriage between the Native people in the missions and then the Spanish soldiers and then just the regular townfolk, who started renting rooms and the missions at that time. And so the decision was made by the friars to secularize the missions. And what that means is that there would no longer be a mission, but they would be a regular diocese, controlled by a local archdiocese. And the idea was like, okay, everybody’s like Spanish. Now we’ve done our job, we’re closing up shop.  And I mean, you’re talking over the course of, let’s see, between 1718 and 1823. At any given year, within those five missions, there was about 250 residents, Indian residents. So over that time, you’re talking about 1000s of indigenous people, not hundreds, but 1000s of indigenous people that have gone through through this missionization process. And so, so they leave the process, they say they’re speaking Spanish, you know, they’re Catholic, at least outwardly Catholic. And, and then then we see this uprising, right? Mexican independence, a revolt against the Spanish colonial order. And the final secularization of the San Antonio missions, in which they’re basically incorporated as by the city of San Antonio, are what would become the city of San Antonio. And they become sort of these regular diocese within within the local archdiocese, all of them except San Antonio de Valero right, which would sort of experienced a different historical trajectory.  After this time, 1821 more or less, it would no longer be used for religious services, it was occupied first by the Spanish colonial army, and then the Mexican army and then the US Army, then the Confederate Army, then the US Army took it back after the Civil War. And then, of course, you know, in between, there’s the Texas war for Independence, and the Davy Crockett, and, and all of those guys, but the lower four missions…here’s the sort of putting all of this into perspective:  What’s happening is a lot going on, I’m not going to get into all of that, I want to take it back to the mission communities, as those missions were secularized and incorporate it into what would become San Antonio. All of these mission communities were still there, and they would continue to be there. In fact, here’s a Tejano family, at what I believe at Mission…is to be Mission Espada, around 1880. I’ve never seen this photograph anywhere else. So this is another one of my archival finds.  And as you can see in the background is their traditional jacal which is the traditional Coahuiltecan home. And so, I mean, this is 1880…this is decades after secularization. We still see Indian families. I mean, you know, of course, physical features are not necessarily an indication but look at them, right? I see some Indians in front of their jacal at the most basic level. And so by this time the Anglos start coming in, and taking political control. And they don’t know what to make of us, you know? So they start sorting out who’s Indian and who’s Mexican. And they label these, you know. And so, people like for example, the Comanche, right, who, at in the 1880s still maintain these huge swaths of land, through military control, they had rifles, they had guns, they were like the fiercest warriors on the on the Southern Plains. They become marked as enemies of the state by the US government who’s now in charge of Texas. And so they’re hunted as, as enemies of the state by the US Army. And eventually they’re, they’re removed to Oklahoma. Um, other people like the Lipan Apache, some of them would flee south to Mexico. Some of them were also removed Oklahoma. But largely what happened in the case of the San Antonio Mission Indians because of their acculturation into Spanish society. The US government says, Oh, we’re just going to call them Mexicans. […] So they were largely spared from being hunted by the US Army, they were largely spared from removal. And they were just living as, as ethnic Mexicans or Tejanos.  By the time the Anglos take political control, and they continue to live in these mission communities. Here’s a mission Hispanic classroom in 1941. And so here’s one of the tribal elders that I’ve I’ve conducted many oral histories with the tribal members of the Tap Pilam, Raymond Hernandez is one of them.  So what what sparked this sort of resurgence that we begin to see in the 1960s, in the 1970s. For the mission descended communities, they knew their history, but they became sort of invisible, right to the rest of maybe even to the rest of San Antonio, and certainly to the rest of the outside world. Well, what happened in the 19, late 1960s, were that this archaeologist, her name is Margaret Shultz. She’s still alive, believe it or not, and she’s like, 90, I want to say 94 years old. I’ve had the opportunity, the honor of speaking with her a few times by phone. In fact, I was gonna go interview her right before COVID hit. I had my plane ticket booked to California where she lives now. And then COVID hit and I had to cancel the trip. […]She’s an elder, I didn’t want to put her in that jeopardy. But she spearheaded these excavations in the late 1960s.  This work was commissioned by the Archdiocese, they wanted to do some renovations at the mission at San Juan Capistrano. So they get their approvals from the state, and this archaeologist Margaret Shultz started digging up all of these remains. And so what was customary was to bury the mission residents right on the mission grounds. That whole Plaza that you see there, the entirety of that Plaza, was an Indian cemetery, you know. And so because they were baptized, and they were mission residents, they were sort of entitled to those Catholic burials. And then, of course, surrounding this whole complex with these huge stone walls, defensive walls, and those that were not baptized were buried on the outside of those walls.  So as she’s digging up these remains (and that’s a lot of information. But I’m just trying to tell as much of the main story here that I can) as she’s digging up these remains, people from the community start coming up to her and this is 1968. This photo says 71. But the digs began in 68. And they said, “What the hell are you doing? You’re digging up our ancestral remains. Who are you? What are you doing? What do you want here?”  And then she writes in her official archaeology report, that they claim descendant, descendency, from those mission Indians that she’s digging up. And so this sort of began, mind you (to put all of this in a larger context): it’s in the height of the Chicano movement. It’s in the height of the American Indian Movement, the Red Power Movement, and all of these anti globalization, Third World Liberation Movements that are going on across the world. And so this community because of these digs, they become visible again, in defense of their ancestral remains, and it sparks what what archaeologists often times as labeled a visible Coahuiltecan resurgence. And so for decades, they would struggle. There’s the Chicano and Red Power movements. One footnote is that this was a time before NAGPRA (NAGPRA as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and Indian remains were basically treated as objects rather than the than the ancestral remains of living human beings. So I think it was 1990, because of Indian activism that NAGPRA was passed as a federal law. And so what you see here you see two tribal consultants consulting with some archaeologists, I guess I don’t have the exact caption. But this is sort of to show what the spirit of NAGPRA now entails constant consultation with federally recognized tribes if you’re going to start doing archaeological work. But those things were pre NAGPRA. And so the remains ended up as objects of study. And they were shifted around and boxes from from museum to university, throughout Texas for 30 years.  So that these descendants come together. And you can see here on the left 1986 article, “250 year old bones of Indian, buried in mission chapel.” So that was like, their first little victory…was in 1986. And it’s because of their activism that they were able to get some little bit of remains back. But then in 1999, they were able to get almost all of the remains back, which which represent the remains of about 125 people. And so they conducted a re burial ceremony on the grounds of Mission San Juan Capistrano. And I think I have that one look…  So here’s the newspaper article from that one. So here’s the Tap Pilam (this was 1999) conducting a major re burial ceremony after decades of activism to get those remains from from San Juan back. And here on the left, you can see the tribal community, Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation. And on the right is a reburial marker, where they re buried those ancestral remains in 1999. So, so that sort of brings us to the most contemporary struggle, and that’s at the Alamo.  And so the same thing, the Alamo was one of these five colonial missions. And long story short, there’s a major renovation project, it’s been in the works for several years now. And they broke ground in, I think it was 2019. They came across human remains and Tap Pilam was telling them all along this is an Indian cemetery. The archival record tells us that about 1300 people were buried, not just underneath the church, but what’s now the entirety of Alamo Plaza. And I’ve seen those archival records, and they’re, I mean, they are extensive. You’re talking about, you’re close to 1300 people, in detail, you know, just like some of the records that I showed you before. And so I think I think I’ll close this here. And then…so that’s that’s where we are right now. They filed a federal lawsuit, that Tap Pilam filed a federal lawsuit against the Alamo Trust Incorporated, the Texas General Land Office, and the City of San Antonio, basically arguing that they were left off of the human remains protocol. They were not included in the human remains protocol, even though and I would argue it’s not in their lawsuit. But I would, I would add, even though there have been several NAGPRA studies that recommends consultation with the Tap Pilam, because they are lineal descendants of the San Antonio missions.  The weird thing is that, interestingly enough, NAGPRA is not at play here. Because it’s not on federal or tribal lands, and the project is not receiving federal money. So basically, you know, the Alamo Trust Incorporated, the people that maintain the Alamo now, they…they’re free to (and they did basically) come up with their own human remains protocol. But here’s the good part: so that’s sort of been settled, just very recently. Long story short, that Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, they’re building a brand new museum at the Alamo. And you’re talking about like the state (I’ve seen the plans) state of the art museum, that’s going to include the story of the mission Indians. And there’s tribal members that are sitting on that museum committee to inform the museum planners. And then they recently asked me to, the tribe recently asked me to sit on that committee as well. So I was pretty honored and excited about that. As that work goes forward to be able to tell those stories of the Indigenous people of San Antonio at the Alamo.


Iris Rodriguez  59:56

As a youth so called Xicana youth…I grew up being told I was Mexican American, but I’m not Mexican. I’m from there. And on my I’m light skinned, my dad side’s from Cuba. But interestingly there he’s mixed race. So he’s white, Black, he’s Spanish, African, and Indigenous. But we found out that the Indigenous parts come from Southeast Texas. So, in my dad’s generation, like, he brought the bloodline back to Texas and married my mom who’s Native from there. So I’m like my own stolen sister.


Adrian Chavana  1:00:38

And I don’t know if you’ve how much research you’ve done, but I know that they would take Native people to the Caribbean as slaves. Yes, that’s, that’s a whole other untold story. Really.


Iris Rodriguez  1:00:51

That’s a whole other story. But it came it surfaced in my life, and in my experience. Had I known this growing up as a child, I think it would have been, I would have, it would have been transformative, right? It took a lot of digging, it took a lot of resisting the dominant narrative. Being called radical in a very bad way, you know, because we’re pushing up against that White supremacy. And all that colonialism that now is so deeply embedded, that it’s even lateral violence that we’re up against. It’s not just the oppressor, the colonizer.  If there was one piece of advice for that you could offer to a youth from this area…on why it’s important to not only like dig into your roots, but affirm your Indigenous heritage? What would you say?


Adrian Chavana  1:01:55

Yeah, that’s a good question. And I think, I think you framed it well, right, especially considering these attacks. So it’s a really exciting time for us, for those of us that are Ethnic Studies and Indigenous history and those kinds of fields, because we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of academic departments that people fought for, you know, my parents generation, and the 1960s. So, for example, here at the University of Minnesota, I believe it was the the first, if not one of the first American Indian Studies departments. And that was…we celebrated that 50th anniversary just a few years ago. Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Studies Department here at the University of Minnesota. And so these are being played out across the nation, right, basically, that period between 1968 and 71. So the 50th anniversary is 2018 to 2021, right around there. And so we’ve seen, what we’re seeing now is what we saw back then, is that White backlash, and that White backlash can be very corrosive, you know. It’s very, it’s intended to, to claw in, and to not let go. They’re clinging on to the last vestiges of white supremacy. And that old saying, knowledge is power…it really is, it really is. And when you start to understand who you are, to where you came from, and to do the work.  And that’s what I was going to get back to, you know, some people really don’t even know where to start. And I always say, start with your oldest living relatives, and sit down with them, and turn on your phone. These phones, their microphones are really good. And not only that, you know, then you have a digital record, you can upload that you can spit out a transcript. So sit down with your with your oldest living relatives, and get their oral histories. And that’s a good starting point. And then work your way from there to maybe your parents or your grandparents or however it goes down the list. And then then you can really start getting into that archival record and genealogy and connecting the dots.  One of the most craziest tools that’s out there is free. It’s it’s Family Search, and it’s an it’s administered by the Mormon church who have the most extensive genealogical records. It has something to do with their religion, something about getting into heaven or something but they literally go all over the world. They go into into the archives, they scan digital records, and then they upload them to their system. So you can go create your (it’s called Family Search) create your free account. And it’ll start linking your family tree as you plug in information. And as it does that it pops up all these archival documents, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, newspaper clippings, it’s just crazy stuff. And so, now more than ever, with with these renewed attacks on on Ethnic Studies (and really just what’s basic historical fact) basic historical record that they don’t want us to teach. That was honestly one reason why I had to get out of K-12. You know, I just couldn’t take those constraints anymore. So that’s what I would recommend to young people. Go talk to your elders, sit down with them, record it.


Iris Rodriguez  1:05:53

Yeah. Document, digitize disseminate. Those are the three D’s of Digital Resistance [by Xica Media.] Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s so important. Because we represent this digital generation. We have such privilege, we can go backwards to do the work like you’re doing, like literally dealing with paper thin, like brittle records, digitize it, and leave that footprint for the other generations. So that all that work to bridge those gaps is done, it’s so important. Wow.


Adrian Chavana  1:06:28

We have a rough estimate of let’s say, and then and then, you know, engaging in things like this, like this was, I hope, you know, I hope it gets out there for people to see. It’s good to reconnect with you it is we go back so long. And we each took our own journey, and then we’re coming back. And then we have to start reconnecting with people like this, that are doing the similar work to right. So thank you again, for the opportunity.


Iris Rodriguez  1:06:55

Well, thank you, as well, for reconnecting for staying on the path, right, because I feel like it was a generation of us that that were MEChistas. We got into ceremony and we’re still here, we’re still doing the work. But it’s almost like going back to even retake our oral storytelling millenary tradition, just to have these conversations with each other, to talk about what it means to be in this skin now and do that work, or to remember what it was not to know. And what we do with the information that we do know now…how it’s useful for the present and for building, working towards a more just future for everybody.  So thank you so much for your time, there’s always an open invitation, if you want to talk. The space that I’m curating is not for any kind of monetization, this is purely informacion, para la gente. Folks that are…just a lot of folks don’t have connections to elders, who don’t have connections to their, their peoples…and so they Google search things like what does it mean to be Coahuiltecan? Or what does it mean to be Indian from San Antonio or Indian from Texas or whatever the query is. Folks are looking online, so the more digital footprints that we leave on the internet, the more chance we have with connecting with those people and are getting in that same space to rebuild all those layers of disconnect that we’ve been born into.


Adrian Chavana  1:08:30

And that’s good, that’s good to hear that because, you know, sometimes, you know, I wonder what is all this for? It’s not easy, right? Like, these spaces that I’m in and academia, they’re not built for us. In fact, they were built to exclude us. And so the ways that I’ve had to fight to be in these spaces and to be taken seriously, it’s…I’ve prayed a lot just to get to this point. And then I think about, well, I hope somebody’s out there, getting something from it. And you know, even if it sparks that much of a conversation, then it’s all worth it, you know?


Iris Rodriguez  1:09:08

That’s right. Probably one last thing I’ll add is that, like, right now, I’m doing a lot of work around environmental justice. And working in an Indigenous circle has brought up so much for me. As someone from Texas, I’ve had to really dig deep and get into my own questions of identity, culture and the remnants…bringing out the remnants of those stories that have survived in my lineage. And one of the places that I reach (or that I get to) is that for me, Xicana was a bridge. Now, I know my name, and my kids know their names. We know where we come from, and it’s a different conversation. And so where we’re at now is, okay, we have our names. So we go, we’re trying to dig into the culture to get that language because that language ties into a whole worldview. And a life way of being with nature that at this particular moment is absolutely critical. […]Even though we have a lot of is memories and lifeways erased, some of them still live. And a lot of the ways that we work with plants, or that we engage with Nature, are things that are can help re store balance in this modern imbalanced world that we live in, that is deeply needing that in to step behind the Indigenous leadership to guide them to restore that millenary conversation that we used to have as human beings in this beautiful natural world. So this is like steps to something bigger. And so it’s so critical. And I so appreciate the work that you’re doing for all the generations, because you’re bridging gaps. And I’m so proud of you. Just thank you so much for showing up to do that work.


Adrian Chavana  1:11:15

Thank you. And thank you for having me again. I look forward to how you how you put this out there and maybe we’ll have another conversation another time.


Iris Rodriguez  1:11:24

Okay, everything will follow up. All right. Bye bye.

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