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How the Chicano Movement Championed Mexican-American Identity and Fought for Change

September 18, 2020 in History

By Karen Juanita Carrillo

Chicano activists took on a name that had long been a racial slur—and wore it with pride.

In the 1960s, a radicalized Mexican-American movement began pushing for a new identification. The Chicano Movement, aka El Movimiento, advocated social and political empowerment through a chicanismo or cultural nationalism.

As the activist Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales declared in a 1967 poem, “La raza! / Méjicano! / Español! / Latino! / Chicano! / Or whatever I call myself, / I look the same.”

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales speaking outside a police building to members of his organization, the Crusade for Justice, 1969.

Leading up to the 1960s, Mexican-Americans had endured decades of discrimination in the U.S. West and Southwest. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo put an end to the Mexican-American War in 1848, Mexicans who chose to remain on territory ceded to the United States were promised citizenship and “the right to their property, language and culture.”

But in most cases, Mexicans in America––those who later immigrated and those who lived in regions where the U.S. border shifted over––found themselves living as second-class citizens. Land grants promised after the Mexican-American War were denied by the U.S. government, impoverishing many land-grant descendants in the area.

READ MORE: Hispanic Heritage: Full Coverage

Not White, But ‘Chicano’

Throughout the early 20th century, many Mexican-Americans attempted to assimilate and even filed legal cases to push for their community to be recognized as a class of white Americans, so they could gain civil rights. But by the late 1960s, those in the Chicano Movement abandoned efforts to blend in and actively embraced their full heritage.

By adopting “Chicano” or “Xicano,” activists took on a name that had long been a racial slur—and wore it with pride. And instead of only recognizing their Spanish or European background, Chicanos now also celebrated their Indigenous and African roots.

Leaders in the movement pushed for change in multiple parts of American society, from labor rights to education reform to land reclamation. As University of Minnesota Chicano & Latino Studies professor Jimmy C. Patino Jr. says, the Chicano Movement became known as “a movement of movements.” “There were lots of different issues,” he says, “and the farmworker issue probably was the beginning.”

Chávez Leads Fight for Farmworkers’ Rights


UFW co-founders Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, 1968.

César Chávez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Native Americans Used Fire to Protect and Cultivate Land

September 18, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

Indigenous people routinely burned land to drive, prey, clear underbrush and provide pastures.

When naturalists like John Muir first entered the Yosemite Valley of California in the 19th century, they marveled at the beauty of what they believed to be a pristine wilderness untouched by human hands. The truth is that the rich diversity and stunning landscapes of places like Yosemite and other natural environments in the United States were intentionally cultivated by Native Americans for thousands of years. And their greatest tool was fire.

“Fire was a constant companion, a kind of universal catalyst and technology,” says Stephen Pyne, an emeritus professor at Arizona State University, author and fire historian.

Yosemite itself was routinely burned to clear underbrush, open pasture lands, provide nutrient-rich forage for deer, and to support the growth of woodland food crops to feed and sustain what was once a large and thriving indigenous population.

“If you look at the early photographs of Yosemite and you see the great big majestic stands of oaks, you would be led to believe that those are natural,” says Frank Kanawha Lake, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, wildland firefighter and Karuk descendent.

“But those trees are a legacy of indigenous acorn management. Those are tribal orchards that were managed for thousands of years for acorn production and for the geophytes or ‘Indian potatoes’ that grow beneath them.”

WATCH: Mega Disasters on HISTORY Vault

Seasonal Wildfires vs. Cultural Burning

Thick smoke from multiple forest fires shrouds iconic El Capitan, right, and the granite walls of Yosemite Valley on September 12, 2020 in Yosemite National Park, California.

The hugely destructive seasonal wildfires that consume millions of acres of forest across the Western United States every year are mostly triggered when lightning strikes a stand of trees that’s dangerously dry from late-summer heat or drought.

While those types of natural fires have always existed, indigenous people have also practiced what’s known as “cultural burning,” the intentional lighting of smaller, controlled fires to provide a desired cultural service, such as promoting the health of vegetation and animals that provide food, clothing, ceremonial items and more.

“[Cultural burning] links back to the tribal philosophy of fire as medicine,” says Lake. “When you prescribe it, you’re getting the right dose to maintain the abundance of productivity of all ecosystem services to support the ecology in your culture.”

Examples of Native American cultural …read more

Source: HISTORY