What State Officials Don't Want Arizona School Children To Know

In Lak Ech, Panche Be & Hunab Ku: The Philosophical Foundation for Raza Studies

For the next few months, the world will be focusing on
Arizona's SB 1070 - the state's new racial profiling law. However, in this
insane asylum known as Arizona, where conservatives have concocted one reactionary
scheme after another, another law in particular stands out for its embrace of Dark
Ages-era censorship - the 2010 anti-ethnic studies HB 2281 - a law that seeks
to codify the "triumph" of Western Civilization with its emphasis on
Greco-Roman culture.

Unless it is blocked, HB 2281 - which creates an
Inquisitorial mechanism that will determine which books and curriculums are acceptable
in the state - will go into effect on Jan 1, 2011. Books such as Occupied
America by Rodolfo Acuna and Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, have
already been singled out as being un-American and preaching the violent
overthrow of the U.S. government.

Both laws are genocidal: one law attacks the physical
presence of red-brown peoples; the other one, our minds and spirits.

Lost in the tumultuous debate regarding what can be taught
in the state's schools is the topic of what actually constitutes Ethnic/Raza
Studies.

In general, the philosophical foundation for Raza Studies
are several Indigenous concepts, including: In Lak Ech, Panche Be and Hunab Ku.
Over the past generation, the first two concepts have become fairly well known
in the Mexican/Chicana/Chicano communities of the United States. The third
concept, Hunab Ku, is relatively less well known, though it actually forms the
foundation for In Lak Ech - 'Tu eres mi otro yo - You are my other self' and
Panche Be - 'to seek the root of the truth' or 'to find the truth in the
roots'. As explained by Maya scholar, Domingo Martinez Paredez, Hunab Ku is the
name the Maya gave in their language to the equivalence of the Supreme Being or
the Grand Architect of the Universe (Hunab Ku, 1970). Such concept is an understanding
of how the universe functions.

These three concepts are rooted in a philosophy based on
maiz. Maiz, incidentally, is the only crop in the history of humanity that was
created by humans. Also, the Indigenous peoples of this continent are the only
peoples in the history of humanity to have created their/our own food - maiz -
a food so special that it is what virtually unites not simply this continent,
but this era. These three maiz-based concepts, in effect, constitute the
essence of who we are or who we can be; human beings connected to each other,
to all of life and creation. Part of creation; not outside of it. This is the
definition of what it means to be human. While these concepts are Indigenous to this continent, they also
exist generally in all cultures.

Despite the destruction of the many thousands of the
ancient books of the Maya (along with those of the Aztecs-Mexica) by Spanish
priests during the colonial era, these Maya-Nahua concepts were not destroyed,
nor are they consigned to the past. Today, they continue to be preserved and
conveyed via ceremony, oral traditions, poetry and song (In Xochitl - In
Cuicatl
) and danza. And they continue to be developed by life's
experiences.

In Raza Studies, these ideas are designed to reach those
that are unfamiliar with these concepts, including and in particular,
Mexicans/Chicanos and Central Americans and other peoples from the Americas who
live in the United States and who are maiz-based peoples or gente de maiz,
albeit, sometimes far-removed from the cornfield or milpa. Despite their
disconnection from the fields and despite the disconnection from the planting
cycles and accompanying ceremonies - and in many cases the ancestral stories -
their/our daily diet consciously and unconsciously keeps us connected to this
continent and to the other original peoples and cultures of this continent.

In part, this effort to understand these concepts is an
attempt to reclaim a creation/resistance culture, as opposed to viewing themselves/ourselves
as foreigners or merely as U.S. minorities. It is also an affirmation that
de-Indigenized Mexicans/Chicana/Chicano and Central and South American
peoples are not trying to revive or learn from dead cultures. Instead, as
elders from throughout this continent generally affirm, these cultures have
never died and neither have these concepts; peoples have simply been disconnected
from them. That is one definition of colonization and/or de-Indigenization. The
effort to understand these and similar concepts and to embrace and live by
them, is also one definition of de-colonization. And to be sure, it is elders
from throughout the Americas that have for more than a generation reached out
to these communities, imploring them/us to "return to our roots."

Asserting the right to this knowledge that is Indigenous to
this very continent is an effort to proclaim both the humanity and Indigeneity
of peoples who are matter-of-factly treated as unwelcome and considered alien
in this society. HB 2281 bizarrely treats this knowledge as "un-American."

Additionally, asserting the right to write modern amoxtlis
or codices - is also part of an effort to proclaim that all peoples - including
de-Indigenized peoples - also have the right not simply to repeat (or recreate)
things ancient, but to produce their/our own living knowledge. And in the case
of Arizona - with red-brown peoples continuously under siege - these concepts
can help us bring about peace, dignity and justice, with the potential to
create better human beings of all of us.

The above is a synopsis of Amoxtli X - The X Codex, 2010, Eagle Feather Research Feather
Institute, by Rodriguez, an assistant professor at
the University of Arizona, in collaboration with several authors.

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