Fierce

This Indigenous Woman Is Reminding Tourists to Pay Indigenous Artisans What They’re Worth

With everyone gearing up to travel for summer vacation, one Twitter user wants to give tourists an important reminder. Reyna Chabeli took to Twitter to stress the importance of paying Indigenous craftswomen what they’re worth.

Retweeting a tweet she made in November 2018, Chabeli shared a picture of her grandma Abuelita Chona and the gorgeous bordado she stitches by hand.

“As an Indigenous woman, she will only get paid $5 for this work, front and back.” Chabeli continued, “Most people can’t afford to start their own clothing business so they are literally the artists behind the embroidery. Natives return the finished pieces back to the merchants who pay them poorly.”

The bordados are as gorgeous as they are functional — combining skill and art in each piece. Craftswomen spend several hours working on each embroidered item; using a mastery that is honed over a lifetime. For Indigenous artisans, embroidery is just as much a connection to their history and heritage as it is their source of income.

However, the profit made on these Indigenous works often don’t match the labor put into creating them. Moreover, the artists themselves see even less of a payback.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

For example, Abuelita Chona is a Zapotec woman who lives in a small Oaxacan village three hours away from the nearest large town. It’s exceptionally expensive and difficult to regularly travel back and forth to sell her goods.

Instead, women like Abuelita Chona work for merchants, receiving garments, embroidering them and usually sending them back. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give these Indigenous artesanas much financial freedom. They’re only given a fraction of what their work is worth without regard for the labor they put in. These women also have no recourse to ask for more.

This isn’t the only way that the work of Indigenous artists is undervalued. Tourists play a major part as well.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

As Chabeli explains in her retweet, tourists who travel to places like Oaxaca diminish the income of Indigenous artisans even further. In haggling and attempting to get the lowest price for these wares, visitors cut into the take-home profit of the workers.

Worried about missing a sale opportunity, many artisans will just agree on that lower price. However, the merchants who initially provide the items are in charge of the money. Ultimately, they will get every cent they feel entitled to at the detriment of their workers. So, thrifty buying might save tourists a few bucks but it will do so by taking money out of artisans’ pockets.

Another layer to this conversation is the lack of value placed on Indigenous labor.

Twitter / @_levyana

As Chabeli and other Twitter users point out, tourists are willing to spend their money on luxuries and travel. It’s because we place value in these things. We feel like they’re worth the investment because we desire them. We never try to haggle at the airport or resort because we respect the value attached to these things.

Yet, when it comes to locally made goods — especially goods made by Indigenous folk — we think we can get a better deal. We desire the products for their beauty, uniqueness but don’t always want to pay a fair price. In trying to get a lower price for those souvenirs, we’re showing Indigenous artisans like Abuelita Chona that we don’t value them.

Of course, not every tourist is out to lowball Native artisans when they hit up local markets. Still, Chabeli’s reminder is justified.

Twitter / @reynachabeli

We can support women like our talented Abuelita Chona by buying local and. buying Indigenous. Also, by following Chabeli’s example and calling out problematic treatment of wage distribution. What we are given in return is definitely worth price.

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The ‘Sistine Chapel Of The Amazon’ Was Just Discovered In Colombia And It’s One Of The Largest Rock Art Collections Ever Found

Culture

The ‘Sistine Chapel Of The Amazon’ Was Just Discovered In Colombia And It’s One Of The Largest Rock Art Collections Ever Found

Robert Alexander / Getty Images

All too often artists from Latin America – particularly Indigenous artists – are overlooked for their contribution to the world’s art scene. This isn’t just true of today’s artists but also dating back hundreds of years.

White-centric art critics have praised the works of artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, while ignoring the immense contributions that artists on the other side of the Atlantic were making hundreds or even thousands of years earlier.

Now, as a nearly 13,000-year-old rock art collection is discovered by researchers deep in the Colombian Amazon, this long lost history of Indigenous art is finally having its moment in the spotlight.

Researchers discovered one of the world’s largest and oldest collections of ancient rock art.

One of the world’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art has been discovered in the Amazon Rainforest. Researches are hailing it as the “Sistine Chapel of the Ancients,” and it’s guaranteed to bring a new level of attention on both the art and civilization of ancient America.

The rock art paintings, which number in the tens of thousands, are said to have been created up to 12,500 years ago. Perhaps even more staggering, they’re painted on well-worn cliff faces that stretch across nearly eight miles deep in the Colombian jungle. Experts say that because of the size of the site, it will take generations to study.

Although news of the rock art is just being released to the public, it was actually discovered last year as part of a film by the BBC: Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon.

The site is in the Serranía de la Lindosa where, along with the Chiribiquete national park, other rock art had been found. The documentary’s presenter, Ella Al-Shamahi, an archaeologist and explorer, told the Observer: “The new site is so new, they haven’t even given it a name yet.”

The discovery highlights the lives of some of the very first people who called the Americas home.

The team who made the discovery is a joint British-Colombian group, funded by the European Research Council. Its leader is José Iriarte, professor of archaeology at Exeter University in the U.K. and a leading expert on the Amazon and pre-Columbian history.

He said: “When you’re there, your emotions flow … We’re talking about several tens of thousands of paintings. It’s going to take generations to record them … Every turn you do, it’s a new wall of paintings.”

The team found it hard to keep it a secret given the level of excitement and emotion they felt upon the discovery.

“We started seeing animals that are now extinct. The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you’re looking at a horse, for example. The ice-age horse had a wild, heavy face. It’s so detailed, we can even see the horse hair. It’s fascinating.”

The images include fish, turtles, lizards and birds, as well as people dancing and holding hands, among other scenes. One figure wears a mask resembling a bird with a beak.

It’s estimated that the thousands of pieces of rock art are nearly 13,000 years old.

Although no official carbon dating has been carried out to gauge the age of the art, experts are estimating its age based partly on the depictions of long-extinct ice age animals, such as the mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant that hasn’t roamed South America for at least 12,000 years. There are also images of the palaeolama, an extinct camelid, as well as giant sloths and ice age horses.

These animals were all seen and painted by some of the very first humans ever to reach the Amazon. Their pictures give a glimpse into a lost, ancient civilization that many of our ancestors call on as part of our history.

The site is deep in rebel-controlled territory so it’s unlikley to become a tourist hotspot anytime soon.

Credit: Luis Acosta / Getty Images

The site of the discovery, the Serranía La Lindosa, sits deep in the rebel-controlled Colombian rainforest. As the documentary notes, Colombia is a land torn apart after 50 years of civil war that raged between FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government, now with an uneasy truce in place.

The territory where the paintings have been discovered was completely off limits until recently and still involves careful negotiation to enter safely.

Al-Shamahi said: “When we entered Farc territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time. Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile.”

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This App Can Tell You The Indigenous History Of The Land You Live On

Things That Matter

This App Can Tell You The Indigenous History Of The Land You Live On

Erika Reid / Getty Images

Wondering about the Indigenous heritage of your city, your neighborhood or even your street? Well, there’s an app for that. Native Land, a Canadian nonprofit, has mapped Indigenous territories across North America, South America, and parts of Europe and Asia. 

For all the selfish and banal uses of social media out there, sometimes developers use the geolocative capabilities of smartphones to make the world a more inclusive place.

This app looks at the history of a place and reveals how it was originally organized by the traditional owners of the land before processes of colonization and dispossession reshaped the maps of what is now known as the Americas. This app is digitizing Indigenous history, so next time you step on indigenous land you can quietly acknowledge it. 

Native Land is the app to better understand the extent of Indigenous communities around the world.

Whose land are you on? Start with a visit to native-land.ca. Native Land is both a website and an app that seeks to map Indigenous languages, treaties, and territories across Turtle Island. You might type in New York, New York, for example, and find that the five boroughs are actually traditional Lenape and Haudenosaunee territory.

On the website and in the app, you can enter the ZIP code or Canadian or American name for any town. The interactive map will zoom in on your inquiry, color-code it, and pull up data on the area’s Indigenous history, original language, and tribal ties.

The project is run by Victor Temprano out of British Columbia, Canada. A self-described “settler,” he said that the idea came to him while driving near his home—traditional Squamish territory. He saw many signs in the English language with the Squamish original place names indicated in parentheses underneath. He thought to himself, “Why isn’t the English in brackets?”

As a ongoing project, the app clearly states that: “This map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in question. Also, this map is not perfect — it is a work in progress with tons of contributions from the community. Please send us fixes if you find errors”.

Ready to find out more about the place that you call home? Click here

Remember: maps are only political and not set on stone, so the map you know was drawn by colonial powers.

Credit: Native Land

Contrary to what we might believe, maps are hardly set in stone. In fact, how a territory is named and where boundaries sit is evidence of historical processes through which lands are taken.

Just look at this map of North America and think about all the blood that has been shed by the original owners of the land just so we can identify only three countries today. There were hundreds of discreet ethnic groups in Canada, Mexico and the United States before the European superpowers of Britain, France and Spain landed and created havoc. 

But the past is past, right? So why should we care? Well, we should care, a lot, particularly in today’s political climate. Let’s take this map of the California area as an example.

Credit: Native Land

So why is becoming familiar with the indigenous past of place important? Because it tells us that the borders that exist today are practically a human invention rather than something set in stone, and that unless you have Indigenous heritage, we are all guests.

California, for example, was populated by a wide variety of peoples who were conquered by the Spanish or assimilated into mestizo culture through religion and language. So when white supremacists get all “America for the Americans” on Brown folk, they should be reminded that the land is and has always been Indigenous.

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