So I’m labeled as a Mexican. Are Mexicans considered Native Americans?
Love this question…because my grandma (hota) always says, “We’re all the same people.” I think what it comes down to is that every ethnic population is diverse and at some level is interrelated. This applies to different tribal groups that come from indigenous ancestry, especially for indigenous people in the Northern, Central, and Southern Americas. We’re all on one land mass that can be traveled somewhat easily. That means we’ve all been influenced in some ways by each other’s culture, society, and sometimes language.
I remember I was doing a study abroad program in Chile, and the family I was staying with in Chillan, took me down south to spend a holiday with their family. When we were driving into town, I saw adobe (mud) houses, like houses Zuni used to have (I’m from the Zuni Pueblo in NM). They also had mud ovens outside for cooking bread, like they do in Zuni and other Pueblo tribes. I was tripping out!
Then later on T.V. we were watching a parade they were having in Santiago for their Independence Day holiday, when I really started tripping out. They had all the typical parade floats, and music, but they also had groups of indigenous people from Chile walking in the parade too. And guess who I saw walking down the streets? People from Zuni. For real! When I described to the grandmother of my host family who my people were, she served me some oven bread, and said, “Todos somos la misma gente”, meaning “We are all the same people”. I was trying to tell her, “No you don’t understand…”, but she waved me off with her hand and got me more bread. I couldn’t wait to tell my family back home.
Then when I went home and was telling my hota the story about how I saw these people who lived in the same types of houses, ate the same food, and dressed exactly like Zuni’s do, she waved her hand at me and said, “Yeah, we are all the same people.” I couldn’t believe it! Again, I was trying to tell her,“No you don’t understand! I just saw a group of Zuni’s living in South America!”
Then my grandmother told me the our creation story, which I have heard many times, about how we came from the center of the Earth and emerged in the GrandCanyon. Only this time she told me about a group who decided to separate themselves and headed down South instead of settling in Zuni…AND THIS WASTHE GROUP! I HAD FOUND THEM!
So, I’m not sure if this answers your question, but from my perspective you can look at it in one of two ways. 1) Like the elders in my story – we are all the same people, or 2) by government classification which we are responsible to answer to. The government sees these groups as two distinct people.They gather this information through demographic and census surveys in which people are asked to identify themselves by race; in this case either ‘AmericanIndian/Alaska Native (non-Hispanic)’, or ‘Hispanic’.
I always like to see things from different perspectives…but it’s up to you. 🙂