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Connection, Language Liberation, and the Native Basque People

That the Basque people are Native (or Indigenous) is a fact, as it is for other culture groups in Europe. Most of today’s scientific community agrees that we Basque people left Africa 75,000 years ago and came here to this corner of Europe about 40,000 years ago, when a climatic period known as the climatic swing or warmer climate oscillation of Göttweig drove back the Würm glaciation, ending the Pleistocene epoch. The ice melted and cleared a large part of the great Ural steppe. Once the frozen mountain passes opened, we came to and settled down where we find ourselves today—our Pyrenees Mountains, on the west coast of southern Europe.

We have lived here since that time and have created our own culture, worldview, language, and belief system. According to the international Native-Indigenous agreements, these are the characteristics that define a group of people as Native-Indigenous. Being a Native person not only means staying on the same land for a long, long time; it’s also something more complex, closely tied to the relationship with Mother Earth and the Universe.

Understanding and experiencing themselves as living beings connected to the Universe, Mother Earth, and each other is the way our ancestors could situate themselves and flourish on this planet, within this galaxy, and in the universe. It was how they understood the world, respected it, and passed it on to us. They thought that everything around them had a soul and was alive and therefore was worthy of respect. They gave names to everything they saw and heard and also to what they could not see but were affected by. Everything had an explanation and a place in the sacred circle of life, in a kind of web or field of interconnection from which it was not prudent to separate oneself.

For us Basque people, this way of staying on the planet is simply part of our existence as human beings. For us, who have not been as exposed to imperialism as some other people, it is a way that we co-live and understand each other. It doesn’t separate us from the rest of humanity or make us special; it helps us have resources for being united with everyone and everything, because all human beings come from connection and union.

CONNECTION WITH THE OUTSIDE

I remember my father telling me about his parents, about birds and plants, about the night and the stars, about the universe, as things that were part of his everyday world where he was another actor trying to follow the natural laws of the web of connection. He taught me that nothing in the world was unnecessary. His words are still alive in my mind and have a special meaning to me, linked to his openness and honesty. He used to say that the more knowledge you get, the more humble you become; and the more you get, the more you share. I remember once he divided the only strawberry from his garden into seven tiny pieces, for all of us to have a part. Everything and everyone was of the same importance to him. I cannot remember a single lie coming from his mouth. I would say that he was trying to communicate to me that “we am, and I are.”

CONNECTION WITH THE INSIDE

When I first came to this world, inside my mum´s belly, my body was not more than the union of two cells. During the first weeks, my heart was not yet formed so my mum’s heart pushed her blood into my little body. I was fed by her food and had her same blood. Her heart and her blood, nutrients, hormones, vitamins, and so on, were mine. I could say that in some way I was my mum and she was me, until I evolved more of my own organism, like my bones, veins, brain, and other organs and tissues.

I still have feelings from and memories of this early time. It was a time of connection and union with a female energy that was welcoming me fully and giving me its life. That connection was my first contact with life and reality, and it affected me and my whole picture of what being a human being meant, completely and forever.

I have been able to keep that connection with my mum and my inner world. It has prepared me to respond to my environment from a connected position, as long as distresses have not interfered. It has made this world a welcoming world to me, instead of a scary or mistrustful one. I am not scared of life and neither of death. (Mum thinks she will meet all her relatives and ancestors once she leaves this life.) I am only afraid of how my distress (the chronic material I got as I grew up that I was not allowed to discharge) affects other people, the environment, and myself. But this will get better as I keep on leading and teaching.

I think that this primitive connection remains in all people and that only distresses make it difficult to remember, feel, or acknowledge. Perhaps my living in a small country that has not been so badly corrupted and ruined by capitalism makes it easier for me to stay aware of the connection, to feel it in every expression of life on this planet. When white leaders from the United States or northwestern Europe come to my country, they always remark on this. Growing up in a Native community has facilitated the connection, but I think that all people come from people who were Native at some time. As we’ve been creating and inhabiting hierarchical, classist social structures, we’ve been separating ourselves further and further from nature, until now it can be difficult to notice our connection and the interconnectedness among all living beings.

LANGUAGE LIBERATION

The religious-scientific system has helped to disconnect people from their surroundings and their living and non-living loved ones by introducing misconceptions, laws, and moral punishments (the Inquisition, sin, demons, witchcraft, sacrilege, burning at the stake, torture) for those who have tried to hold on to their Native customs that did not coincide with the new system—with slavery, competition, materialism, guilt, penance, individualism. More recently, “mental health” system oppression has been used to identify, institutionalize, and eliminate people who have refused to abandon their Native customs and non-capitalist values.

We are going to need all the abilities and capacities we have if we want to decolonize our minds from the huge capitalist hierarchical invasion we suffer from, both inside and outside, and we are discovering that language liberation is an important tool for this. In my workshops, people have understood the importance of discharging on our “lost” languages, roots, and cultures. Working on how we’ve been forced to forget our ancestors and past cultures in order to assimilate into new oppressive structures is key to reestablishing the visibility of, equality of, and connection among all people, including in the International RC Communities.

A language is not only a tool for communication but also a space—a space where the intelligence of the people who speak that language can evolve, develop, and show itself; a space where they can create their best ideas; a space where they can be themselves and really live, without having to hide part of who they are; a space where they can claim their birthright to be visible and in the center of everything; a space that is not risky anymore but safe; a space that is their home; a space where they can acknowledge and appreciate their ancestors who made it possible for them to exist; a space where they don’t have to collaborate anymore with oppression and assimilation; a space of honesty, integrity, and dignity, without confusion. In short, a space of liberation.

The more we are understanding and using this space, the easier it is for people who do not have English as their native language to be visible and centered. Their minds, their thoughts, their perspectives are more on the scene, so other RCers are noticing these people in ways they have never noticed them before. I have met white people who have never heard the Indigenous people in their Communities speak in their Indigenous language. When I do a demonstration with these Indigenous people and they speak in their native language to the workshop, the whole Community changes. There is new insight and awareness, and important re-evaluations come after the whole group discharges.

DISCONNECTION

Disconnection—the official and normal way our oppressive societies socialize people from the beginning of their lives—has left us humans living more from fear than from trust or connection or love. We fear, distrust, and flee topics that do not fit in the capitalist scientific parameters we have internalized or that have to do with belief systems different from ours or people who hold different beliefs. We also perceive the world, other people, and ourselves from a place of separation and division. We cannot feel and understand that all people are our people, that we are safe on this planet because we are together and united.

Due to the fear, we (mainly unconsciously) reproduce the oppressive system inside our minds, which reinforces our distresses and fears. This distorts our picture of the benign essence of the world and humanity, our sense of our unlimited power and the huge force of our intelligence and love. It also places us in a poorer position to think about our leadership and spread it.

Sometimes we can be afraid of life and at the same time afraid of death and can try to live a full life between these two fears. This is not what we deserve at all.

Living with disconnection and fear has resulted in a strong pull toward assimilation (the denial of one’s own roots, customs, and languages and the adoption of the imposed culture in order to survive). Many Indigenous and Native cultures have been invaded, annihilated, and assimilated, leaving people with few options but to collaborate with the capitalist system that is oppressing them.

The further away from nature and the more immersed in the capitalist system a culture or a group becomes, the more it can find the Indigenous culture worthless and strange. I think most owning-class and upper-middle-class people would find the connected and humble Native lifestyles unbearable. White owning-class people in imperialist or strongly capitalist countries can feel the most resistance to these lifestyles, because they are the people who have been most forced to separate themselves. They sometimes try desperately to find connection by taking actions for nature instead of re-finding connection through relationships with humans.

Disconnection makes us forget that real separation does not exist among us, that it has never existed, and that it never will. It is false that we are divided, and it is unnatural not to feel united. “The others” is a wrong concept. We are one. If a very young human being could say what she prefers, she would clearly say, “Oneness; no otherness at all.” I believe we all came to this world with that strong idea in our cells.

NOT WHITE OR PEOPLE OF COLOR

That we Basques are not white people is something that some groups may find complicated and that even we can find complicated at first. This is due to how strongly oppression confuses all of us.

At present we Basques are not people of color, as we were when we left Africa. After we left that continent, 70,000 years ago, we underwent several genetic mutations to a lighter skin tone so that we could adapt to our new environment, surrounded by snow. We are Native people, neither white nor of color. And the same applies to other Native groups of Europe.

The Basque people are the people with the highest frequency of the genetic constitution R1b (96%)—which is related to the skin color mutation we experienced once we left Africa—but the others are quite close to us genetically: Irish people (90%), Welsh (89%), North Portuguese (81%), Galician (81%), Asturian (81%), Catalan (79%), Scottish (77%), English (75%), Dutch (70%). So I would say that all of us form a solid, close sisterhood—that we have lived under a distressed veil of false separation.

OUR NATIVE LIBERATION AGENDA

Our liberation agenda is not the same as the agenda for white people or for people of the global majority. It is our Native-Indigenous liberation agenda, and at its core is fully understanding the effects of genocide-ethnocide and assimilation on us and freeing ourselves from them. It cannot be moved forward well within the agenda of people of the global majority or of white people—though some parts of those agendas can be common places to work together at particular times.

Our liberation as Native Indigenous people will come from understanding that our inner connection, and our external connection with everyone and everything, is there, intact, and that we can find it by discharging the hurts that we have suffered from having stayed for the last hundred years in this corner of the world, linked to Mother Earth but exposed to imperialism and capitalism.

These hurts have been determined by the historical, social, and geopolitical situations we have lived through, making us Basque people unique and different from other Native people—not better, or more important, or weaker, or less hurt but simply different—and our liberation different from that of other groups.

One of our first tasks should be reclaiming the unity among all Basque Indigenous people—the ones who can remember that they are Native; the ones who, because of terrible repression, have hidden this identity; and the ones who were not given adequate information and lost the awareness of this part of themselves.

At the same time, we can reclaim our sisterhood and brotherhood with the rest of the Native people of Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and America.

We must also reclaim our close contact with white people and recognize the importance of our relationships with them, along with working on the effects of being exposed to their imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, and genocide-ethnocide.

Because we have survived in part by agreeing to be oppressed, confused, and assimilated into white culture and its hierarchical structures (slavery, servitude, feudalism, colonialism, capitalism, imperialism), we have developed patterns of behavior closely related to these structures of domination. Some Native Basque people have collaborated with the imperialist or colonizing structures and received material benefit from them.

Under threat of torture, murder, and other violence, we have often denied our Basque Indigenous identity, culture, language, and mythology, which has left a deep impression on our minds and hearts and from which we need to recover.

MORE ABOUT THE BASQUE PEOPLE

Not every Basque person understands her Native identity in a re-emergent way, and what other people think they know about our people is often not accurate. This is because false propaganda against us has been greatly disseminated—to secure our submission, assimilation, or extinction and to spread fear and mistrust of us so that the rest of the world does not cooperate with our liberation.

There is evidence that we have traveled the world for the last 30,000 years and settled in different places. (It’s not unusual to find Basque place names in many parts of the world.) There are theories that we may have traveled to North America in as early as 30,000 BCE.

We have supported many other Indigenous peoples in their liberation and are part of a broad network of Indigenous peoples that help each other survive and achieve justice.

Today we are also part of an industrialized country, though this does not change our society into a simply capitalist, imperialist, or colonizing one. It’s good that we have technology and industry, if we make rational and intelligent use of it. But it has also led many Native Basque people to forget or turn their backs on our Indigenous essence and the human skills we’ve developed to live in connection and cooperation. Our small Basque owning class promotes capitalism and manipulates the working class into aspiring to become middle class and collaborating with the oppressive system.

Part of our liberation work is to see how capitalism is slowly devouring us, how we are losing our roots and the connections among ourselves and with Mother Earth, how we are being assimilated and forced to accept capitalist systems as a problem that has no solution, or as the only road to progress.

OUR OPPRESSOR MATERIAL

Like all other human beings, we carry oppressive patterns. Some of these have come from growing up among white people and the wars, genocide, male domination, and greed that the patriarchal structure has imposed. We hurt people, and we harm each other. If we don’t discharge, we can be very harsh to people and even kill to defend what we believe is ours (the language, land, people).

It is essential that we face and discharge this oppressor material. A fundamental step is to be proud of who we are now—to understand that we are fine and do not have to change—and to be proud of having been surrounded by white people and having come to love them, respect them, and include them in our lives. Without this step, our liberation work cannot be complete. It is important for reclaiming a logical, inclusive, re-emergent, and enduring Nativeness.

OTHER NATIVE GROUPS IN EUROPE

Once we have discharged on the relationships among us Native Basque people and with white people, then perhaps our Native liberation agenda can have points in common with other Native groups in Europe on the way toward their liberation. But still, being Native in Basque Country has different connotations from being Indigenous in other European places like Ireland, Russia, Finland, Scotland, Friesland, Sápmi, Wales, Lapland, Cornwall.

We have only just crossed the entrance to Native or Indigenous liberation in Europe. We will have to discharge for a long time in our original communities about what it’s meant to be Native to Europe before thinking about coming together as European Indigenous groups. After we have understood the basic facts about our own heritage and history, and have discharged the hurts specific to our Native communities at home, we will probably be able to suggest a more appropriate name for the people of Europe: Native or Indigenous, non-Native, migrant, nomadic, permanent, and so on.

Many people who consider themselves white could begin to see their roots from other perspectives and realize that maybe fewer people are white than they had thought. If they witness the liberation work of other Indigenous people, perhaps they’ll begin to reclaim their roots—their cultural, geographical, and linguistic heritage—and start discharging on the devastating effects on them of imperialism.

ALLIES

We Basque people want to live, think, love, and lead as who we are: Indigenous Basque people. This involves doing things in our Native way, which is different from what we have usually known and what has been more valued, supported, and upheld. We want other people to understand this different (no better) perspective and richness and to support our liberation, which is also the liberation of all human beings.

At the same time, we would like to actively support the liberation programs of other oppressed peoples here in Europe and in the rest of the world. It is time to act from what we have already understood: we all are united; we all are one.

Thank you for your precious time.

Maitasunez eta esker onez (With love and appreciation),

Xabier Odriozola Ezeiza

Regional Reference Person for Basque Country, and International Commonality Reference Person for Languages and Interpreting

English translation corrected by Marcy Morgan

(Present Time 183, April 2016)


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00