Spirit Waters, a look at water regulation and Indigeneity in Austin, Texas--Hayden Juroska, Anna Jaud, and Deanndra Moya
How is the relationship between land use and representation in culture affected due to UT Austin having possession of Indigenous remains that the Miakan-Garza Band believe are their ancestors? What ecological and socio-cultural impacts does this have on the Miakan-Garza Band?
UT Austin holds possession of thousands of Indigenous remains in a warehouse at the J.J. Pickle Research Center. In 2016, the Miakan-Garza tribe requested three sets of remains believed to be their ancestors. The request was denied by UT in the summer of 2020 on the basis that they were unable to find any culturally identifiable relationship with the Miakan-Garza tribe. How is the relationship between land use and representation in culture affected due to UT Austin having possession of Indigenous remains that the Miakan-Garza Band believe are their ancestors? What ecological and socio-cultural impacts does this have on the Miakan-Garza Band? How Indignenous Peoples’ are represented through the use of land directly impacts society’s view on Native lives and the livelihood of these Natives. As we’ve discovered in many instances in ethnographies, peoples’ political and metaphysical views and understandings of land, and how we use it, have effects on how the objects of those views are treated. For example, the belief that solving the issue of litter pollution is a matter of reducing plastic-use individually prevents us from tackling this issue by acknowledging its root in political-capitalist incentives for plastic production. We would like to discover the ways in which the use of land from indigenous perspectives can be reclaimed and exposed, what people’s relationships are with it, and how it affects them. How have environmental abuses such as slow violence been used against Native People and impacted their quality of life? We aim to answer these questions by conducting an interview with people with indigenous history from the Texas-area, such as Dr. Mario Garza and Maria Rocha, leaders from the Miakan-Garza tribe.
As the podcast progresses, we introduce some background information concerning UT Austin and the Miakan-Garza Tribe, as well as the institutions and policies associated with the request for the three remains. We then discuss the perspective of UT Austin regarding their statements on the request. Moving on, we discuss the Indigenous perspective. In this section, featuring an interview with Dr. Mario Garza and Maria Rocha, the implications and consequences of exhumation and reburial are discussed. We hear what these things mean to this tribe and their personal thoughts and feelings on the request. We then analyze and connect our observations and research to some of the themes introduced in Environmental Anthropology. Land representation and Indigenous knowledge are touched upon in our analysis. The Miakan-Garza tribe has a reciprocal relationship with nature and believes land has an active, essential, and mutable role in people’s lives. The associated links were used to formulate and sculpt this podcast. Concepts, background information, and the timeline of events that are featured in the podcast come from these various sites.