by J.X. Villegas
Photo: No Turning Back, image courtesy of the author.
We extend to you revolutionary greetings from the year 2118. We send this to you from our compound, hidden deep in the Treaty 6 Territories, what was once known as Northern California.
It has been 86 years since the fascist Heavenly Army of The Empire (H.A.T.E.) took power in Washington and launched its bloody war across the country.
We were safe at first. Battles in the streets of Charleston, Atlanta, New Orleans, and other southern cities sounded so far away. No one thought it would last long. But then we heard the stories of the "processing stations," first in Wisconsin, then Kentucky, Texas, and Idaho. The processing centers where thousands of blacks, Central Americans, Mexicans, Arabs, Jews, and Asians were taken after being arrested and were never seen again.
Our elders tell of how it came here, to this land.
Some community members sided with the fascist (although that is not what we knew them as then).
They believed the promises of economic prosperity, of a new nation that was "rightfully theirs" and just needed to be reclaimed. They believed the webcasts issued by the High Leader who painted a picture of a utopia. All they had to do was once and for all eliminate the "others," and then America could finally fulfill its destiny to be a great, pure, and powerful nation.
When H.A.T.E. rolled in from Reno across the Nevada/California state line, the only warning we had came from our Paiute relatives who sent runners across the desert to tell other tribes. At that time, we were the lucky ones. Our grandparents and parents were pulled out of school, their jobs, their lives, and ran to the hills.
Photo: An Embrace, image courtesy of the author.
Others weren't so lucky.
Our elders tell how H.A.T.E. raced into our cities and towns. Many of the local militia groups welcomed them and their numbers swelled.
Why they bombed City Hall, we don't know. Maybe as a gesture. But we understood clearly why when they burned the schools and executed the teachers. The public torture and hanging of the sheriff and police chief and others who stood for the old rule of law and order was violent and shocking. The citizens who were forced to witness knew very well what lesson was intended.
When they began to build the processing station at the mill site in Anderson, and the old beehive burner was brought back online, people didn't know what to think. But as neighbors, family members, and others began to disappear and a black, wretched smoke poured out of the burner each night, they knew they had to flee.
First they showed up at our camps in ones and twos. Then in larger groups. People representing the many different colored stones of the river. We brought them in and included them as our own blood.
We survived those first few years eating our traditional foods—the ones your grandparents taught you about. We collected acorns, roots, and fresh growth. We made traps, baskets, and built homes of earth and wood. We were always on edge but began to feel almost safe.
Then we captured their scouts.
From them we learned that there was still a resistance in town, and there was still a cleansing underway. The scouts had traced and tracked some of those who were fleeing to the outer lands and accidentally found us. We knew we had no choice but to leave our camps and head deeper into the canyons and mountains. We began to understand that there would come a time that we would have to fight.
And when that fight first came, we were armed only with old deer rifles, a few pistols, our sinew-backed bows, and a deep, intimate knowledge of the land that nurtured us, the land that our ancestors had passed down to us.
The battles were horrible and we lost many wonderful people. But we beat them back. The mountains loved us and were our shield, and the wind was alive with the spirits of the wild places and covered and hid us with cloud and dust and smoke. We began to gain momentum, and we grew and joined with others to inflict such heavy losses on our enemy that they had to retreat. Through our network of runners we began to hear that others, in different regions, had taken back areas. We heard that the High Leader was making concessions, and five other areas had been surrendered back to the freedom fighters, many other Native-led armies. They had signed treaties promising to cease the fighting, asking to be left alone. In return, the people would stop pursuing H.A.T.E. and would live their lives unmolested.
Safety. We wanted it so badly. When we finally defeated and cornered H.A.T.E. along the banks of the Sacramento River our leaders were divided. Some wanted to continue to fight and wipe H.A.T.E. off the face of the earth; others were tired of seeing the death and destruction the war was causing. They wanted to stop fighting and live in peace.
Photo: But Our Children, image courtesy of the author.
In the heat of the hot August sun, our leaders sat at a table by the river and signed a treaty with H.A.T.E., providing them safe passage out of the territory now known as Treaty 6 Territories, never to return.
Mothers, fathers, and children wailed, crying with relief but also with terrible grief at the loss of loved ones and of a still uncertain future.
But not all of the leaders signed. Many of us had left in the night to return to our hidden camps in the mountains. We continue, and we watch the valley below. We know that it is not really over. We know what it is like to sign treaties. Our elders told us of the past histories of treaty signing. This time we want to be ready for the next wave. We sing, we dance, we pray, and we fortify our positions. This life is not always easy. Sometimes we are hungry, we crack rocks for breakfast and lick the dust for dinner. We know we are here because of our grandparents – you dear relatives - hold onto the memory of who we are, who we are supposed to be, and how we are to live on this land. We thank you for giving us this gift of knowledge. We thank you for holding on.
If this message from the future somehow helps you, in some way informs you on how to stop the war before it begins, we hope you use it well. But most importantly we want you to know that we – your grandchildren -thank you and want you to know that we remember you. Because of you we will live on. No matter what comes, we will survive. We Prevail. We will continue.