Reflections from Standing Rock: Argil P’urhepecha

An Artist Dossier by Carlos Mota 


Artist Commentary on Figure 1:


The image represents the sacred Native diversity that creation has delivered to the world. In this case you see a Tlingit, Lakota, Mayan, and P’urhepecha elder mutually gathered in hope for peace and harmony to return to nature and to the Native people of the entire world. This kind of mutual wisdom and understanding was present at standing rock where cultures from around the world gathered in solidarity against the threats of the Dakota Access Pipeline and modern destructive ways of life. The two staffs represent North, Central, and South America and the spirit of the sacred Condor, Eagle, and Quetzal Birds.



Argil P’urhepecha (Orgullo P’urhepecha) is a community of indigenous P’urhepecha people that have settled in Auburn, Washington. Last fall, they organized a solidarity brigade to Standing Rock. Below is an excerpt of reflections of their experience in their journey to North Dakota, in solidarity with the Native people being affected by the construction of DAPL. This piece is accompanied by original artwork by Carlos Mota inspired by the journey.



“When we first entered the sacred space of the Lakota I felt a strong connection and I thought to myself; “what have these brothers and sisters done to deserve the pain and oppression they are going through at this moment?”. What sort of privilege and tremendous amount of energy can possibly drive anyone to think they have the right to strip these brothers and sisters from their ancestor’s lands and sacred sites? I think to myself what if this monstrous project was planned to cross my own people’s water in Lake Patzcuaro? How would I react? How would my P’urhepecha community rise to defend what was given to our people? So I realized we have to do something about this and right then and there I yelled our powerfull P’urhepecha words “Juchari Uinhapikua!” (Our strength/Power) We have to think of ways to raise awareness and defend our mother water who we can never live without regardless of who we are and where we come from.

16117337_10209386408991346_2130981434_n“I was very impressed by the level of solidarity present at Standing Rock, it’s a very important value that many of us have not been taking care of. The very first thing we hear from the Native people there is “welcome home”, this empowers our spirit and makes us respond towards the injustice our water protectors are facing. It really is difficult to understand how people can be so disrespectful to those sacred bodies of life, having police so up close disturbing the sacred lands.Being there made me reflect on things we might be doing wrong in our daily lives and I really think we have to raise awareness. Most people I know have no idea about the problem with DAPL, main stream media isn’t covering any of these events you don’t see much information being published in spanish at all. I believe it’s our responsibility to keep learning more and also inform our community about the problems that our brothers and sisters are facing.”


16117777_10209386411591411_1033029455_n“It was a pleasure for me being able to spend time with our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. It was a pleasant feeling being able to hear their songs and their prayers, and experience an ancestral way of life. I am proud to be part of our group “Orgullo P’urhepecha because it is that same prayer and spirit that has brought us with our brothers in North Dakota. Our P’urhepecha group here has been actively speaking out and protecting the earth and all nature for more than 7 years now. We have been defending our rights as immigrants and now have developed a stronger bond with nature in hopes that our work could be more essential for life worldwide. It was sad to see that many visitors at standing rock wern’t there for prayer, but they would take pictures and treat the land as just any public campground. Lets keep working for ourselves and for our children, my daughter has been close to our actions and she is slowly learning a humble way of living life. Thank you.”

16111278_10209386412071423_1775351803_n“We as Native people have known through our ancestors, that something great is approaching today’s society and something must happen in order for the change we need in the world to finally take place. Weather we agree with these pipeline constructions or not; we are still dependant on energies that are derived from these projects that harm the earth. We have been dependant on the energy as well as the income sources that these oil companies as well as other companies end up providing. I believe that the beginning of the change we need is taking place today, the problem with DAPL has been an instant wake up call for many people who previously were oblivious to the ongoing damage being done to our Mother Earth. We must start working towards identifying the root of the problem and eradicating a lifestyle that depends on money the destruction of Nature. I have observed something suspicious and further threatening coming from Canada’s government; Canada’s government suddenly welcomes Mexican citizens dismissing previous legal requirements and even providing housing or a place to live. Later we find out Canada is approving yet more imminent pipeline projects. My message to all my brothers and sisters from all around the world, but specially to our North, Central, and South American indigenous and non-indigenous people; Don’t become further fooled by the oppressors, whatever their plot may be might put our own people in conflict with each other. Yes we need jobs currently, but our priority today is to find solutions towards ending the ongoing destruction of nature and our ancestral ways. I believe it’s time to remain humble and true to our ancestral values, it should be obvious at this point that the fight isn’t against any race, culture, or ethnic background. I’ve seen many young people today being numbed and distracted by hate and the blind belief that the quality of being ‘opressive’ belongs to certain ethnic backgrounds. I will never stop delivering my ancestor’s message of love for life, the only quality that truly belongs to our entire human family is being “Native/indigenous”. It doesn’t matter what part of the world we may come from, at one point we all lived a Native way of life and this is what we will return to one day.”

Figure 2: “Allin Kawsay”

Artist Commentary on Figure 2:

The title is in Quechua/Runasimi language and it describes “a proper way of life”. The image Depicts a Quechua-Aymara woman of the Andes working together with a Lakota woman, uniting the spirit of the Eagle and Condor representing the people of North and South America. I drew this with the intention of emphasizing the importance of women and the respect we must have for them in the sacred way of wise living.




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