Printer-friendlyIrving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences /  > CCGS > Faculty > Margo Tamez > Margo Tamez's Research


Research Interests: Dene Nde' Decolonial and Revitalization Studies

Ndé = 'the People' of Big Water People's Country ('Lipan Apache')

  • Dene Ndé Knowledge, Memory, History, Time, Space, Law & Decolonization
  • Gònìcéi isdzáné (‘Lipan Apache women’)
  • Isdzán gowa gozhoo gokal:  "her beautiful house of law"
  • Gònìcéi, Nahua, Comanche, and Euskara (Basque) Kinship in Rio Grande Valley social spheres
  • Nde' Reclamations of being, belonging, Indigenous place,
  • Nde' Convenios, Crown Grants, Treaties & Aboriginal Title
  • Indigenous Women, Genocide, Trauma, Memory & Justice in border-walled and militarized zones
  • Indigenous Poetics, Commemorative Practices, and social movements
  • Indigenous Women's Traditional Arts
  • Indigenous cartographies and pictorial genealogies of belonging in time, place, and space


Research Grants (PI)

Tamez, Margo. 2012-2014. Hampton Research Fund. $25,000.00

Tamez, Margo. 2012. Individual Internal Research Fund. $5,000.00

Tamez, Margo. 2015-2018. SSHRC Insight Development Grant. $74,974.00




Lipan Apache   

Lipan Apache as drawn ca. 1828 during the Berlandier expedition (courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Oklahoma). 

Challenging the US and Mexico military-settler-colonial 'frame' of Lipan Apaches as Landless Outlanders  

Living Nde' peoples are contributing much to my current understanding of how Dene Nde' peoples were continually being 'framed' and 'positioned' as landless and homeless in the color prints, etchings, and painting traditions of societies of the US and Mexico with specific aims to develop mineral, grazing, and hydro-power in Apache country. 

Western eurocentric taxonification systems of 'Indians' subtly suggested that Indigenous peoples were on the brink of extinction. Early visual ethnographers like Arthur Schott and others created images such as this one in the two decades leading up to mass extermination processes (1870-1930). However, the visual media which accompanied the US and Mexico's military-industrial policies in Nde' homelands were far from innocent portrayals of 'vanishing' peoples. Rather, they must be re-examined as weaponizing a psychological field of imperial policies and contributing to structuring the large devastation which Dene Nde' experienced in the southern Texas and northern Mexico homelands. 

The U.S. Boundary Commission commissioned Schott in 1851, who  was well established the field of collecting and taxonomies of botanical, geological, and zoological specimens.  Schott established the western-oriented 'natural history' of Dene Nde' homelands and re-envisioned it as a 'region', subscribing to enlightenment ideologies of the 'natural' 'vanishing' and 'disappearing' 'natives'.  He became a principle figure in re-framing Indigenous peoples as the 'end-game' degradation of 'primitive races' and the subsequent 'vacancy' of Indigenous lands which, purportedly, the Manifest Destiny of Euro-American races had a pre-ordained density to 'inherit'.

Critical decolonial methodologies are being utilized in my research to 'wipe the bovine ideological fecal matter' off the lens. Lithographs representing the Lipan Apache as in some illusive other-where, a place outside of real place, homeland, and territory--an imperial and settler colonial militarist imaginary--deserve our serious attention. Euro-American/Mexican elites commissioned and circulated these as Jumano-Apache elder Enrique Madrid states, "to launch psychological warfare against the Nde' peoples".  Indeed, visual media was vitally important to infuse and spread and to normalize ideas of dispossession, kinship and clan destruction, assimilation, marginalization, and disappearance. Gender complementarity of the Dene Nde' matrilineal peoples, where women outnumber men in each gowa gokal is covertly distorted in this image which mirrors a traditional '1 man + 1 woman' western patriarchal norm which is deeply in tension with the Dene Nde' matriarchal governance system.

As a group repeatedly targeted for removal and extermination to open way for white-settler cultivators, today's Dene Nde' are analyzing how visual media were used to taxonify and to catalog ancestral Dene Nde' peoples as 'dying' species,, and how indigenous homelands full of mineral, plant and animals deemed 'specimens' were collected and re-named for scientific, pharmaceutical, and economic purposes. 

Dene Nde' neither vanished, nor disappeared; we adapted, resisted through maintaining our kinship systems, our land-based food and medicine systems, and included Indigenous neighbors into the Dene Nde' way of life and peoplehood. Dene Nde' struggle to overcome brutal suppression, assimilation, and to survive the racist and genocidal processes of legal, physical, economic, and enforced disappearance through institutionally enforced citizenship as 4th World Indigenous Peoples--the unceded and unrecognized sovereigns. These compelled new survival strategies to maintain place in ancestral lands.  Indigenous women became key and crucial actors in the 20th century processes to enact resistance and resurgence.




Courtesy of the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, No. 072-2075.


Indigenous women's Rivered Remembering and Rivered Refusals in Big Water People's Country.

Between 1910-1940, traditional textiles and their continued production was directed toward economic elites of the U.S. and Mexico which converged in Matamoros, a skill based on fine and complex pre-contact weaving knowledge traditions and ecological processes handed down from generation to generation for centuries.  Settler encroachment and dispossession pushed Nde', Nahua, and Comanche women into intimate spheres, as barbed wire and killing gangs worked to displace them making way for cash crops.  Traditional textiles created for and marketed toward elites of the U.S. and Mexico, were crucial sites of survival co-created by Indigenous women of the river who worked to resist displacement and mass dispossession.  These were crucial sites and social spheres where Indigenous women crossed the bridge of Spanish, the lengua franca bridging different and distinct linguistic, cultural, class, and spiritual traditions of Indigenous peoples from both sides of 'Big Water Country'/Rio Bravo. Thousands of Indigenous peoples were being suppressed during a bloody period of genocidal violence.

"Your peoples visited and lived here long ago..."

Embodied Land-Based, Dene-Nde' and Syilx Kinship Research in Nk'malpqs, Syilx Territory--a Dene Nde' place of kinship --past and present and beyond walled borders


Indigenous Knowledge & Revitalizing Gònìcéindé,  Cìšįįhííndé, Cúelcahéndé, and Ìnààkàyíhįį ndé (‘Lipan Apache’) Knowledge systems through the recovery of the gowa gozhoo gokal "her beautiful house of law" as a identity, culture, language, clan, kinship, community, and land defense practice. 

Photos: Margo Tamez.

Reclaiming, recovering, and regaining experience with traditional materials, such as deer hide tanning, is a critical and rigorous process in decolonization and critical Indigenous historical practices for Nde' research.  Deer skin hide is being re-introduced and re-valorized by Nde' scholars and community members for collectivizing Nde' modes of re-membering knowledge about the past and maintaining 'records' and 'documentation' about key events which define and situate the entire community into specific lands, spaces, places, and homelands of sacred being and belonging.  In the present, Tamez is revitalizing Nde' deer, elk, and bison hide traditions for 'writing' and 'envisioning' Indigenous mural traditions on the gowa gokal (teepee), which establish the Nde' cosmovision of memory, dream, cartographic knowing, and belonging across Time and Space.

Last reviewed shim9/20/2017 9:00:55 PM