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Margo Tamez (Dene Nde') Poet & Historian


Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies

Areas: poetry, history, epistemology, creative & critical methodologies, social movements & transformation

Interests: Dene Nde' memory, voice, and vision; Dene Nde' mother-daughter 'rivered remembering', Nde' embodied-emplaced belonging, dispossession, and recovery; indigenous bordered consciousness; Dene Nde' water-worlds beyond borders, kinship & relationality metaphysics; Isdzane' (women's) laws, responsibility, & rights; indigenization in a post-9/11 narco-terror(ized) security world, Nde' and Uto-Aztecan (Comanche & Nahuatl) convergences & poetics; storying loss and unification, decolonization, revitalization, and activist inquiry-methodology beyond walled existences.

Who I am and Interests

As a Dene Nde' poet, historian, and writer, a key interest is maintaining close ties and critical engagement with Dene Nde'  peoples, principles, philosophies, intellectual history and decolonial recoveries. I remain focused on grief, loss, kinship, belonging, and the crucial expressions and assertions of beingness through Dene Nde' lenses, concepts, resistances, achievements, and social justice processes. Dene Nde' women's perspectives on governance, their roles in and threaded across complex and overlapping communities, and their experiences as targets of colonial resource and territorial wars and their subjectivities in bordered and carceral spaces are core to my understanding of Dene Nde' colonization and resurgence.   

 In my poetry and historical inquiry involve mixed creative and critical approaches to (re)examine and (re)think coloniality's penetrating reach into Dene Nde' peoples' individual and collective experience, consciousness, thought, and resilience.

My philosophy and productivity are informed by critical and Indigenous feminist thought and activism which I employ to (re)position Dene Nde' ways of knowing and doing as a process of questioning and challenging colonial thought, norms, presumptions, epistemologies, systems, structures, and categories which continue to subvert Dene Nde' communities, families, bands, and extended kinship structures now heavily fractured and factionalized by and through colonial legal regimes, such as border structures. 

I enact Dene Nde' world views of nizhoni (harmonious beauty relationality and expression of high consciousness as a metaphysics and paradigm) -- a state of being highly sought after and aspired to amongst Nde' 21st century artist-justice-warriors. Practically speaking, Dene Nde' peoples, divided by 2 militarized settler borders, are deeply challenged by violent recognition regimes and colonial schemes which have split up the Dene unification and seek peace proactively.

My current focus on the reconstruction of the Dene Nde' gowa gozhoo gokal, 'her beautiful house of law'--through community-based, traditional knowledge, poetics, visuality, oral tradition, story, archival, and language recovery searching-- is central to my on-going research process.  I actively participate in the creative-critical recovery and revitalization of Dene Nde' poetics, law, philosophy, feminism, and praxis as embodied and enacted through my teaching, scholarship, and service.

To accomplish my goals to centre Dene Nde' lenses as a Dene Nde' researcher, I interweave oral tradition, history, poetry, oral tradition, archives, community collections, memory and commemorative practices.  These include narrative (re)construction, tipi mural painting, dance, textile and buckskin arts, collage, photography, legal studies, and language revitalization in the co-creation of the Dene Nde' gowa gozhoo gokal. This is an on-going 21st century process which acknowledges the on-going upheavals and cataclysms which Dene Nde' peoples are still experiencing as 'implosions', 'explosions', and 'catastrophes' which propel us into movement and mobilization through and across Niguusdzan. Dene Nde' being and belonging throughout the hemisphere is enacted within and in the Syilx territory.  My research process encompasses a 3 year protocol and relationship building process undertaken with Syilx Native Title holders in the Nk'malpqs community, OKIB reserve.  This is a critical revitalization of Dene Nde' belonging.

Dene Nde' Decolonial and Revitalization: Poetry & History beyond borders and walls

Today, Dene Nde' peoples are entering a next-level reclamation of being, belonging, consciousness and are problematizing the construction of 'worlds' which seriously excluded and erased the Nde' since the late 19th. century.  

Dene have a long, traversing history in the Americas, and continue to challenge, deconstruct, and problematize the colonial, political and economic world views of settler states, Canada, the US, and Mexico which disinclude Dene current realities and futures.

There is significant interest in decolonial Dene Nde' inquiry in decolonization, revitalization, and indigeneity through advanced study of Indigenous epistemic systems, crisis, and recovery. 

Employing Indigenous poetry & poetics, philosophy, law, historical lenses, and related creative approaches to think with Nde' Peoples (in current-day Texas, New Mexico, Coahuila, and Chihuahua) about refusing settler cognitive and epistemic domination, is an emerging area of study.  Nde' peoples, in addition to a rich tradition of philosophy, arts, language, law, governance, and environmental stewardship and custodianship, are experts in the protective arts against violence and destruction.

SSHRC Insight Development Grant: Why do Indigenous women refuse dispossession?

My recent work, expressed in poetry, history, memory, painting, and recovering Nde' women's roles as foundation builders in kinship, land stewardship, healing, governance, and the arts brings diverse individuals, communities, and practices together to address a key process: refusing dispossession and cyclical cataclysm.

Nde' memory, history, consciousness, and commemorative cultural practices, in resistance to White nativist and settler impositions of borders, war/policing/surveillance-as-norm, and wall systems in Dene Nde' southern territories (Texas-Mexico region), are linked and purposeful.  My projects engage contemporary Nde' peoples' aspirations and mandates to survive colonialism, and to persist as agentic beings, with aspirations as peace and freedom loving peoples, and still compelled to reject assimilative processes and structures, whilst determined to pursue Nde' unification with customary homelands. Some of the questions which shape my inter-disciplinary inquiry are:

Why do Dene Nde' refuse to leave and abandon our Indigenous homelands? Why are Dene Nde' Isdzane (women) crucial to the formation of law, justice, belonging and resistance in Dene Nde' world-making? Why, where, and when do Dene Nde' women strategically deploy indigeneity and revitalization as protective measures to forestall or to defend against brutal forms of dispossession and domination?

As a matrilineal community with many adaptations to settler colonial violence, Nde' peoples' contemporary creative responses to on-going threats inspire my advocacies for revitalizing Nde' oral traditions, poetics, philosophies, and (re)valorizing the oral history of Nde', Comanche, Nahua, Tlaxcaltecan, Kiowa, and Karankawa water-land-sky co-governance relationships. Through poetry, history, and relative creative-critical practices, I contribute to empowerment of Nde' kinship relationships. My work aims to address a significant absence in knowledge (tied to destructive processes, such as, but not limited to genocide).  

My on-going work identifies and addresses the significant barriers to Nde' (Lipan Apache Peoples) epistemolgical, ontological, methodological, and axiological recovery from inter-generational trauma underpinned by racism, discrimination, gender oppression, homophobia, militarism, nativism, and both Anglo and Hispano nationalist domination.

As a Nde' member of the academy, my contributions focus on opening, inviting, and constructing relevant spaces for respectful relationships with Nde' and relative Indigenous research communities who are Aboriginal to lands undergoing re-militarization vis-a-vis US border wall construction.

I believe my work critically addresses the vision of the revolutionary, Louis Riel, who stated: "people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back."

"O land thieves

O scalpers of my grandfathers

O slave traders of my grandmothers

Their books    stand like enemies

Rapists   who'll conspire to kill us"

(excerpt from "Addiction to the Dead", Raven Eye, University of Arizona Press 2007: 26-30)Nominated by the U. of AZ press for the Pulitzer Prize; Winner of the Cather Award.


PhD  American Studies (Washington State University, 2010) 

Interdisciplinary Inquiry: Dene Nde' Poetry & Indigenous poetics; Indigenous visual aesthetic & theory; Dene Nde' historical consciousness, oral history, memory, time); Indigenous decolonization & revitalization; Dene Nde' women & violence; Indigenous ways of knowing, doing, being; Indigenous pedagogies.

M.F.A. Poetry (Arizona State University)

B.A. Art History (UT Austin); B.A. Archaeological Studies (UT Austin)



Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies Program

Community, Culture and Global Studies Department
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
University of British Columbia | Okanagan
ART269,  1147 Research Road
Kelowna, BC  Canada  V1V 1V7

Okanagan Nation Unceded Territory


Phone: 1-250-807-9837


  • MEMORY, LOSS, DISPOSSESSION, TRAUMA, RESILIENCE, AND ORAL TRADITION.   DENE NDE' CRITICAL MAPPING, LEGAL EMBODIMENT OF NDE' WOMEN'S LAWS:  "They took the land  //  but they will never take my voice"     Margo Tamez (above), Dene Nde' (Lipan Apache) poet, historian, scholar and active spokesperson, enacting legal testimony at the Inter-American Commission/Organization of American States on behalf of Nde' peoples' resistance against U.S. armed and enforced border-wall dispossession in 2009 along the Lower Rio Grande River rancheria (pueblo/village) of El Calaboz on the Texas-Mexico border. "Nde' oral tradition, song, and land-based experiences have shaped my experimentation with poetic forms. Poetic voice and performance is a tool, a means, through which the oppressed and subjugated Nde' peoples have historically articulated the knowledge of our being, existence, arts, laws, governance, and independence as the original free peoples of Niguusdzan (Earth is Woman). 

  • POETICS. REVITALIZING DENE NDE' ORAL TRADITION AND HISTORICAL MEMORY THROUGH EMERGING INDIGENOUS POETICS: I work to indigenize the traditional 'American long poem' form, as another mode to enact Indigenous critical poetics, thus, to appropriate an Euro-American tradition in order to occupy a space to enact discursive speech to confront settler coloniality in law and related civilizational practices.  Contemporary Indigenous poetics is one of many modes in which Nde' poetics sustains firm pressure upon history and colonial processes.  Indigenous historical clarification, truth, and memory of genocidal processes are interrogated in Nde' memory. This is necessary in order to recover and revitalize Nde' practices.  Indigenous research expressed and embodied through my poetic and visual practices closely examines violence and Indigenous anti-genocidal practices in the Texas-Mexico region across nineteen generations. I'm especially interested in the intimate relational spheres of Nde', Nahua, Jumano, Tlaxcaltecan, Kiowa, Tonkawa and Comanche extended kinship of and from Nde' Konitsaaii Gokiyaa (Lipan Apache Big Water Peoples' Country)."

  • LAW AND SOCIETY. The Border Wall, "With, by, for and alongside Indigenous Peoples," & Respect, Responsibility, and Social Identity:   Margo Tamez (Nde konitsaaii, Big Water People, Lipan Apache Band of Texas) is not only a Nde' poet, visual artist, historian, and essayist.  She is also a feminist activist, traditional knowledge keeper, Indigenous rights defender, and continuing learner. She continues to bring critical evidence and global attention--in U.S. federal court, at the United Nations, and in the Inter-American Commission/Organization of American States--to the violent impacts of the U.S. border wall.   Her exploration and study of Nde' survival and identity is closely aligned with aspirations of Nde' traditional knowledge keepers, elders, and community members in unceded Indigenous Peoples' lands along the Texas-Mexico border. 


    DENE NDE' COMMUNITY-BASED AND RELATIONSHIP-FOCUSED INQUIRY. Margo Tamez creates research in El Calaboz, a Nde' Rancheria with community partners along the Lower Rio Grande River, directly impacted by the U.S. border wall aggression imposed by the state through armed force and regional militarization.  Now well documented by Tamez and critical legal scholar-collaborators, the US gulag-style wall, situated a mile inland from the physical border, currently bifurcates the Nde' traditional territory for 70+ miles.  With UT Austin School of Law legal team, Tamez documented and has provided testimony on the deep impacts to the Nde' and related Indigenous communities. The extensive effects on Indigenous peoples' rights to place, property, self-governance, identity, culture, institutions, knowledge systems, language, biodiversity, and recovery is on-going.  Tamez carries out this work with and alongside Nde' elders, elected Lipan Apache Band leaders, community members, film documentarians, students from the School of Law--Human Rights Clinic (University of Texas at Austin) and four UBC Okanagan research assistants.

    These and related topics of historical and archaeological significance are the subjects of her interdisciplinary inquiry in a militarized Indigenous place spanning five centuries.  She is currently writing a monograph, a poetry collection, and a co-edited volume of testimonies and art work by the Nde' Peoples of the Lower Rio Grande.


L O N G   M E M O R Y     &      HISTORY       history-violence-border1 


Case Study: Nde' Peoples' unceded River Peoples' lands and settler constructions of the homeland as a 'border', ca. 1910 Photo #076-1021. Ca 1910. Courtesy of the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures. 

In the early stage of the American construction of a border, vis-a-vis militarization of the Indigenous communities along the Lower Rio Grande River, the Americans and settler Texans constructed a core myth of Euro-American conquest predicated upon the legalistic erasure of Indigenous kinship structures and core governance systems. It wasn't that Indigenous peoples physically left the region, or that family-land based practices just suddenly came to a halt.  The cult of the 'vanishing' and 'disappearing' discourse, emanating from settler anxieties, instilled practices which led to thought and practices which diminished Indigenous rights.  Indigenous peoples persisted and adapted to radical changes nonetheless. In the process, the occupying groups' institutionalized legal systems normalized the denial that Indigenous Native Title did not exist.  However, there is no record or 'bill of sale' that settler governments extinguished Native Title, and Nde' peoples continue to resist this distorted lens of Nde' legal history. Settler epistemic violence institutionalized broadly which denies Indigenous peoples' access to justice, therefore, is the foundation for former president George W. Bush's claims that 'legally' speaking according to settler colonial rule, there "ain't no Indians in Texas."  This notion purports and advances the American construct of private property as somehow neutral from the genocidal processes and institutions which underpinned land theft.  

Examining history through the lenses of Indigenous peoples affords students and researchers the opportunity to examine Nde' legal traditions, treaties, Spanish Crown grants, and current-day political processes.  This area of study affords them important lenses for deconstructing social conflict, and to engage the en masse denial, and cognitive dissonance surrounding the substantial presence of diverse Indigenous peoples who are Aboriginal to southern Texas.  Students learn the importance of understanding Indigenous property and law concepts based in the North American Indigenous Treaty Order, and to engage the processes through which European concepts of private property, indenture, and debt aggress upon Indigenous systems of relationship-based policy and governance. The Indigenous historical approach is a crucial core competency for students seeking to pursue law, policy, and public-service in which the current day conflicts between collective rights of Indigenous peoples who did not surrender nor subjugate their nationhood beneath western European monarchs, and/or their successor states is a key issue at stake in resolving land claims. 

Indigenous peoples' rejection of the settler colonial paradigm of knowledge, memory and consciousness underscores all my work involving peace, resolution, and transformation.  In Indigenous peoples' continuing existence and resistance to subjugation beneath settler nations and states along the Texas-Mexico border, and Rio Grande River of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Indigenous women and their families underwent radical changes under extremely harsh conditions.  There is the problem of a context of converging colonialisms: church, settlers, republic, state, and nation. 

Occupying peoples often used photography as a tool of colonization and expropriation, in a similar way they used maps, laws, and other civilizational metrics to dispossess Indigenous peoples in the development of settler ecologies and economies, land-scapes, and trans-national industrial spheres and in these modes, settlers worked ardently to erase the Indigenous presence.  This period of photography lends itself to my inquiry into the complex processes of dispossession, assimilation, and appropriating the Native, as this photo, taken in Nde' territory (at the banks of the Rio Grande where Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Texas all touch the water) evidences in striking, visual ways. 

Texas-Mexico bordered region continued to be an unincorporated and ambiguous area of the Euro-American modernizing project, and became a 'zone' of competition between settler Texans in economic competition in world systems of cattle, oil, and textiles. The desires of special interest groups in Mexico, Canada and U.S. strongly shaped settler occupations.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, the region's settler populations became invested in (re)defining white settler space and place against the deeply rooted persistence of resilient and refusing Indigenous peoples.  Indigenous continued struggle to defend homelands was continually under threat. Photography was an important tool for representing the habitual overtaking of Nde' space through representation of white bodies, whitened space, white penetration, and white encroachments into Indigenous women's intimate places, always under the scrutinizing lens of land speculators. 

A territory still heavily contested by Mexico, Texas and the U.S.--and yet, culturally and socially, deeply misunderstood, this inquiry offers alternative  theories and ways to interrogate visual and literary records in order to (re)define, and re-search into Nde' historical context and presence in time.

How does this photograph situate elite political and industrial ambitions, and at what cost to Indigenous peoples, specifically women, in the unequal power relations imposed which subjugated the negotiation of places and spaces of tremendous significance to Indigenous peoples?  The inherent rights of Indigenous women in Nde' unceded territory, as history evidences, were never afforded the serious attention they merited. These concerns linger today, and underpin my critical inquiry into hidden genocidal violence in the dispossession of Nde' peoples.

Viewed as a homeland, Indigenous peoples' continued processes of displacement, refusing dispossession and being forced to assimilate into the under-class was largely obscured by the euro-centric biases embedded within the state's historical construction of 'Texas', 'Mexico', and the quintessential narratives of  'American' life and progress. However, new critical research approaches are changing how we understand historical processes and the relationship of the past to the present with regard to Indigenous peoples' claims and demands for recognition.

Indigenous peoples' struggles against pernicious forms of erasure and death have been largely ignored, until now.  In this photo, Indigenous women protecting their gowa gokal (home spaces) in the Nde' unceded territory are 'visited' by white settlers with a camera who are posing for the lens.  The stark differences between the lives of white women and Indigenous women in the Lower Rio Grande valley during the 1910-1915 period of en masse genocidal violence, a subject extremely hidden and under-studied, is a core area of research M. Tamez is undertaking. 

Courses Taught:


  • INDG 295: Indigenous Poetry, Voice, Vision
  • INDG 100: Introduction to Indigenous Studies 
  • INDG 203:  Indigenous Peoples' Historical Perspectives
  • INDG 210: Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (foci: Dene Nde' hemispheric lenses)
  • INDG 302:  Indigenous Governance
  • INDG 304:  Indigenous Studies Field Methods (Pre-Engagement Strategies)
  • INDG 305:  Indigenous Justice
  • INDG 310:  Indigenous Women's Perspectives: Gender, Nation, State, Resistance
  • INDG 450:  Seminar: Indigenous Women, Activisms, Feminisms
  • INDG 481:  Directed Studies:  (Topics have included: Syilx women's history; Kainai frameworks for decolonizing secondary education;      Comparative Oral histories of Ukrainian and Okanagan women; Digital 'me search', settler identity, and decolonization; Comparative Indigenous and Women of Color feminisms)  
  • INDG 495: Indigenous Poetry and Poetics
  • GWST 110: Introduction to Women's Studies
  • GWST 395:  Gender and Women's Studies Special Topic
  • GWST 495F:  Gender and Women's Studies Advanced Special Topic

Graduate Directed Studies

  • IGS 503C/IGS 523C:  Indigenous Methodologies
  • IGS 503 H:  Indigenous Research Methods: Indigenous Community Practices
  • IGS 503 I:  Indigenous Research Methods: Indigenous Tattoos and Family Histories
  • IGS 503Z:  Readings in Indigenous Theory & Methods
  • IGS 523N:  Indigenous Theory & Praxis Seminar. Topic: Indigenous Recognition, Genocide, and Decolonial Futures




POETRY & POETICS       margotamezbio2     margotamezpoetics1

[from, INQUIRYlinks to external site, Progressive Poetics, curated by H.L. Hix, 2015, ] 


Raven Eye (University of Arizona Press, 2007)

Naked Wanting (University of Arizona Press, 2003)

raveneye        nakedwanting

Selected Journals and Book Chapters

mtamez-journals1   mtamez-journals2    mtamez-journals3    mtamez-journals4


mtamez-journals5  mtamez-journals6  mtamez-journals7        mtamez-journals8



Last reviewed shim5/23/2018 9:42:45 AM