Many Mexicans are unaware that the Kikapúes, indigenous natives of Wisconsin, have lived in the north of the state of Coahuila since 1852.
Many Mexicans are unaware that the north of the state of Coahuila inhabits, since 1852, the Kikapúes, indigenous natives of Wisconsin who emigrated to the south, fleeing the warlike conflicts that afflicted the area because of the European colonizing expeditions.
Three hours from Saltillo, if you travel by car, and approximately 130 km from the border with the United States, the area called El Nacimiento is located, in the Santa Rosa valley, forming part of the river basin of the Sabinas River. In these lands of some 7 thousand hectares, the Kikapú Indians have fought zealously to preserve their ancient traditions and customs for more than a century.
General Guadalupe Victoria, the first president of the Mexican Republic, granted them lands in Texas. As is known, because of the war of 1847, this territory became part of the United States; Therefore, in 1850, the Kikapos again petitioned the Mexican president, José Joaquín de Herrera, to grant them asylum in Mexico.
Two years later they donated the land of El Nacimiento in the municipality of Múzquiz; region where they have lived to this day. The semi-desert climate that predominates in this place, with temperatures of more than 40 ° C in summer and zero centigrade in winter, and the scarce natural resources available to them are the two factors that have determined the life of the Kikapúes, who, until At the beginning of the last century, they were an eminently hunter-gatherer group, but as the fauna of the region diminished, they were forced to develop agricultural activities.
Currently, their main source of income is migrant work. Starting in 1952, the year in which the US authorities granted them immigration cards, Kikapúes, with the exception of the elderly, women and children, move to various parts of the United States to work in the vegetable crops.
These tasks are generally carried out for five to seven months a year (from April to October), and it is the basis of the indigenous economy. Their income is supplemented by the exchange of skins for food; with the trade in wheat, oats, corn, beans and squash, when the rains have been abundant and allow irrigation; the sale of chile piquín, which the women and children harvest during the fall, or with the handicraft trade.
The Kikapú camp draws attention to the reed houses with elliptical roofs, which they call the Indian house, next to huts similar to the houses in the region, which they call the Mexican house. Depending on the weather changes, the Indian house is built twice a year.
In addition, there are numerous customs and taboos around housing. For example, before starting to build a house, a special ceremony is held, and it must be made from virgin material. The house belongs to the woman, but an adult woman needs the consent of the boss to own or build it. The land belongs to the community, therefore, if the house does not receive adequate care from its inhabitants, the land is assigned to another family.
Parents sleep on the left side of the door, children and other family members on the right side, and young children at their parents’ feet. No one can eat on the west side of the house, since that place is intended for spirits. It is also not allowed to brush your hair, cut your nails or shave inside the house.
The traditional dress is reserved for the elderly and the young who participate in religious ceremonies, as they generally wear Western-type clothing. Being overweight and long hair are considered as signs of beauty in women. The medicinal practice of the Kikapúes, whose secrets they jealously guard, is based on the use of plants, prayers and some animal and human products.
In terms of education, parents do little for discipline but teach their children the secrets of hunting, crafts, agriculture, ceremonies, and communal maintenance of roads and wells. The mother provides shelter for her children, cooks, washes, sews, prepares the skins, makes tehuas, and teaches her daughters their obligations as women; likewise, she is the one who takes care of the grandchildren.
The ancestry in the Kikapúes is different than in our culture. They do not use surnames; a father passes only his clan affiliation to his son. Each person has a name that corresponds to their clan and the eponymous of their totem such as Running Buffalo, Wild Berry, Standing Man, to name a few.
They believe that everything in this world has spirit, life, and power. At the head of this order is Kitzihiat, the Great Spirit, who created everything except the world, which was created by Wisaka.
The struggle, always present, to maintain a state of harmony with everything and everyone, has perhaps been the main secret for them to have managed to preserve their identity over time.