Where We Belong

Chemehuevi and Caxcan Preservation of Sacred Mountains

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This comparative work dispels the harmful myth that Native people are unfit stewards of their sacred places. This work establishes Indigenous preservation practices as sustaining approaches to the caretaking of the land that embody ecological sustainability, spiritual landscapes, and community well-being.

The author brings together the history and experiences of the Chemehuevi people and their ties with Mamapukaib, or the Old Woman Mountains in the East Mojave Desert, and the Caxcan people and their relationship with Tlachialoyantepec, or Cerro de las Ventanas, in Zacatecas, Mexico. Through a trans-Indigenous approach, Daisy Ocampo weaves historical methodologies (oral histories, archival research, ethnography) with Native studies and historic preservation to reveal why Native communities are the most knowledgeable and transformational caretakers of their sacred places.

This work transcends national borders to reveal how settler structures are sustained through time and space in the Americas. Challenging these structures, traditions such as the Chemehuevi Salt Songs and Caxcan Xuchitl Dance provide both an old and a fresh look at how Indigenous people are reimagining worlds that promote Indigenous-to-Indigenous futures through preservation.

Ultimately, the stories of these two peoples and places in North America illuminate Indigenous sovereignty within the field of public history, which is closely tied to governmental policies, museums, archives, and agencies involved in historic preservation.
“A truly remarkable study that reminds us of how our Indigenous ancestors prayed us into being.”—Jennifer Denetdale, author of Reclaiming Diné History

Where We Belong is an innovative and compelling book that centers Indigenous perspectives and practices across borders to argue for more holistic approaches to historic preservation and public history.”—Sam Holley-Kline, Florida State University

“Using the case studies of two scared mountain sites—Mamapukaib for the Chemehuevi people in the U.S. and Tlachialoyantepec for the Caxcan people of Mexico—this volume examines the colonial and contemporary challenges that two Indigenous communities have endured through being alienated from their sacred locations. Despite these ruptures, Ocampo details how each society uses oral histories, dance, and ceremonial and cultural actions to anchor their ethnic identities and assert agency over their sacred sites to maintain a relationship with the landscape.”—G. R. Campbell, CHOICE Connect

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