As a part of Indigenous scholarship, the development of “Alalu” as a concept came out of the necessity to revitalize the language and decolonize research methodologies using Indigenous epistemologies. The Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation is a Native American community in central and northern California, a territory colonized by Spain, Mexico and, presently, the United States of America.
In Esselen, the word “alalu” is somewhat equivalent to the word “and” as a word that joins two nouns. We find the word in translations of Catholic texts during the Mission period of California (which lasted from 1769 and until 1850). For example, in his dictionary and analysis of the Esselen language, David L. Shaul includes “masanex alalu lax mepxel achepa-l namo’es chupa-lkal” and then translates that to “(and) their souls join their bodies, reviving and not dying” (p. 10). Using the word to Indigenize research (and not just an Esselen word), Alalu signifies and actually simplifies the idea of interconnectedness that is written about and ever present in Indigenous spirituality and life ways. As such, Alalu becomes much more than a simple word connecting two nouns in a sentence but is an actual theory of articulation, where there is a relationship between two things.
For Leal, who developed this concept, this word frames her research as an Esselen scholar. In this respect, she sought to use “Alalu” to explore how two seemingly opposite ideas/cultures relate to each other? For example, Indigenous cultures and hip-hop, a cultural movement traditionally composed of DJ music, graffiti, break dancing, and rap music (its storytelling element). Hip-hop emerged from enduring experiences of exclusion, racism and the political resistance of African Americans in the US and has since spread worldwide. In the USA’s context, Leal develops Alalu by analyzing the interconnectivity of prominent figures in hip-hop history, whose work exemplifies decolonization through resistance, voice and visual representations. In the U.S.A., where the colonialism never ended, Alalu bridges hip-hop movements which have been informed by and, in turn, have informed the semantics of struggle wherein mechanisms of exclusion forged through colonial relations are interrogated and disputed. On one hand, ‘American Indian Otherness’ in colonial metanarratives of knowledge consolidated White/European/Civilization supremacy over the biologically, mentally and spiritually ‘inferior.’ As a ‘vanishing’ primitive race, ‘Indians’ would eventually become diluted and/or culturally assimilated into settler colonial society in the name of Western progress. On the other hand, race validated the importation and exploitation of labor in these stolen territories and facilitated the eradication of original peoples to acquire their land and its resources. As such, the legacies of hip-hop interweave respective socio-historical experiences and forms of resistance that are often otherwise studied separately.
Paiute and Pomo scholar, Tom, examines politics surrounding the appropriation of hip-hop culture and rap music as cultural imports from African Americans in the United States. Due to its appropriation by national and global media industries, rap music is largely racialized cultural manifestation of crime and criminality spread by American cultural imperialism. Drawing from Leal’s work to approach different histories of colonialism and their enduring legacies, hip-hop and rap music common platform through which members of distinct groups claimed ownership of rap music to think about, speak of and represent themselves against different colonial legacies, namely Indigenous artists in North American and Cape Verdean artists in Lisbon, Portugal. Here, Alalu draws connections between distinct peoples and places wherein artists use beats and lyrics to protest, resist, reimagine and seek to transform epistemic monocultures that have historically excluded these populations.
Alalu is a concept that utilizes Indigenous knowledges and informs part of a decolonial framework that: bridges different disciplines, crosses socio-historical experiences within the United States and regions of the globe and, starting with Indigenous peoples, articulates the interconnectedness of efforts by different groups to reclaim selves and communities against Western metanarratives of knowledge, which refuses to see beyond its own self-fashioning. As such, the concept also aims to infiltrate the nomenclatures of the Social Sciences, which have historically studied and labeled different peoples, with Indigenous languages (Esselen) and therefore represents one of several affirmations of epistemological diversity.
References and further readings:
Leal, Melissa (2015), “Tupac and Native American Studies: Creating connections through linguistics, historical activism, and photography”, in Pamela Bridgewater, André Douglas Pond Cummings and Donald Tibbs (eds.), Hip Hop and the Law: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 193-202.
Shaul, David Leedom. (1995), “The Huelel (Esselen) Language”, International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 61(2): pp. 191-239.
Melissa Leal earned her Ph.D. In Native American Studies From University of California, Davis. Currently she works as the Tribal Liaison and Faculty at Sierra College in Northern California.
Miye Nadya Tom’s (Walker River Paiute/Pomo) work on post/colonialisms and ethnicity/ race examines, from a comparative and international perspective, transforming institutions of learning and knowledge production to meet the educational needs of youth from underrepresented communities, including: Native Americans (USA), communities of African origin (Portugal), and Roma (Spain). She also writes poetry, which has been featured in News from Native California.
Como citarLeal, Melissa; Tom, Miye Nadya (2019), "Alalu", Dicionário Alice. Consultado a 03.10.23, em https://alice.ces.uc.pt/dictionary/?id=23838&pag=23918&id_lingua=1&entry=24449. ISBN: 978-989-8847-08-9