Raza in Espace: Commander Chakotay, indigenista Starfleet officer

  The future includes brown. We’ve seen Raza captain spaceships, battle real aliens, and go where no mestizo has gone before. They invent and create. In Raza in Espace, we will highlight Latino characters in science-fiction. Pues, Engage!

How do you rebel when you’re raised on an indigenista planet with a traditional tribal culture?

Teenage Chakotay left the tribe and entered Starfleet Academy, and grew up to
became a freedom fighter who engaged the Cardassians and became the voice of reason as Voyager’s first officer during their long journey back to the Alpha Quadrant.

He was also a mentor to Latina engineer, B’Elenna Torres and sported a bad-ass facial tattoo before Mike Tyson.

Commander Chakotay was raised on a planet on the border between the United Federation of Planets and Cardassian Union.

His father, Kolopak, was a founder of Chicano Indigenistas that settled the planet. They sought a return to Aztlan light years ago from Earth. And a plethora of sweat lodges without new-agers asking to be included. Kolopak taught him about animism spirituality and respect for his ancestors. However, Chakotay failed to connect with those teachings since he was a nerd fascinated by technology and space. Attending Star Fleet Academy was his dream.

The inherent tensions growing up between two cultures are evident in his character.

One Voyager episode shows a young Chakotay taken to the Mayan jungles by his father to interact with the hardcore indigenistas that returned to the paelo-diet ways wearing just chonies.

Like a Chicano from Whittier taken to see the ruins of Tolum, Chakotay wasn’t very interested in old buildings. He missed his friends. Kolopak’s attempt to turn him away from a career in Star Fleet failed and Chakotay became a distinguished Star Fleet officer, graduating from Star Fleet Academy in 2348. He later became an instructor at the Advanced Tactical School.

When the Federation and the Cardassian Union signed a peace treaty, Chakotay’s home planet was designated to be turned over to the Cardassians. This was done with little input from the indigenistas. They opposed the treaty and instead of doing a 24th century version of the Trail of Tears, they decided to stand and fight. They joined other rebel Federation planets in the resistance movement named the “Maquis,” which would sound familiar to those students of French history. Like many Native Americans centuries before, Kolopak was killed fighting the invaders.

Chakotay felt guilty that he choose nerdom over his culture, so he resigned his commission and went underground, captaining a Maquis space ship and fighting for his apa’s memory.

It was during the fight against the Cardassians that Chakotay rejoined Star Fleet. The Federation wanted to arrest Chakotay for violating the treaty and sent the ship Voyager for this mission. However, a sentient satellite dish transports both ships to the Delta quadrant, which is un chingo away from Earth. Knowing that former enemies must work together, he became Voyager’s first officer under Capt. Kathryn Janeway, using his respect to merge the two crews into an effective fighting unit.

Along the way he made peace with his faith, fought the producers over bad episodes, and started dating a güera.

Chakotay is Raza in Espace.

Essential Chakotay episodes: