August 2014

OP-ED: Networking for Wellness

Beata Tsosie-Peña


In these times, we are incorporating our personal truths and ancestral knowledge, reclaiming our Native ways of being and knowing as we interact and honor all our relations as part of our living Earth. Indigenous knowledge is being turned to more and more in the struggle to develop solutions to global challenges. Permaculture principles, organic agriculture, solar energy, earth structures, rainwater catchment and conservation, dry-land farming, seed saving, Earth-honoring spirituality, simplicity, anti-consumerism, and a return to Pueblo/Native foods are some examples of indigenous/land-based knowledge that have great potential for preserving humanity within a systemic culture of violence. A culture of peace is there for us to reclaim. Collectively, we need only open ourselves up to what the memory of this beloved place has to teach us and balance that knowledge with restorative justice and what is good within Euro-American culture.


I have been fortunate to learn from the mentorship and guidance of amazing activists and women-led organizations in northern New Mexico—Tewa Women United; Honor Our Pueblo Existence; Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety; New Mexico Acequia Association; Interfaith Worker Justice; Tularosa Basin Down-winders Consortium; and Dr. Maureen Merritt—as we tackle toxicity and impacts arising from nuclear weapons production and environmental violence in the Pueblo peoples’ ancestral homelands and the state of New Mexico. This network of collaboration and shared expertise is known as Las Mujeres Hablan (LMH), The Women Speak. Other collaborations addressing these issues include The Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance and Communities for Clean Water. LMH recognizes that our Native peoples hold much wisdom and knowledge of equal worth to that held by scientists and Ph.D.s. We have many allies and equally amazing organizations within our state that are working together, the collective work of which combines into a holistic frame that addresses social justice and human-rights issues beginning from birth to creating healthy families and outward into community. As we continue to join forces throughout our urban and rural networks, our impact and potential for change and true sustainability are greatly magnified.


We need to be extremely conscious at this time; the overarching systems of oppression are constantly working to break down and destroy our unity through mechanisms of systemic and internalized forms of oppression. That is also part of our ongoing legacy of historical and generational trauma. Our ancestors need us to grieve, to do the hard work to release our childhood hurts, and to end negative cycles in order to be free from what was enacted upon them (and us) through centuries of genocide and dominant power. This legacy was as harmful to the oppressors as the oppressed and, as a result, we share the same social challenges across cultures: violence within our homes and communities, abuse, poverty, addictions and mental illness. Through shared healing modalities within both indigenous and Western medicine, we have the collective knowledge to recognize and heal ourselves, as whole people, and resist the numerous forces that would split our spirits and keep us from clarity.


In these times, we watch clouds form above us full of hope, even while we are bombarded with all that is wrong in the world. We grieve for loved ones who left us too soon from violence and illness. We are socialized to live in fear and support the system that keeps us from wellness. There is much work to do; the time is now. Go outside and rebuild community, nurture and mentor children and young people, commit yourselves to helping the work Native organizations and their allies are doing, reform relationships with our natural world in reciprocity and respect. Do the work of unlearning your own superiority and internalizations. Learn or pass on your Native languages, and participate in traditional spirituality. Research your immigrant roots and lifeways from across oceans, and be cautious of exploiting or co-opting Native culture. Strengthen local networks. Love yourself and the place you are a part of, fully and unconditionally, and protect it from harm. Be generous and share what is good. Invoke your body, mind, heart and spiritual sovereignty, and make choices that affirm and protect life. Follow the original instructions given to humanity since time immemorial to love, respect and take care of one another.



Beata Tsosie-Peña is a mother, poet, educator, gardener and seed saver from Santa Clara Pueblo and El Rito. She works for Tewa Women United’s Environmental Health and Justice Program.




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