For 25 years, Tewa Women United (TWU) has been serving all women within Río Arriba County. Starting as a collective of Tewa women looking to heal their own lives, families and communities from the traumas of sexual violence, domestic violence and substance abuse, the group expanded to embrace the larger community and developed a commitment to serve all families in need.
For many years, the organization struggled with how to reach out to men and boys in the community. In 2014, an opportunity arose through a grant from First Nations Development Institute to further the scope of TWU’s engagement by working with Native men and boys in Río Arriba.
With TWU’s core values of supporting healthy families as a foundation, Jon Naranjo, who is from Santa Clara Pueblo, has been working with TWU to establish the Sengipaa Ing Vi Po (The Journey of Becoming a Man) mentor project. He is dedicated to establishing an ongoing program of Native men teaching Native boys valuable, sustainable life skills, from agriculture and hunting to auto maintenance and financial literacy, all within a framework of traditional Tewa values and lifeways. Native men with a variety of life skills are being recruited to serve the initial cohort of eight Tewa boys.
Survival skills will be taught as part of the curriculum, from making a friction fire to what to do if you get lost. These important abilities, once mastered, will result in higher levels of confidence in the young men. “Teaching our boys how to live in balance between the traditional and modern worlds is critical for the future of our Tewa communities,” Naranjo said.
However, it’s not all work and no play. The cohort will also be involved in a variety of fun activities such as fishing, camping, river rafting and enjoying lots of good food. Each event and activity is fashioned in a way to bring understanding of our interconnectedness, as well as the responsibilities that the boys will be taking on as they journey to become men: responsibilities to themselves, their families and communities and the women and girls in their lives. The Sengipaa project is embedded with teachings designed to educate the boys in how to be instrumental in ending violence against women and girls.
By combining real-life skills with cultural understanding, TWU is embracing both men and women. Corrine Sanchez, director of TWU, is excited about this development. “At TWU, we love our Native men and boys,” she said, “and realize that the health and well-being of all our Native peoples are intimately linked.”
For more information or to provide support for this project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://tewawomenunited.org/sengipaa-ing-vi-po-mentor-project
Scott Davis has lived and worked in Río Arriba County since 2007. When not managing construction projects for Avanyu LLC, he can be found helping TWU or vainly attempting to pull every last goat’s head from the yard where he and his daughter live in San Pedro, New Mexico.