Reawakening and growing within the fertile Río Grande Valley is a consciousness that is spreading like the seeds and land we continue to care for. The spiritual, physical and mindful connection that northern New Mexico communities nurture in relationship to plants, soil, air, water and each other is one that can ensure a return to our continued, sustainable existence in this place. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths when it is recognized that we all hold a responsibility to the Native and land-based peoples to live here in respect, honor, support and solidarity for the roles we share in helping to act as caretakers of this sacred place. How can we reclaim how to live and coexist in a culture of peace with each other and with our Mother Earth? One way is through continued education and awareness, nurturing our spiritual connections and coming together in our strengths, sharing solutions and creating space for ceremony in order to face head-on the issues that threaten our cultural ways of life and food traditions.
This year the Mother Earth Ecological Wellness Collaborative, made up of Tewa Women United (TWU), Traditional Native American Farmers Association, Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute, Red Willow Center and Farm, New Mexico Acequia Association, Local Collaborative 18, and Honor Our Pueblo Existence, again sponsored the Gathering for Mother Earth (G4ME). Another sponsor was the Communities for Clean Water coalition (ccwnewmexico.org). This collaboration aims to combine resources and networks to continue education and foster awareness of the many issues we face regarding our food and seed sovereignty, environmental violence, protection of sacred sites, protection and restoration of our air, lands, animals, plants and waters, and the need for continued knowledge sharing in a culturally relevant way within our communities.
These organizations, along with TWU’s Tsaya In’/Circle of Grandmothers collaborated in support of a unified gathering, which took form in the 21st Annual G4ME Waters, over the course of four days in September 2017. In 2016 Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council adopted a resolution in support of the event.
This year’s G4ME was a series of water blessings, linking communities that live within a sacred convergence of rivers; communities that help care for natural springs in mountains and canyons, honoring the energies that feed life. Day one was hosted by the Northern Youth Project Garden in Abiquiú, where there was story-sharing, tamales, music, art and a harvest to thank the youth for their hard work in the fields and to honor the water source, the pueblo’s sacred spring.
Day two was hosted by Red Willow Center and Farms of Taos Pueblo, and took place along the Río Grande at the Pilar campgrounds. Elder grandmothers gave blessings, and Louie Henna of Tesuque Pueblo shared teachings from his life experience on the river. The evening event took place at the YMCA Teen Center in Española, where collaboration with TWU’s A’gin program and Complex Movements from Detroit provided an impressive multimedia display of water stories from our region.
Day Three took place in the beautiful Nambé Falls campgrounds. It was sponsored by the Nambé Pueblo community, which served a bountiful meal that culminated in a family-friendly evening of dances and culture sharing at Pojoaque Pueblo’s Poeh Museum.
Day Four, along the Pojoaque River, started at sunrise at the Pojoaque Pow-wow grounds where the gathering is held annually. Waters from all the locations were joined in ceremony, in a renewal of our shared commitment to life in our special home. Andrew Kimbrell, from the Center for Food Safety led a community discussion. Lunch was prepared by the Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute’s Agri-Kidz program. The four days ended in blessings of rain and rainbows.
It is through nurturing our relationship to water that we can become open to the potential we all hold for creating beloved community in the healing context of our love of place. In this spirit of community and respect for water, TWU’s Environmental Health and Justice program, along with many community collaborators, volunteers and sponsors, has been leading the creation of the Española Healing Foods Oasis, in Valdez Park. This demonstration garden, a model for rainwater harvesting in an urban setting, provides an outdoor educational space to teach indigenous agriculture, reconnect with our native seeds, plants and their uses, promote language and cultural knowledge, increase access to healthy food and invoke our ability as land-based peoples to adapt to climate change.
The garden, which broke ground in the spring of 2016, is currently in Phase III. Recently, the hardscape, which includes handrails for stone staircases, curvilinear bancos and a shade pergola at the base of the slope, was completed. In early September, the site hosted the second annual Regeneration Festival Española. The community came together and planted more fruit trees. There will be many more tree plantings, as well as more seeding of native grasses and wildflower gardens to encourage pollinator and wildlife habitats and further land restoration. There is now a sponsorship sign for existing and potential sponsors. More signage and multi-lingual plant labels will be installed in the coming season. Plant knowledge talking circles are in the works.
There has been an outpouring of support in the form of hundreds of intergenerational volunteers, grants, sponsors and a continued partnership with the City of Española. Teaching and learning together, we are already harvesting and distributing plant medicines and holding planting and harvesting workshops on traditional foods such as amaranth. The garden’s participants also include community artists, weavers, permaculture practitioners, herbalists, healers, educators, seed savers and farmers. If you would like to get involved, donate, or volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Beata Tsosie-Peña is of mixed ancestry from Santa Clara Pueblo and El Rito, N.M. She is a poet, farmer, early childhood specialist and program coordinator of Tewa Women United’s Environmental Justice Program. http://tewawomenunited.org