Get to Know TWU Staff: Elder Kathy Sanchez

Kathy Wan Povi Sanchez, M.A., Environmental Health and Justice Program Manager, is a native spirit-rooted social activist, community educator, and traditional black ware potter from the Tewa Pueblo of San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico.

Elder Kathy is instrumental in doing presentations, trainings, and program development in her many roles for Tewa Women United for more than twenty years. Her work includes developing transformative tools, all from Native women’s lived perspectives, for cross cultural communications, such as the “Two World Harmony Butterfly Model” and “Trauma Rocks.” She is a fluent Tewa language speaker and mentor for mind, body, heart and spirit.

Elder Kathy has dedicated her life to working on culture, the environment, and social change. Tewa Women United’s founding in 1989 was the collective effort of a number of powerful Native women. At the same time, TWU has been deeply informed and inspired by Wan Povi’s heart and vision, and would not be the organization it is today without her.

Over the years you’ve probably seen Elder Kathy offering her presence at countless gatherings, rallies, and convocations. She’s organized with rural and Indigenous women at the UN Committee on the Status of Women, testified at New Mexico public hearings on Los Alamos National Lab’s devastating impact on health and environment, and much more.

Elder Kathy is also a gifted and innovative teacher. She developed the Two Butterfly Model (or two-world harmony model) and has shared it with Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples and organizations since the early 1980s. According to her daughter, Corrine,

The Butterfly Model is based on the image of the butterfly which to Tewa people signifies transformation, mobility, vulnerability, and power to impact the multi-verse because of and despite its delicacy…. The model continues to serve as the foundational philosophical model for TWU because it discusses our wholeness of being, using identity, language, and spirituality as a strength that leads to our mobility (fluidity) in changing and challenging times.

Two more of Elder Kathy’s innovative contributions to our work are Trauma Rocks, an experiential process to identify and heal generational trauma, and the Gathering for Mother Earth. This annual event, started in 1996, is now organized by a coalition of organizations (including TWU) as a celebration of cultural ways to share love and gratitude for Mother Earth. The gathering offers the community an opportunity to come together for eco-systemic revival and revolution.

And — this year Elder Kathy will be celebrating her 70th birthday in September!


Watch Elder Kathy talk about TWU’s mission, and the meaning of re-sistering (rather than resisting)

Protecting Future Generations: The Need to Address Historical Trauma, Elder Kathy’s plenary speech for Alaska Community Action on Toxics