Tewa Women United Responds to the Pandemic

YVK Doula Project Care Basket

In early March, Tewa Women United pivoted to respond as best we could to the shifts occurring due to COVID-19. Over the past three months, we’ve had to exercise our resilience many times to find creative solutions to the challenges related to this pandemic and to respond effectively to the needs of our communities.

Most immediately, we had to address the challenges of teleworking despite the digital divide in our rural area, and simultaneously we began strategizing for how to maintain our organizing and educational programs virtually. We also created a Resource Guide to help community members navigate through the initial shocking impact of COVID-19.

We thought of how this situation would increase the stress and trauma of our already vulnerable community members. Our Yi Ya Vi Kagindi Doula Program created and distributed care packages to nurture body, mind, heart, and spirit, with contents customized for elders, pregnant or nursing mothers, and adult females. Care Baskets included items such as herbal teas, honey, atole (blue cornmeal), beans, gift and gas cards, protective masks, diapers, wipes, stress relieving tools, and the Indigenous Women’s Health newsletter with a list of community resources. To date, we’ve given baskets to 57 people.

Our Sayain (Grandmothers) used their personal supplies of herbs, fabric, and other materials to sew masks for those in the community, as well as providing herbs and plants. We witnessed how one of the most important contributions the Sayain offer is spiritual grounding, even when they themselves are experiencing physical distancing isolation, and loss of household income support to them and their extended families. As a trauma informed community organization, Tewa Women United continues to provide emergency bundles tailored to the different needs of our community members, all intended to strengthen body, mind, heart and spirit. Our Sayain are creating Care Bundles and Healing Pouches that include medicine plants such as lavender, sage, osha roots and rose buds, along with a rose quartz stone shaped like an angel with wings forming a heart, a small vial of blessed water spritzer. Inside is a printed message on a slip of paper: “Keep good thoughts. You are not alone in troubled times.”

Beata Tsosie-Peña, our Environmental Justice Program Coordinator provided community members with Care Seed Bundles containing seeds of medicinal and other plants. Planting is an activity that supports us to gain a sense of grounding with Nung Ochuu Quiyo, our Earth Mother, contributes to the self-sustenance of growing for oneself and giving to others, and recharges wounded spirits.

Our Women’s Leadership and Economic Freedom and Youth Development Project staff have been creating Care Packages that include Indigenous coloring books, hygiene products, snacks, arts and crafts materials, and self-care tools such as lavender mists and stress management toys. We are looking ahead to include leather and sewing tools for the youth to make healing medicine pouches for themselves and to gift to others. In giving these items we affirm the value of remaining connected and in relationship while maintaining physical distance. They are distributed to community elders, wisdom keepers, youth development project participants and members of our youth council, individuals, families, and anyone who is struggling in these stressful times and needs to know they are connected to a beloved community.

We have also assisted other organizations to mobilize in response to this crisis. Nathana Bird, TWU’s Associate Director, helped the Pueblo Action Alliance, a grassroots group based in Albuquerque, connect to Northern pueblos to get them cloth masks and PPE. We uplifted the Pueblo Relief Fund and the Navajo/Hopi relief fund.

Tewa Women United is grateful for the flexibility of our funding partners and the generosity of our donors at this time, and for clear communication from Corrine Sanchez, our Executive Director. All along, Dr. Sanchez has been encouraging the importance of mindfulness and self-care as coping strategies during moments when families are struggling deeply and staff are experiencing PTSD due to their own personal traumas.