2023 Reflections: Nurturing Seeds of Radical Hope
In these challenging times, please remember that every seed contains the element of radical hope. Our work at Tewa Women United is very much about nurturing and sharing seeds – in every sense of the word. You can find our staff working with youth and elders to stock our Española Healing Foods Seed Library, and you can also feel how metaphorical seeds are being planted and protected with every intentional act that generates from our Environmental, Reproductive, and Gender Justice Programs. We want to share some of those seeds with you here in our reflection on the past year.
Growing, nourishing, transforming, and healing our communities to reach the place of thriving has been at the center of TWU’s heart work since our founding in 1989. We could not do this without your support, and we invite you to give to our 2023 year-end campaign to help us continue planting seeds that will thrive long into the future.
Tewa Women United’s program design and implementation is inspired by Opide, the braiding of theory to practice, of prayer and vision to action. We recognize the interconnections between environmental, reproductive, and gender justice movements, and work in partnerships to nurture community engagement and to grow a culture of peace and consent.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE PROGRAM
Our Environmental Justice (EJ) Program integrates body, mind, and spiritual awareness into advocacy, policy change, and community education while uplifting Indigenous and land-based families and oppressed Peoples. In doing so, we build grassroots leaders and community capacity.
This year we held the final series of Pueblo Women in Farming panel discussions that renewed the strong sense of self sustainability amongst those who carry our communities forward with seed. Our featured guests included Lilian Hill (Hopi /Quechua), Beata Tsosie-Pena (Santa Clara Pueblo), Roxanne Swenztell (Santa Clara Pueblo), with facilitation by Chasity Salvador (Acoma Pueblo). We strategized how we can continue to support those who grow food, and how to nourish the food and seed sovereignty movements around Indian Country. Our Pueblo Women in Farming circles concluded in the fall with a gathering of invited participants and panelists at the Rio Grande south of Taos with Louie Hena and family. Here, the Pueblo women feasted and floated along the river while discussing the importance of rest as restoration for the many farming seasons to come.
Our EJ Program continues to be involved in the work of protecting those most vulnerable in communities that reside near extractive projects. Our advocacy efforts included another public petition that gathered 2,237 signatures and successfully halted (for now) the planned venting of radioactive tritium at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
We’ve held conversations among the youth of the Espanola valley and listened to their concerns about the life-threatening environmental impacts of LANL, and the on-going nuclear colonialism that deeply impacts the soil and air in communities downwind of Los Alamos. The youth also expressed worries about the life-expectancy rate declining for their lives and their children’s lives. Many reported the need for more intergenerational conversations with elders who have witnessed multiple environmental threats to the Espanola-Pojoaque valley and the precious Tewa homelands.
Our efforts have led us to work with Kha’p’o Community School in the spring of 2023. The students helped plant tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash in the spiral garden at the Española Healing Foods Oasis. Our beloved white corn that will be grounded and gifted to our circle of grandmothers, our Sayain.
This year we did a great deal of community outreach to raise awareness of the impact of nuclear colonization on Indigenous and land-based communities in our region, and how we are re-membering lifeways that sustain our communities. EJ staff Talavi Cook and Kayleigh Warren were both featured in a series by Searchlight New Mexico. Kayleigh also hosted “Foods, Farms, and Friends” on KSFR to invite listeners to sit in on a conversation about Pueblo seed sovereignty and seed rematriation.
Finally, we want to highlight all who volunteered their time at our Healing Foods Oasis this year. We held five community workshops/volunteer mornings at the garden, and grew medicinal plants for our Towa Bi Woh/Barrios Remedios Project and our seed library. We’ll be restocking the seed library this month, and are excited to continue labeling and restoring the knowledge of medicinal plants in the Tewa homelands by naming the plants and their seeds in the Tewa language, as well as in Spanish.
We look forward to tending the many projects that were seeded in 2023 and also to plant a garden at our new office. We’re also planning for a greenhouse to be stationed on our campus as well.
REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE PROGRAM
Our Reproductive Justice (RJ) Program welcomes families to engage in their health and wellbeing by revitalizing and reclaiming traditional practices and ways of knowing. We also advocate for policies, best practices, and strategies that uphold the health and wellbeing of families in New Mexico.
Over the past year, the RJ team has worked to increase direct service care to the Española/Pojoaque valley. The Yiya Vi Kagingdi Community Doula Projectserved nine new clients, offered 25 pre-natal appointments, 16 post-partum appointments, and five infant feeding support visits. YVK’s nine community doulas have attended five births as support people.
But even more meaningful than those numbers is the heartfelt support from YVK doulas that makes an impact on our clients’ lives. One of them shared:
During the cavernous isolating pandemic winter of 2021/2022 and the last months of my pregnancy, I was reckoning with deep bitterness. It was some hero’s journey, belly of the beast, traveling the underworld levels of humbling. It was during this time that Sal showed up in my life as my doula. Sal was curious, compassionate, and consistent. She bridged the space between my sense of isolation and the reminder that community still existed.
Building on the model of healing justice in movement building work, the RJ Program has developed nourishing programming with healing experts to support these community doulas through their work. We’ve also offered many classes to local families, including Childbirth Education, the eight-class Circle of Security series, Parent Circles (including one focused on perinatal massage), and an LGBTQIA support group. In total, more than 100 families, parents, and expecting parents took part in these free community offerings.
This year we also started the Towa Bi Woh/Barrio Remedios Project in collaboration with Barrios Unidos, a Chimayo-based nonprofit organization and other community farmers and herbalists. The project provides herbal and plant medicines for our community to provide relief from challenging conditions such as anxiety and grief, as well as to offer support to nursing mothers. The project offered four free workshops on remedio-making, in which 51 community members participated. Over 1,600 individual remedios (glycerites, salves, syrups, infused honey, and teas) were made and distributed to over 400 community members, program clients, and staff.
The RJ Program remains connected to many partners across New Mexico to provide public comments at legislative sessions and build upon the link between violence against Native women, gender-based violence, and the Missing, Murdered, Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) epidemic. RJ continues education in the surrounding Pueblo communities on reproductive justice, choice, and practices community outreach for those seeking such care in these communities that historically have not had this particular care.
During the 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session, our RJ staff collaborated with other community partners to advocate for the successful passage of bills that aligned with our organizational values, including HB 7 (Reproductive & Gender-Affirming Health Care) and SB 13 (Reproductive Health Provider Protections). Heaven Lee Kim, our Reproductive Justice Coordinator, was part of a coalition of organizations that worked tirelessly to get HB 7 passed. She said, “Tewa Women United is incredibly excited to see New Mexico lead the way in ensuring that all people have access to the life-saving healthcare they need in order to live full and authentic lives, especially in rural and Indigenous communities who have historically lacked that access.”
Our Reproductive Justice Program looks forward to the new year to strengthening these collaborations, seeing more community doulas work in the surrounding Pueblos, and supporting youth who are experiencing the range of reproductive choice and journeys.
GENDER JUSTICE PROGRAM
Many of you will know the former name for this program: Women’s Leadership and Economic Freedom. This year it was re-named as the Gender Justice (GJ) Program to better capture the essence of its focus. 2023 has been an amazing year for our GJ Program!
The Gender Justice and Healing Book Club worked to create a safe space for people to learn and discuss topics surrounding social and environmental issues. The club was open to people of all genders and identities, and virtual discussion sessions took place in March, April, May, and August. Overall, the Book Club was a valuable and transformative experience for all participants.
During the Summer, GJ Staff and three interns held the A’Gin Youth Summer Program, which offered 12 young people from tribal communities and the Española area a free 7-week program focused on the A’Gin Braided Curriculum: Reimagining Masculinity. Some of the activities youth experienced included art workshops, beadwork, poetry, remedios medicine making, cooking, and personal reflection activities.
”Kids need spaces outside of the classroom structures to build relations with each other. We get to see their confidence build when they get to feel and express their autonomy.”
GJ was honored to hold two Butterfly Wing Workshops with young femmes and parents. These workshops encouraged the community to explore themselves through apron making and traditional pottery.
The Skate Park Initiative, now formally called Valley Skates, is a Northern New Mexico Skate Collective that currently advocates for a safe and accessible skatepark in Española, dedicated to all. The collective has grown to 20 members and six skate collective meetings were held as well as a Halloween skate jam.
Our GJ Program is excited to announce that with the expansion of our staff and recent relocation to Tewa Women United’s new campus, our outreach will be bigger than ever going into 2024. From the rebirth of our youth council, to our continuous cohorts, book club, skate events, and summer youth program, plus a very special project we are excited to share in the near future, GJ is preparing for another incredible year of providing inclusive and evolving programs to Northern New Mexico.
We invite your support for our heart- and cultural-based approach to social transformation as 2023 comes to a close. Your donation makes initiatives like these possible that strengthen the heart of our communities and lift up land-based lifeways.
Kuunda woha / thank you!