Honoring Our Elders,
Braiding Intergenerational Wisdom
Hard work and collective inclusion. We have attended several gatherings early in the creation of their circle. Tewa Women do not strive to become, they just are, it is a middle path of balance and serenity, walking upon the earth, and being a vibrant part of Earth’s breath.– Maria Bautista, Albuquerque, NM
In 1989, a small group of women from the six northern Tewa-speaking Pueblos in New Mexico came together to talk about struggles impacting their families and communities such as sexual and domestic violence with domestic violence, addiction, the breakdown of families, among and other challenges. As they shared their stories, the women found strength in learning that they were not alone in their experiences.
Together, these women affirmed their strength, courage, and voices. Over time, TWU created a space for a Pueblo/Tewa women’s perspective to be forged. In the protection of circle gatherings, women began to recall stories passed down by their grandmothers that spoke of the sacredness of women, the power women possess, and the vital role they play in carrying on Pueblo/Tewa ways of being.
Through engagement in TWU, the women began to reclaim their power to practice their self-determination, sovereignty, and in(ter)dependence. For some, this came through decisions to leave violent relationships. For others, this meant staying in relationships but actively working on communication and boundary setting. Others decided to gain more skills through education and training, while some women created programs and projects which drew on the strength of their families and communities.
TWU came about from finding ways, together, to answer these questions —
- How do we continue to share our experiences with each other and others?
- How do we continue our healing?
- What can we do to support one another and others from our communities and families?
These questions continue to drive the “heart work” of TWU.
We were an all-volunteer organization until 2001, when we received our 501(c)3 non-profit status. TWU is the only independent Native women’s non-profit organization providing direct services, advocacy, and prevention services within the original boundaries of our Tewa homelands in what is now the Pojoaque-Española Valley of northern New Mexico. Our name comes from the Tewa concept wi don gi mu, which translates to “we are one.”
We have been able to accomplish much as an organization over these past 30 years, including:
- Strengthening leadership for Native women, girls, and our youth through projects such as the Sayain (Circle of Grandmothers) and A’Gin Youth Council
- Providing hundreds of trainings and presentations at the community, state, national, and international levels to address topics of environmental, social, and racial justice, violence against Native women, and continued impact of historical trauma and most importantly healing approaches
- Providing doula services and parent education/support to hundreds of families in the northern Pueblos and Rio Arriba County, and establishing an innovative and culturally-based community doula training program
- Shaping policy and developing multi-disciplinary teams in response to environmental violence concerns in our Tewa homelands, downwind and downstream from Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as in response to sexual violence concerns
- Reclaiming our agricultural legacy through creation of community gardens and protecting the sacredness of our seeds through the practice of Food and Seed Sovereignty