Tewa Women United Today
Heart Work at the Intersection of Environmental Justice, Reproductive Justice, and Sexual/Gender-Based Violence
“Community-based organizations like Tewa Women United have been addressing inequities well before COVID, and we will be here after COVID providing the vital services our families and communities need. Now more than ever, our voices need to be heard.
This is our moment to bring into reality the transformations that can redefine our existence as a more humane, loving, caring, unified, and much more simplified presence.”
– Dr. Corrine Sanchez, Tewa Women United
We live in times of immense challenge and opportunity.
As Tewa people, we share in the struggles of Indigenous people everywhere, including: contamination of land, water, and air; challenges to our sovereign rights; loss of homelands and displacement. As human beings, we face the challenges of people across the planet, including: climate change; inequitable distribution of economic and environmental resources; fraying of social and cultural ties; increasing polarization and conflict.
To understand how to navigate the challenges all of us face, it is critical to center and raise Indigenous voices, in particular the voices of our women.
As Pueblo/Tewa women, our source of strength has always been our connection to land, spirituality, and culture. We continue to re-claim and nurture the strength within us as we uplift and embrace healing from the traumas inflicted by three waves of colonization in our homelands of Northern New Mexico as well as intergenerational and current traumas. We understand deeply that what happens to women’s bodies happens to our Earth Mother—the violence done to our bodies IS violence done to our land. We see clearly the intersection of environmental justice, reproductive justice, and sexual/gender-based violence.
We are committed to protecting our sacred lands, the giver of life. Our Pueblo/Tewa worldview sees our Earth Mother as a living being with unique energy and spirit of life.
In this midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear to us that it is more important than ever to invest in organizational infrastructure and stability so that the work of Tewa Women United will continue to benefit our communities for the challenging times to come.
Now and in the times to come, it is essential that voices from Tewa Women United and other Indigenous organizations are part of shaping the society that all of us are all living into.
This is not a time to go “back to normal” — it is a time to raise up our communities’ cultural knowledge and strengths. We know from experience that ancient knowledge and lifeways can sustain us during this time of profound disruption and guide us to a more sustainable way of living with each other and our Earth Mother. By having a strong organizational infrastructure (including a healthy reserve fund), Tewa Women United can play a key role in the social transformation that is now being called for.
We recognize that as an Indigenous women’s organization, we hold a unique perspective about how to navigate devastating circumstances such as this pandemic, given our communities’ past experiences with the violence and trauma of three waves of colonization. Our resilience and our experience are resources for the wider community during this challenging time.
Our practice of transformational social justice work is infused with Tewa values and seeks to ensure effectiveness and cultural integrity, and promote lasting change through connection and belonging. These frameworks inform all our work:
- The Tewa Braiding Way: Opide – a transformative Social Justice framework of Practice-to-Action. This puts into practice an intersectional analysis (braiding) of Indigenous and Pre-dominate Western theories to bring forward change or transformation through action.
- The Two World Harmony Butterfly Model – a contrasting contradictions management model that visually and philosophically shows the complexity of critical analysis individuals maneuver in seeking “ balance,” which is truly about fluidity and movement of energies between multiple ways of knowing.
As Tewa peoples, we are taught that it is each of our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community. During our 30 years, that responsibility has taken diverse forms. Currently, it is expressed through these programs and projects:
- Environmental Health and Justice, including the Española Healing Foods Oasis project and our annual Gatherings for Mother Earth. We recognize that the health of our ecosystems is what sustains us through generations, and it is our responsibility to protect these for those yet to come.
- Indigenous Women’s Health and Reproductive Justice, including our Yiya Vi Kagingdi Community Doula Project. Through IWH we encourage Pueblo women to become active participants in their healthcare through all stages of life, and we aim to revitalize and access traditional Indigenous knowledge and practice in women’s health.
- Women’s Leadership and Economic Freedom, an inter-generational leadership development initiative that includes our A’Gin Healthy Sexuality and Body Sovereignty Project, the Engaging Men and Boys Initiative, and our Sayain elder women’s wisdom circle.
In all of our programs, we center Native women’s voices that have so long been silenced through colonization, sexual violence, sexism and heteropatriarchy, and through the cultural stripping of the birthing process.
Though focused on women and girls, the whole community benefits from this work. Our sexual violence and doula services are open to all in our community. Our environmental justice work is based on an understanding that the interconnectedness of our land and waters transcends political boundaries. Our Sayain is a multicultural, multiracial circle of elder women. We have always been a multicultural, multiracial organization.
We are really about loving, caring, and taking responsibility for ourselves and others. Through our practice of our Tewa language, TWU uses our interpretation of Tewa values, which are uniquely applied across all our programs and projects.