Former Governor, Cochiti Pueblo Regis Pecos speaks to the Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort 2015. He highlights the strength of indigenous heritage and resilience of culture for Native nations to govern themselves.
Good afternoon to all of you; in my language... Greetings to elders in this room… Hello to my brothers… to my sisters… my friends… my relatives... I want to thank you for the honor of listening to your introductions this morning and sharing with all of us the beautiful gifts and contribution with children, with the way in which you embrace others, the way that you protect people as a part of your contribution; the way that you extend to others the need to be healthy in what we choose to eat. One to share the humor that you shared in your introduction or prevented you from your introduction and to people who give themselves. Coaches have a special place in my heart because of what they’ve meant to me in my life and so I appreciate very much what a number of you shared in your passion. All of you shared something very special that speaks to who you are, who we are collectively. I want to begin in a reflection about who we are as the first part of my presentation; to really think about who we are today and who gifted us that inheritance because in every message you shared this morning. It is a very personal connection that you shared in terms of who gifted you with something so incredibly valuable that defines who you’ve become; that defines what you do in your life that is about the sake of children especially but the sake of all people collectively. That is a precious gift and we have to acknowledge, as you shared these gifts, that I translate into essential core values that defines community, that contributes to the vibrancy of community. It takes people like all of you with all of these beautiful gifts of contribution to create the vibrant spirit of community that we love so deeply or we wouldn’t do what we do in our lives, right? Because it matters what our contributions are because it’s community.
All of us that become the caretakers for the children and like what we share across all indigenous culture, prayers often end with those words, for the sake of the people, for the sake of the children, for the sake of those yet to be born into this world that are still part of that spiritual journey. In all of our indigenous cultures, story telling is a very important part of how we share our experience in life that become teachings in our life, as one of you shared, how we transfer life experiences into knowledge that contributes to our collective well-being if we choose to take this life experience in very positive and constructive ways. Imagine this: think about when you were a little girl, a little boy and think about the first stories that reflect love and caring in your relationship with others in your family or community. You likely will share in those stories the beauty of the gift of grandma’s and grandpa’s in our lives. I can recollect how we would love to go visit my grandpa and grandma. We would run to see who would get to grandma first because it was always so special to be sitting by grandma because grandma would do this or grandma would take your hand and like your hair go like this and it was something very special. I get emotional about it because those are very beautiful times and experiences of love, caring and nurturing. Think about this: you are now where you are in your life journey, a father of 7, a mother embracing others as a part of your family, and you all shared the way in which you struggled through school with families.
Life is all about story-telling, but as indigenous peoples we all remember these stories from our grandparents, from others in our extended families, telling us of the special connections to places. They gave us words and they gave us stories and so now at this stage in our life, in our life journey, we have to start asking the question, ‘What kind of stories will I tell my children? What kind of stories will I tell my grandchildren? Will I tell them of the story of origin? Or can I tell them of a very special place, a landscape of connection, what happened there and why we feel so deeply about place and belonging? If we’re blessed along our journey, we will also tell them stories about how elders in their life journey will become one with creation at some point in our lives. So these become very critical times in our life journey and where I want to start in my presentation that will take us through four different parts of our reflection. This first part I want to talk about is origin or creation, or for us, Joan and I among the Pueblo People, emergence. But it’s that time as our people travel in the spiritual people and came to be in this physical world. It was a time when we were gifted by our creator some very special gifts to sustain us among our journey that we continue today. So whether it’s about emergence, origin, or creation, for the Diné who are here with us, it’s the beauty way. For people of this place and of this region, medicine bundles become the carriers of these important instructions of the way of life, about how to be, about how to live.
Oren Lyons, who I have had the honor of sharing much time with in our relationship with the Native Nations Institute and Honoring Nations, calls this time a time when the creator gifted to us as indigenous people, the original instructions. The original instructions of a way of life. I start with this core values paradigm because these gifts area really about what you shared this morning that binds you together as a family as part of a community. Where I begin in establishing that foundation. I also want to then share with you what was prophesized in all indigenous cultures that through our life journey that there will be others that come upon our life pathways. Who would threaten these gifts of the creator and each generation in our life journey would be vested with a sacred trust to be the protectors, to be the guardians, to be the stewards of these gifts by the creator. We’re going to go through what history reflects, that the United Nations recently defined that these policies and laws, those of you who study policy will appreciate, are among the worst crimes against humanity. For why they were conceived, driven by doctrines justifying their oppression against our people, but that was predicted; that there would be generations along our journey who would be challenged with our existence. The true love to these gifts of the creator, that I will share with you momentarily, is what each generation does to respond to these challenges. Some in our history gave their lives. Our fight today is sometimes from within, and that too was prophesized. That some time along our journey, if we are not mindful of our past collective experiences, that we could become our own worst enemy. It’s moving away from the fulfillment of this sacred trust and the maintenance of our core values that guide our lives.
What I want to share with you to appreciate what our forefathers overcame in their time that should cause us to celebrate the profound resilience of what they overcame sometimes dying in their sacrifice to define for us our inheritance. The question of future generations will be what we do today that defines their inheritance. An important question for all of you and us in this day is, how will future generations reflect on us of this time? Will they too celebrate and honor your resiliency by what you do and your contributions? Or will they reflect upon this time, those unborn, to say, ‘only if our forefathers, our foremothers,’ all of you in this time, ‘did what they needed to do to define our inheritance.’ Does that make sense?
So, I want to move from that to the next phase and that is, how did we reclaim, in a really recent period of our history, all that our forefathers, our leaders and all of you in your own ways have contributed that defines this time of self-determination? But, ‘what have we done in this time of self-determination?’ is an important question. What are we doing differently in this time of self-determination, when supposedly we are in control, different from the times that we weren’t, that we were critical of? Because in our research and study, we find out that what we have done for the better part of this period of self-determination, 30 to 40 years now, with rare exceptions of some communities driven by core values in their decision-making that are resilient in their own ways that is strengthening their core values in the decisions they make today. Where I want to end up is what was also prophesied and that is this is a very special time. You are a part of a very special time doing the work that you share as an important part in rethinking and redefining policy in a place where very little of our people are. That makes your work and contributions so profoundly important in rethinking our strategies and approaches to define what future generations will inherit from us.
I’m going to move through that process so that we can also have some time for questions.
This is very Pueblo-centric; this is a depiction of one of the oldest dances in Pueblo ceremony. But here are three critical circles that I want to share with you, and I would challenge you as fellows in this cohort to take the same format and tailor your own reflections and knowledge of the same, very specific to your indigenous community and culture. How can we honor the resilience of our forefathers if we don’t know our beginning? How can we make sense of the challenges we face today if we don’t appreciate history, right? To make sense of the challenges and how we move forward defining what your children, what your youngest, 4 years old, will see in their experience. You have a direct contribution to make by what we do collectively to support you in defining that future. So it becomes a critical part of recognizing that in this time of origin or creation or emergence, is this first circle that we all have to consciously connect to that defines our responses today and it is this gift of our mother earth. That in all of the migration stories to the places that we now exist are the stories of our ancestors and where events took place that challenged their survival to come to this center point of our existence where we are today. Land is what provides for our sense of connection and belonging in this physical world. It is a very significant contributor that defines our identity to place. Language is a very beautiful gift we heard today, shared by many of you, handed down by members of your family and your community. And to celebrate that even in the face of the policies and laws to kill our mother tongue, the language of our people survived that we ought to celebrate. This defined way of life, which is our spiritual existence, is this gift that mainstream calls religion but our elders remind us is a way of life. It’s the way of conscious existence for us in this world through these teachings. Laws and customs of our people were provided as a way to maintain balance in our communities. As a person engaged in law enforcement, this is one of the great challenges for our community, knowing the welfare and the wellbeing in what you have devoted your life to is necessary for communities well-being. But in the midst of that have been the challenges to undo it in ways that make it difficult for indigenous laws and customs to exist through no fault of anyone. But how do we transform this incredible contribution that you give to people in your community to compliment the teachings of indigenous laws and customs to create a sense of balance in how we deal with one another for the maintenance of relationships among not just human beings but all living beings important to our existence? As governance is a process of engagement and maintenance in these relationships using the tools of customary indigenous laws, one for the maintenance of this balance as a process of engagement. But you know as a policy person, those of you engaged in this kind of work, the way in which infringement upon traditional governance system transforms it in a way that creates foreign framework of governance that sometimes is a complete contradiction to the ways in which these original gifts from the creator were intended to maintain harmony among people and living things in our community. Family, as many of you shared the incredible gift, family is the entity that receives as she will as a mother here soon, the gift of this sacred spirit into this physical world that you and your family and your community will embrace. Family is the receiver of the continuance of our existence. All of us as members of our community become important contribution to the well-being of this unborn child. You know, when I heard you all introduce yourselves this morning, I took several pages of what you shared because they’re so beautiful in terms of the spirit and the generosity that one of the questions I put here, thinking about what you shared to ask all of you, is this: Given all that you shared, who would not love to be part of a community of people like you? Right? Wouldn’t you love a community for your children to be surrounded by this kind of spirit as members of a community? Who wouldn’t want that? One of you shared that there is no end to learning, it is a continuum through all the ages even as grandparents. We continue to learn about life. But in all that you shared, the question becomes, who wouldn’t want the generosity or the spirit of this community? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this community of people? Profoundly beautiful in what you shared this morning that it gets to become something very emotional to hear of your commitment that defines your passion for contribution.
As we move through this circle, community is really something that is the spirit of our existence. So the question becomes, what are we willing to do to contribute to maintain this enduring spirit of the community that we want to belong to? We ask this question in our leadership institute: Young people, elders in our community, what do you love most about where you come from? Language and culture. And what threatens what you love most? The lack of commitment to it. And then the question becomes, what must we do to change that? It’s the ultimate challenge, right? It’s the ultimate challenge of response to what you love most, what you love most about where you come from when you ask the question, ‘What threatens what you love most?’ Then the question becomes, what are you willing to do about it? What is the most desirable future that you want where you want to raise your children? What stands in the way of achieving that most desirable future that defines the barriers that we have to overcome? And then we ask ourselves who will champion this cause to overcome the barriers to achieve what we desire most for the children that you’ve embraced? That can be supportive of them; of you in this community that you desire? What are you willing to do to fulfill and overcome these barriers? You’re doing something that’s an old tradition of looking at wellbeing and the health of community conceptionalized as a credit union today. When we look at the history and cultures of our people all across Indian Country and in this world, indigenous people have always had the thinking as an important core value to think multiple years in terms of reserves so that in the case of weather, in the case of war, in the case of all kinds of factors beyond their control, that they would have the benefit of surviving because they have thought out years down the road to sustain themselves. So, how do we transfer these old concepts into new forms of thinking to maintain these precious gifts of the creator? The natural resources the creator gave that comes in multiple ways throughout Indian Country. From the northwest, their culture is built around fish; as a giver, as a gift to sustain their life ways. All across this end, the rice that is produced as a form of sustenance. The four-legged in the places that are mountainous were gifts for our sustenance. The buffalo in the plains were gifts for our sustenance. The beans and the vegetables of the southwest in an agricultural environment were gifts of the creator. All over the world are these incredible gifts of resources symbolized by water, the giver of all life. The sacredness of this gift that we are all collectively responsible for the maintenance in order that it continues to give and to sustain us as the creator intended in this time of our existence in this physical world that this life journey continues today.
The second circle you defined in many ways this morning by the gifts that you bring that translates into core values. You talked about love and you talked about respect and understanding and empathy and commitment and health and compassion. All of the things that provides for defining how passionately you are in what you do in your life for you people, embracing them to be a provider of these gifts that define who we are in our lives, that defines what we do that makes you exceptional individuals. But here’s the question I want you all to think about is who gifted to you that core value? Who gifted to you that core value that defines your passion, that defines what you do in your life in the way that you do in your life? Because the answer to that question becomes a very intimate connection to those in your lives who gave you these core values to embrace you, to nurture you, to express the deepest form of love for you to guide you in this life journey. When we think about who gifted us that core value, what you brought this morning and you shared, that somewhere under here you might have a bag of additional gifts of these core values, rich in that kind of gift by loving family and extended family and community, you are in what you shared this morning. But in recognizing who gifted you that, begs the question that in your life what will you gift to those you love? Because in their lives they will refer to potentially you, or you, or you in your life journey… that it was you who gifted them this core value that defines what they do in their life. As we become older in our lives, how beautiful it would be if you could hear a young person reflect upon Coach Williams. Coach Williams gifted me this core value that defines what I do in my life and what I’ve become in my life. Do you understand? The deep connection in who we recognize and stories go, how will children in your midst, in your family, in your community…who will they turn to when asked, ‘who gifted you that value? Who gifted you that core value that defines who you are, what you’ve become and what you do? Why are you so passionate about what you do? Because someone in your life defined the love of that passion that defines your commitment that reflects your contribution in all that you do. When we make these personal connections it becomes an important recognition that in our own lives as we tell our stories that you too will have to answer to the creator when you return. Kenneth, what did you leave behind for others to follow? What teachings did you leave behind for them to be guided by? Because in this kind of framework and paradigm, the teachings go that when the time comes and we all return to our creator, the creator will ask if we come back with a full bundle of teachings and values on our return. Why did you not leave these values and teachings for others to benefit from? When you come back to the creator empty-handed, the creator will embrace you that all that you have been given in your life, you gave to others – generously gave to others. In this way, we celebrate – I won’t call you Robert, BJ… you’re not in trouble – we celebrate and honor people who have given us all that they have that defines who we are. Now in our time, at this stage in our life journey we now assume that responsibility to tell those stories of connection, of origin.
The third circle is something that is critically important because Dr. Manley Begay, who is a friend and a brother to me that I hope will come somewhere to join you along this journey, shared with me sometime ago that when we all wake in the morning into consciousness, our elders teach that we take what we think – the good things that we think, that we expect to experience, that we are hopeful and faithful to experience during the course of our travels in day with all who cross our path – to use prayer as a way to articulate, asking for guidance to live by these core values that all who come upon you in your path might be met with the best core values reflecting who you are in what you do and how you do it. And that that guidance is part of a necessary conscious engagement for us as given to us by the creator. So, this connection to this traditional calendar, that is a spiritual calendar of engagement, and it moves in cycles and seasons that we know very well. Ask yourselves this question, when do I feel the most at peace? And when do I feel the tranquility of love and joy and happiness? You’re going to reflect upon ceremony or a place in this environment that epitomizes these connections because why? Because when you are engaged in these places people are at their best reflecting love and joy and respect and graciousness and generosity with which they embrace. You hear the laughter of children and grandpas and grandmothers; that’s the center point of our existence. It is the validation of this connection of spirituality in these ways of our existence. The fulfillment of the original instructions of how to live, of how to be to one another and all living things…our elders say that the original instructions are very, very simple. These reflect the simplicity of a complex world that we live in. But this – if you understand these connections of our existence, you’ll appreciate why every generation since the beginning of time, that our elders say since time immemorial it is this time of origin, of creation, of emergence. When our people receive the gifts with which to be sustained in our life journey recognizing that in this life journey would come many, many different challenges to undo and to take from you these precious gifts. These tenants and covenants of the original instructions and our sacred trust is to be the protectors and the guardians, and the stewards of these gifts because that’s what defines who we are from where we come from. To the many generations who have defined our inheritance of our identity, of our connection to where we come from that we define what we love most.
Here’s a photo of representatives on Capitol Hill responding in their time. Can you imagine in this time? Put your own elders and leaders in this framework and in this photo. They travelled likely by train to the nation’s capitol to respond to the threats and challenges of these gifts, potentially our land most likely in this period. But imagine with limited resources what they…how they responded to the challenge of the time.
Here’s something I’m going to move through quickly but I would also challenge you that, as part of the Bush Cohort, develop your own tailor-made timeline to similar challenges off of this timeline to appreciate from your communities, that you love how those same communities were threatened, to appreciate what your elders and members of your community did to respond to be the stewards, and the guardians and the protectors, defining your inheritance. You defined language and culture as the thing you love most about where you came from. Think about the ways policies and laws were created to one purposefully conceived to detach us from our lands, to kill our mother tongue, to transform our way of life, to undo our indigenous laws and customs and our governance; to dismantle family, to undo community, to detach us from our natural resources. That’s our history. But what we have to celebrate, if we know our history, is the resiliency of our forefathers to respond in ways that we all still have much of what the creator gave to us that defines who we are and how we respond to challenges today. Look at all of this alignment of policies over the course of several hundred years, purposefully conceived creating a time and a policy when our religious leaders were persecuted. When we were prevented from practicing our own religions. When we were prohibited to speak our own languages. That a group of people would create for dismantling family by one, taking our children because the mantra was that they’re better off somewhere else and not with their families and their communities, right? The great American adoption was a program to do just that. Look at all of the ways in which those were imposed.
The reason for one reflecting upon this timeline is to appreciate not just the resiliency, to celebrate and honor our forefathers; but, to remember that in that statement and teaching, if we’re not conscious of our past collective experiences that some time in our life journey we can become our own worst enemy. That is to internalize the worst of the kinds of actions of oppression against our people. To now become, at some point in this journey, our own oppressors of our people…right? That’s the message in this reflection of this timeline. Look at what it took to reclaim all of these impositions. A time when we were forced into segregation with boarding schools that changed the concept of education, culturally defined education that is one) about schooling, about facts and not about life and how to be a good person, a good human being in your communities. These are fundamentally too different kinds of processes called education and look at how it has changed how we act and how we behave imposed upon with conditions with overtime that today, we’re not comfortable, we’re not confident that even as we have control of education, we still react and respond by the years of conditioning that someone else knows best what’s good for us even in this time of self-determination. Headstart is a classic example – In the 60’s, late 60’s, was introduced. But, what we failed to ask as we embraced Headstart – and this isn’t a criticism. You know, you were focused this morning on early childhood because of the love and what it means for little children to be embraced with our identity and values that define who you are as a people from your communities. So please, not a criticism, not a criticism at all but the result of the years of conditioning that when we embraced Headstart programs, we failed to ask a head start to where? Right? If not an earlier acquisition in the fluency of English and at what expense? Our own mother tongue, right? So how is that different from the 1890’s when the government introduced boarding schools, took our little children from their families and communities because the mantra at that time was the way you kill language and culture is to remove the children from their culture and deny those children their culture, right? Important questions in this time to understand that knowing how policies and laws were conceived, not for our benefit, as education has been defined for what purpose? To assimilate us, right? So if we do not rethink the purpose of education, are we still contributing to our own demise in these times? Or how as we rethink education in a way that many of you have shared that have contributed to what you do in your life today, to be doing exactly that. To be conscious about what you do and because education programs for our purposes is not a part of the public schools, not a part of higher education…what do we then do consciously? We create our own places of engagement, right? And all of you in your own respective ways are doing that but imagine that it takes a critical nucleus of people like you and what you do in your respective areas to create movement, to create rethinking. That’s what the Bush Foundation Cohort is creating is the opportunity to consciously think about the past; to recognize and be fully cognoscente of what we cannot be doing to ourselves in this time of self-determination. What must we do to respond in similar ways so that future generations honor and celebrate us of this time. It’s thinking about how we reclaim indigenous core values, how we reclaim indigenous education, how we reclaim the vibrancy of community because in all of the destructive forces that have been part of several hundred years in the making to get us to where we are today, it’s going to take that kind of engagement that you will contribute to recreate this.
This isn’t a target…and I would stand on the other side.
That sometimes you might feel as you do your work that this is what’s on your back or on your front. But here’s something that is a very part of this movement. In all of us is this inner spirit that either we nurture consciously by prayer, by engagement or that spirit becomes hollow in our existence. When we nurture this inner spirit that is encapsulated by all of you physically, it helps to guide your relationship with family that contributes the vibrancy and the spirit in which you become part of the community. That creates ultimately this incredibly, profoundly beautiful environment of existence where all of you individually and collectively are contributing to the maintenance of this connection in the most beautiful way that continues since that time of beginning.
Here’s another thing I want you to remember; that what ideas and concepts you think of that is a direct response, in your case creating capitol by way of a credit union to allow those who cannot access capitol for their wellbeing, you’ve created something that provides access in ways not possible in the larger society. For some exceptions to this symbol, this symbol is reflective in the story of our own life journeys that all of you should be mindful of. That what you start in a movement in your own community, you might not see the full benefit of the realization of your contribution in your lifetime. But, if you do it in a way that helps to create a pathway, seven children will follow that pathway that you create for them. As you’re blessed with grandchildren, they will become a critical mass of others to follow along that pathway. You may not see it in your lifetime but your children, and your grandchildren, and your great grandchildren would become the beneficiaries of your contributions in this time. So as you’re thinking about leadership, as you think about how you contribute to the ultimate wellbeing of your people that you desire deeply. That you have a spirit of the most noble calling in this existence: to serve your people, to be of service to your people by giving totally of yourself for their wellbeing is an admirable vision in your life that we all should embrace and thank you to express appreciation that there are people who are strong and courageous with a sense of vision to commit one’s life to that cause. So remember this in what you do; to not be frustrated, to not be disappointed, to not be impatient that what you begin as your contribution through this fellowship you may not see in your lifetime, but others will become the beneficiaries of your effort. No different than how you have been a beneficiary in the efforts of many from where you come from, the community you love most. As you respond to what threatens what you love most about where you come from and you respond in a way, don’t be frustrated. Don’t be disappointed and don’t be impatient because as long as you’re contributing to that vision, fulfilling your mission of the sacred trust in the fulfillment, utilizing your gift that you have been given others, no doubt, will benefit. I will put money on that, that others will benefit by your contributions.
So in Pueblo country, we are very close to the prophecies of Mesoamerica in South America because we share relationships so deeply about the beginning of the existence, about time. Remember a few years ago there was this huge uproar that this world was going to end in a ball of fire in 2012? You know what that prophecy is about? The prophecy is about this time. The prophecy is about rekindling the fire. In this revitalization of purification in this time, that something extraordinary would happen and is happening and you’re a part of it. That is that in this time of rekindling the fire for seven generations, as that prophecy reflects, is that there would be a convergence of old ways and new ways of thinking. That it would be a time of extraordinarily profound significance to secure the future of seven generations forward. This is that time. And you are all a part of this time in articulating the convergence of the spirit of old knowledge and new ways of thinking to contribute to the enduring spirit of community by rethinking education, rethinking the transfer of knowledge, reestablishing intentional relationships in family that strengthens the spirit and vibrancy of community. To revisit the laws and customs, to revisit the traditional governance systems that brings people together in contrast to the kind of isolation and factualism that has been created over time. This is that time. It’s an extraordinary time that all of you come together.
I’m a coach and mentor in something very similar that’s happened with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as they have one) identified their focus and investment as Bush has in five states. There are an incredible group of Native people form our communities in New Mexico in this larger, 150-cohort nationally that we have been talking with, Jamie, about how we bring those fellows together with all of you to share something extraordinary.
I’m going to end with this. How do we take what you’re doing – if this is community – how do we take what you’re doing whether it’s in education, the environment, child welfare, in health, in economic development, care for the elders, care for the children, education, economic development and so forth. This is a time unprecedented in our communities. But I’ll bet that every one of you in the work you do will attest to the fact that all of these programs intended for the well-being of community and members are in isolation. How do we create for connectivity this way so that it becomes a collective and comprehensive response to the challenges of our communities? How do we take other folks form outside of the region to talk about how they’re responding that we can all learn from to further strengthening our collective response? I’ll say that this model of a cohort is really the beginnings of fundamental change in Indian Country. The way that we return to come face-to-face with the challenges that we reflect that we are becoming our own worse enemy by one moving so far away. Look at all that our forefathers have overcome; isn’t that incredible, that we should celebrate and honor how education was intended to transform us? But here’s the maintenance of our connections that we have to be conscious of. If we don’t contribute to the maintenance of this connection and there’s a disconnect, sociologists in their research reflect that it only takes two generations to be disconnected that in the future generations of our own great-great-grandchildren, that this kind of discussion about our own collective wellbeing connected to language and culture that define our identity won’t even be in the realm of their consciousness. If that were to occur, then the ultimate disconnect from everything that defines who we are is gone. Will that be our legacy? Or will our legacy be one of conscious contributions to these questions? Are the decisions we are today strengthening or weakening our core values? Or are the decisions that we’re making contributing to the movement away from the core values that contributes to the kind of isolation and dysfunction and detachment from the core values of the connections of the gifts of the creator? Does that make sense?
That’s what we want to prevent from happening is that disconnect. I’ll end with that. What will our children inherit from us? And what will be your contribution? I hope that this is just the beginning of thinking deeply about our sacred trust and responsibility to what the creator gifted to us in the beginning and what generations of our forefathers has contributed to maintain and sustain. This timeline that reflects 100 years of state and federal policies that impact us as individuals, as families, as communities, as nation is meant to have a personal connection of what happened in that 100-year timeline. Where we stand today is also the question, what will the next 100 years be like? And you know what? For those of us who stand there today with our children who have children, grandchildren – how many have grandchildren? Soon, great-grandchildren will be in the mix. So, the next 100 years isn’t some far, distant time in the future. The next 100 years has already been affected by the decisions we made today. It is useful to know what it took, 100 years in the making, to create the challenges we face today and then make sense of that; to respond to these challenges that defines the future of children already here, a part of us. The children yet to be born are already affected by the decisions we make today and why the question that becomes profound is, are the decisions we’re making today strengthening our connection to the core values to the gifts that you have or are decisions we’re making today taking us further away and in this way becoming our own demise?
So, Jamie, I’ll offer this to you all; that in this type of sequence to the responses to the challenges, if there is another opportunity I will walk you through the ways in which we have attempted to respond and what we have developed to think about this in all you’re doing. Think about this; think about how you consciously create a critical nucleus of people for change that you desire that consciously then builds a critical mass of people in your community that that critical mass then becomes part of a movement to achieve your desirable future. Is it possible? Of course it is.
Take a look at this place here. If you look at the video and the history of this place as told by the people of this place, who would’ve ever thought 25 years ago that this was possible as part of their vision? What did it take for them to bring what was necessary to create this reality? So the things that we love most about where we come from…what we love most about where come from, our families and communities, ask ourselves if they are worth our investment to contribute in similar ways that they’re deserving of? Of course they are. That’s why you do the things that you do. I will commit to whatever time that is helpful to one) to make that sometimes impossible challenge become possible by using all the examples of Native Nations Institute of honoring nations and the multiple responses across Indian Country that will compliment and support your efforts. Don’t be impatient. Don’t be frustrated. Don’t be disappointed because what you begin, each of you, you may not realize in this time that you have along this journey, but others will benefit by your convictions and your contributions and your commitment. I thank you for the soulfulness that you bring here that is about the deep love for where you come from. How will children know that deep love without you, for their language and their culture and the community? What future generations inherit will from us depends on what we are willing to do and commit ourselves to.
I’m going to end with a prayer but not yet, if we have time for questions.
Let me just share with you that in New Mexico we founded, now 20 years ago, the New Mexico Leadership Institute that I’m Co-Director of now. It’s very similar to this effort of creating movement. We do community institutes. Some of the hardest work, bringing people from our own communities into a sacred space away from their communities for very frank and honest discussions about the things that we don’t like sometimes in our community that threaten what we do most. Sometimes having these very frank and honest discussions about the things most relevant in our lives and our people are impossible to discuss in our communities. We take this process, engage people, and then return those people into the communities armed with the articulation of responses and why these responses are important to shift the way we do things, to respond to the challenges in our community of our collective wellbeing of the contributions for the maintenance of a healthy mind, body, and spirit. When we are mentally, physically, spiritually healthy, we are at the best in how we contribute to the collective wellbeing of our people. To date, we have taken 5,000 people through this process; created a network of people like yourselves over that time. We have five different approaches to dealing with young people. A summer policy academy for high school kids that engages them in this very dialogue, a summer policy academy two that takes them to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to study how these federal policies affect what they feel most relevant in their communities to be. We take them to engage with the domestic policy advisors at the White House to hear what young people think to our congressional delegation which eventually comes back to tribal leaders. All of you are familiar with something called the Tribal Priorities Allocation Process that under self-determination attempts to create where tribes prioritize their investment of resources as defined within the bureau. Our young people challenged why there’s not a place for the investment of young people if in fact they are the most precious resource of our communities. How do we rethink these approaches to break the mold and rethink what becomes a necessary part of investing for the rebuilding of indigenous communities for our collective wellbeing? We now have a Pueblo PhD program in partnership with Arizona State University. We graduated the largest cohort of PhD’s in this country last spring. We just started another cohort of 10. You know what the unique part of this is? That those candidates never have to leave their work, understanding that one) when we plug our human capital out of places important in the work they do, the likelihood that they’ll ever come back is diminished significantly. The work that they do becomes part of their doctorial work so in the process we create research for the first time through our lands to respond to the challenges much like you’re defining. So that indigenous research in our own communities becomes a very important contribution for how we undo the long history that creates the parameter and mold that we otherwise have to work in, to break those molds and education becomes an incredibly important part in rethinking approaches and rethinking strategies in ways that is more consistent with the core values that sustain our connections and our identities. In 2012, we convened the largest Pueblo gathering; some say since the Pueblo revolt and the Pueblos ousted in their revolt the conquistadors in their colonization of New Mexico. In this process, we began with a critical nucleus much like you, consciously expanding that nucleus, this now being the seventh cohort, to build that critical mass, and now it’s become a large mass movement at multiple levels and all fronts horizontally. It’s that kind of engagement that I am hopeful you will become a part of, consciously contributing in ways that future generations inherit by your courageous and visionary contributions to the maintenance of the wellbeing of all future generations, those yet to be born. That is our sacred trust and responsibility. Lot’s of examples to strengthen you, to validate you and reaffirm the work and your contributions that we must all share in. I am willing to share as many people along your journey that you find helpful in these discussions to reinforce the work you’re doing.
Here’s the last point I’ll make if you don’t have any questions. Community maintenance, revitalization, rebuilding, isn’t something that begins here and goes through a timeline and then finally at some point says, ‘ah we’re finally finished rebuilding communities.’ It doesn’t happen that way. Community building is forever, it’s perpetual. The very nature of the challenges over time, what is at the heart of the spirit of the vibrancy of the community that creates healthy people – healthy mind, body, and spirit of those members of those communities – is the adaptive response to the challenges that we face. Our history is full of examples of adaptive responses by our forefathers that we all should honor and celebrate. I’ll end with that note that you are and we are part of a lifetime journey of contribution for the maintenance of the spirit and vitality of community for the wellbeing of all people, especially the children.