El Rito Watershed Events Generate Energy!

The El Rito Library and Purdue University kicked off Watershed Week in El Rito on July 8thby hosting the El Rito Watershed Study: A Community Forum, a mind-blowing event about a study whose subject is our very own El Rito Watershed. Camping out at the El Rito headwaters, taking water samples and conducting studies over the last 4 years about the origin of the water in the El Rito Creek, Purdue’s goal was to discover the true source of the water in the El Rito Creek. Published by the American Geophysical Union, the research letter explains that we have ancient water flowing down the canyon. Thank you Lynette for bringing such great speakers and programs to the library!

For anyone that attended the daylong From the Ground Up Watershed Conference on the El Rito campus July 14th, it was abundantly clear that a lot is coming to fruition for the town of El Rito and the watershed in which we live.

Combined efforts of local visionary John Ussery and the new and dynamic college President, Rick Bailey, brought about an inspiring collection of 22 speakers including SimTable demos, history lessons from the watershed, Indigenous takes on the language around water, explorations and brainstorming on watershed-based jobs and more.

The SimTable talk entitled, Visualization of Complex Data, was a huge hit. In the GIS Room of the Research Building on campus, Stephen Guerin of SimTable.com walked the audience through simulations on fire in the El Rito Watershed. An approx. 4×3 foot table sitting at waist level housed what looked like a bunch of sand but turned out to be finely pulverized walnut shells which are easier to handle and mold than sand. After projecting a picture of the El Rito Watershed onto the SimTable, he invited the audience gathered around to manipulate the walnut dust to form the various projected color-coded elevations and water drainages within the watershed. Once that was done, Stephen pulled a lighter out of his pocket and activated a fire on a mountain ridge and we could clearly see how that fire would move and spread once a wind simulation was added. Pretty exciting to see an experiential, three- dimensional view of our very own watershed!

One of the most dynamic and moving speakers was Beata Tsotsie of TEWA Women United. She spoke about the language around water and how our water resources have been viewed and articulated by Native and Non-Native watershed residents. She managed to bring a down-to-earth and spiritual/historical view of our local waters that would have otherwise been very much missing at the conference.

Chris Madri, a Rio Arriba County Planner, gave a talk on how we can cultivate local jobs, and our local Forest Service representative Danny Cedeno and Luis Reyes of Kit Carson Electric both stated that they are willing to work with NNMC campus and the community to help foster a needed move into the new energy economy.

Spirits were high and a lot was learned during this conference. We are grateful for a welcoming and innovative NNMC president who understands that issues around the local watershed environment and culture are going to be key to a healthy future for El Rito.

“Water has its own spirit and we don’t objectify the source of nature’s life giving.”

An Interview With Beata Tsosie of Tewa Women United

by RACC board member Barbara Turner

I heard Beata speak at the El Rito Watershed Conference and was moved by what she had to say about our relationship with life sustaining water. She was kind enough to reply to an email interview.

Can you tell us where you are from and describe the mission of Tewa Women United?

Beata: I am of mixed ancestry from Santa Clara Pueblo and El Rito, NM. The larger vision of Tewa Women United believes in strengthening and re-strengthening beloved families and communities to end violence against women, girls, and Mother Earth. The mission of TWU is to provide safe spaces of Indigenous women to uncover the power, strength, and skills they possess to become positive forces for transformative change in their families and communities.

At the Watershed Conference held at NNMC’s El Rito campus last month, you spoke very eloquently about water. You talked about the non-native tendency, through language, to objectify water. Can you explain why that might be significant given our current struggle to protect the Rio Chama Watershed from oil and gas development that is slowly creeping in? Oil and gas leases have been sold and the next step would be the issuing of permits to drill.

Beata:  The extraction of natural resources goes back to one of the original acts of violence that created an abusive structure of ownership over resources that were put here for sharing with all. Places meant to be cared for by the Indigenous Peoples of that place. White supremacy has dictated that Native expertise is too often secondary when it comes to caring for their own homelands over federal regulatory agencies. Corporate interests founded upon those same principles and culture of violence have blatantly guided the mismanagement of resources and public lands.  They are guided by values that have separated our peoples from their birthright and land-based connections.

One of TWUs founding mothers and elder, Kathy Sanchez, is the one who ingrained the importance of decolonizing our language as much as possible. She describes how the Euro-American perception does not understand the simultaneity of what it means to be water beings.  When we invoke protection of our waters, we are speaking of our own selves not to be objectified and advocating for our own self-preservation. Visible. The spirit elements of mother earth that give life, gives life to all. Water has its own spirit and we don’t objectify the source of nature’s life giving. When we comodify and speak of water as a non-living thing it is negating its presence as an ancient life source.

What is the “Two-world Harmony Butterfly model of eco-systemic sustenance” that is mentioned as part of your Environmental Justice Program?

Beata: The Two-world Harmony Butterfly model is one of our organizing models that we use to help guide us in navigating multiple truths and worldviews. Two world struggles can be seen in our people having to exist in both their Tewa way of knowing and being and also in a Euro-American way of being. This model helps to teach how we can move with fluidity between both (or even multiple worldviews) without having to choose one over the other, and it can be applied to other internalized binary ways of thinking, like the balance of male/female energies within us, and how we can come from a place of loving energy and prayerfulness without the stress of trying to conform to a dualistic way of being in the world.

This model emphasizes the primordial precedence of Mother Earth’s natural laws of wholistic balancing of purposeful living as shown in this two-world harmony butterfly model. As a part of a national network of communities of color and Indigenous women, we are organizing and educating on the use of traditional and Indigenous forms of healing, medicines, and foods to counter the negative impacts of pollution and nuclear contamination on our bodies, minds, spirits, and lands. At the same time, we are engaging in the international dialogue on nuclear weapons production, proliferation and disarmament.

We are very concerned about any violence that harms our water, land, air, and seeds and impacts those most vulnerable in our communities. We share in the truths that environmental violence is another form of violence against women and girls. In using the Two World Harmony Butterfly model, we are better able to be grounded and recharge in our spiritual/cultural ways when the heaviness of the issues we face threaten to drain us energetically. It is so important to be able to go to our sources of healing when we need it, so that when we have to move back into the western worldview and do the work we are grounded and balanced with a greater understanding of purpose and living our values. TWU does offer presentations on this model.

Part of Tewa Women United’s stated mission is the desire to “stop violent use of Mother Earth’s inner energy of reciprocal existence.” I started to think how that might relate to the anti-fracking movement. How would you define Mother Earth’s “reciprocal existence” and how will our understanding of that aid our struggle against oil and gas? I wonder sometimes if the movement is articulate enough about the reasons we are against oil and gas development.

Beata: The patterns and ways that energy is recycled and distributed in a forest system is an example of Reciprocal existence. There is a culture of peace and abundance that is waiting for us if we could only awaken to our full potential as spiritual human beings that mirror the loving energy that also resides within Mother earth. Humanity is just another organism that takes what they need to survive and unfortunately has lost our way in the giving back part. It is time to shift and divest from using fossil fuels and invest instead in climate change solutions, because there has not been reciprocity in extractive industries. It is to the point where humanities survival is threatened along with all other life forms as a result of this devastation. We have only one sole source aquifer in New Mexico, that means that more than half of the population depends on these waters for survival, the more we contaminate what remains, the more we perpetuate the internalizations that we are indeed a “sacrifice zone” for the US governments energy complex. We all have a moral obligation to care for those most vulnerable in our communities, and to stand up for this place Indigenous Peoples are a part of, as now all of our survival is entwined together.  Our water should be first priority if we want to continue existing here. The impacts of fracking are far-reaching and permanent, and we must assert our human rights or risk consequences from which healing would be extremely difficult. We DESERVE clean water, air, and soil, and we cannot let anyone let us believe otherwise, or that any “jobs” are more important than our sacred trust as caretakers of this place.

How would you define the relationship the New Mexico Pueblos have with the oil and gas industry? How much oil and gas development is happening and what are the economics surrounding that development? Do the Pueblos in general benefit from oil and gas development or are there have and have-nots? How are you protesting and how can we support your efforts from our place of concern?

Beata: I cannot speak for the Pueblos or other Tribal Nations. At TWU, we are involved in the Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition, which is open to community involvement. We are building community gardens and actively seed saving. We need support and sponsors with our current project, The Española Healing Foods Oasis. We are also helping to support the Diné-Pueblo Youth Solidarity Alliance, who are doing powerful work to unite Pueblo and Tribal Nations around oil and gas issues, and educate their communities on the health impacts of fracking. So many communities have been suffering under the BLM’s mismanagement and their blatant leasing of our public lands to the oil and gas industry.  In Diné-Ta (Navajo country) only a small percentage of lands have not been leased already. The struggle there is in harm reduction, holding oil and gas companies accountable for using the most up to date technology to capture methane rather than the use of flaring for example. Advocates are needed for policy change and protection of our sacred sites and landscapes. People’s health is threatened on a daily basis and who is providing the care these communities need? Why are these industries allowed to operate across from schools? How are communities addressing the increase in drug related violence and violence against girls as a result of the man camps created by this industry? Don’t wait until it is in your backyard to get involved as that is succumbing to the perpetuating trap of “privilege.”

And finally, in your view, what is the most important thing we can do to foster climate change impact resiliency in our watersheds?

Beata: There are many actions that we can take to begin transitioning to green energy and divest from the fossil fuel industry. We can demand change from our energy providers and that they make the transition to majority solar. We can actively work to restore our lands to their full potential using Indigenous agricultural/permaculture principles. Help to preserve our water rights by helping each other in our fields, so that lands do not remain fallow. Support legislation that is working to protect communities from oil and gas impacts and demand environmental regulation and accountability. Help to educate those who do not know. Protect and grow out our native and landrace seeds so they can continue to adapt to the changing climate. People need to be allowed to harvest the forest in sustainable practice to reduce the risk of wildfires and preserve our watersheds. I would finally add that the most important action is maintaining our personal relationships to our natural waters and the waters we use on a daily basis. Where are the rivers, streams, lakes, and natural springs in your community? Find them and visit with them, speak to them and offer up prayers of reconciliation, love and gratitude. Help to nurture their existence and health. This year, our annual environmental justice event, Gathering for Mother Earth, will be “Gathering for Mother Earths Waters” Sept. 20-23 from 10-1pm at a different water site each day. We are asking the people to show up in their spiritual capacity as much as they are able to be present to do this very action. For more information you can visit our website here http://tewawomenunited.org, or give us a call or email at kathy@tewawomenunited.org or beata@tewawomenunited.org.

Courts Uphold Methane Rule

Dealing a legal blow to the Trump administration, a federal appeals court ruled recently that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot suspend an Obama-era rule to restrict methane emissions from new oil and gas wells.

Currently, more than half of atmospheric methane comes from human-related sources, such as livestock, landfills and leaks of natural gas into the atmosphere during mining, storage, transportation and distribution. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane.

Mr. Pruitt had imposed a 90-day moratorium, which he later extended to two years, on enforcement of parts of the E.P.A. methane regulation. He had also argued that his action was not subject to court review. But the appeals court ruled that the agency’s decision was “unreasonable,” “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The agency, it said, did not have authority under the Clean Air Act to block the rule.

This is good news for New Mexico, as the San Juan Basin oil and gas industry has been determined to be a key contributor to the sizable methane cloud over the four corners. In the realm of carbon emissions, methane has been determined to be far more dangerous for global warming than other greenhouse gasses. The methane cloud over the four corners can be viewed from space and is the size of Delaware.

Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens is in need of volunteer energy! As we continue our original mission of protecting the Rio Chama Watershed, we are also striking out in a new but related direction that involves facilitating sustainable energy job creation in the watershed. Do you have an interest or skill set that would be a nice fit with RACC?

Do you want to do something local to make a difference? Would you like to attend one of our board meetings and check us out? If you are interested, please email me at barbaraturner9@yahoo.com or Bill Clark at cebollabill@gmail.com.

Thank you for all that you do to protect our watershed!