October 20, 2021
The current climate crisis and increasing development pressures in the U.S. are revealing centuries-old injustices around land, food and water. In the Southwest, Indigenous people have been especially impacted by conventional agriculture, extractive industries and discriminatory policies that threaten the sacred connections they have had to these lands since time immemorial. In this panel we will hear from Indigenous knowledge-keepers, farmers and land and water protectors who are leading efforts to undo the harm to their culture and lifeways caused by systems of oppression since colonial contact. Particularly through youth engagement, these leaders are seeding community-driven and ancestrally rooted land, food and water initiatives that prioritize well-being for current and future generations of humans and more-than-humans. This event considers the meaning of sovereignty for Indigenous communities, lands and waterways, and asks how Indigenous knowledge systems can address the current challenges of our time.
Julia Bernal is an enrolled tribal member at Sandia Pueblo but is also from Taos Pueblo and the Yuchi-Creek Nations of Oklahoma. She has her BA in English and Literature from the University of Redlands. Currently, she is working towards her MA in Water Resources Policy Management and a MA in Community Regional Planning at the University of New Mexico. In 2014 she obtained a Water Resources Technician Certification from the BIA through the Native American Water Corps. Julia has contributed her analysis on environmental issues in New Mexico with her expertise in New Mexico water and environmental policies and organization. Particularly, her focus has remained on the oil and gas industry and how its adverse impacts affect the environment, the water and the people. She advocates for the decolonization of water policy and stolen water resources. She has helped PAA build campaigns against carbon pricing, fracking 101 education, and the reclamation of indigenous water management practices.
Lilian Hill is Quechan/Hopi who works and lives in her tribal community on the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona. Lilian is a mother, farmer, natural builder, and community organizer who practices and promotes the ancestral lifeways of her people while actively working to nurture a new generation of Indigenous Land Stewards. For the past 20 years, she’s been engaged in social and environmental justice issues to protect land and life, dedicated to creating community-based Indigenous-led organizations to address the challenges of global economic colonization, resource extraction, climate change, and inequities in food and housing systems. She has initiated projects that develop community capacity to strengthen local food and housing systems, promote traditional ecological knowledge, develop local food markets and co-ops, and grow social consciousness around the importance of continuing Indigenous land stewardship traditions. As a founder of the Black Mesa Water Coalition she has worked in collaboration with an Intertribal alliance to build resistance to fossil fuel extraction in her community. Lilian is also co-founder of the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute, a community organization that supports Hopi community members in developing leadership skills to strengthen local food systems and initiates learning projects that provide Hopi youth and community with the skills, tools, training, and practical experience to revitalize Hopi culture, knowledge, and traditions. She’s currently pursuing her M.A. in Sustainable Communities at Northern Arizona University and was recently awarded a Fellowship from the Castanea Fellowship, a new two-year fellowship that supports diverse leaders to build power to shift structures and culture towards the creation of equitable, sustainable, and just food systems. Along with her family, Lilian continues to practice traditional Hopi Farming while stewarding a 2-acre Permaculture Living/Learning Site in Kykotsmovi Village. Lilian is the new Executive Director of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, an organization that supports Indigenous communities nationally with advocacy, education, and networking as they revitalize their Indigenous food systems.
Teresa Montoya is a social scientist, media maker, and educator. Montoya’s research and media production focuses on legacies of environmental contamination in relation to contemporary issues of tribal jurisdiction, regulatory politics, water security, and public health on the Navajo Nation. Her research has been published in Cultural Anthropology, Water International, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Journal for the Anthropology of North America. Her photographic and film work has been shown internationally, most recently in an exhibition entitled Spill in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to her art practice, she has curatorial and education experience in various institutions, including the Peabody Essex Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, and currently the Field Museum. She is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow and incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She is Diné and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.
Tiana Suazo, B.A., is the Executive Director of the Red Willow Center in Taos Pueblo, NM, whose mission is to reclaim the agricultural heritage of Taos Pueblo and restore its traditional food systems. With the help of her team, Suazo is able to work towards accomplishing this mission through the Red Willow Center’s farm, farmers market, and youth internship programs. Suazo, a graduate of Santa Fe Indian School and Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, serves on the board of Ogallala Commons (OC), in Nazareth, Texas and is a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition. The OC focuses on community development in the eight states touched by the Ogallala Aquifer: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Suazo firmly believes that by empowering and supporting indigenous youth, we can change the future.
Lily Raphael is a community planner and educator currently living in Vancouver, on the unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples. For 10 years she has worked at the intersection of culture, ecology and community development, with an emphasis on co-creating with communities to address eco-social challenges in Ecuador, the U.S. and Canada. Her work draws on action research, equity-centered community design, place-based learning, somatics and creative praxis. Lily’s work and research interests include community-driven planning, co-management in heritage and conservation planning, collective memory and placemaking, and the ‘how’ of systems transformation — from the ways in which we come together to make decisions and address complex challenges, to the ways in which we learn, heal, deepen our capacities, and communicate knowledge. Lily holds a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from University of British Columbia and is an alumna of the 2019 Field Stations workshop in Colombia. She is of Black/Louisiana Creole, German and Irish ancestry.
For more information relating to this panel, please refer to these additional resources.
Pueblo Action Alliance (2021). #WaterBack campaign: Here in the Southwest we can’t have Land Back without Water back
Climate One Podcast (2021). Living with Climate Disruption
Lilian Hill is a contributor to the edited volume NEW WORLD COMING: Frontline Voices on Pandemics, Uprisings, and Climate Crisis, Eds Alastair Lee Bitsóí and Brooke Larsen.
(2017). Yellow Water: Rupture and Return One Year after the Gold King Mine Spill. Anthropology Now: Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 91-115.
Marc A. Emerson, Teresa Montoya, “Confronting Legacies of Structural Racism and Settler Colonialism to Understand COVID-19 Impacts on the Navajo Nation”, American Journal of Public Health 111, no. 8 (August 1, 2021): pp. 1465-1469.
(2021). Governing water insecurity: navigating indigenous water rights and regulatory politics in settler colonial states. Water International. Ahead of Print.
Roots of the Red Willow People feature in Taos News
Women of Impact: Tiana Suazo in Taos News
‘Río Grande Serenade’ docuseries: Acequia del Medio, Red Willow Farm and Water Challenges