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Taos Healing and Reconciliation Project in New Mexico, United States

We work to heal the history of racial and cultural trauma in Taos, New Mexico, based on previous efforts and using trauma-informed healing.

Photo of Maija West

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Taos, New Mexico is a special historical mix of cultural confluence and conflict, in the heart of the United States. The community has survived not one, but three conquests and a revolution. Three cultures live in open apartheid, each in their own universe, while racial tensions and unresolved grievances fester below the surface. Taos has some of the worst poverty, addiction, violence and unemployment statistics in the nation. The community is a poster child for the legacy of historical trauma; an epigenetics laboratory. The Taos Healing and Reconciliation Project uses evidence-based reconciliation tools to help heal these racial divides. A significant part of the project is focused on offering trauma-informed healing services to the community, and, specifically for Taos, New Mexico, a Mesoamerican healing technique called Curanderismo. In Spanish-speaking American populations, Curanderismo is the term for a body of knowledge including midwives (parteras), herbalists (yerberas), body workers (sobadoras), and curanderas. Curanderismo takes a broadly holistic approach to dysfunction; with body, mind, individual, family and community all equally considered. Traditional healers with decades of experience and from several different countries plan to attend, blending Curanderismo with allopathic medicine and psychology. Theater, dance, music and art will also be a part of the ongoing events. These events will begin to erode long-standing barriers dividing this community, and present an opportunity to forge alliances with individuals and organizations across those divisions. In the final year, for those who want to participate in community reconciliation, our goal is to collectively plan and host a community reconciliation event using theater (teatro), to engage active participants and audience members in a community process. The final event is for all participants to experience a demonstration of the past harms and a shared humanity vision of the future.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

In a profound sense – the whole community. Taos is home to a mix of Taos Pueblo Native American, Hispanic, Latino, and White communities, whose members provide input into the project, and whom we believe will benefit directly from the project’s success. Due to Taos' geographical isolation, these groups, the native-born known locally as Taoseños, have remained distinct and apart from similar ethnic groups who are recent transplants to the area. The Taoseños are most affected by the legacy of racial trauma, which spans 400 years from the era of the Spanish conquest, and 1400 years back to when the Native Americans permanently settled in the region. As for the "white" identified, traditional healing works for everyone. By focusing on traditional healing modalities, we serve Taoseños in a manner that is familiar, while also providing an opportunity to resolve locally institutionalized apartheid. We can meet on equal ground and get well together, so that we can build a better community.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Many community improvement projects in Taos have been organized, designed and directed by members of the White community or non-Taoseños. Despite actively soliciting participation, many of these projects have failed to attract a deep and meaningful level of Native, Hispanic and Latino participation. This project is unique in that it is (1) Native-American and Hispanic led and designed, (2) it provides a space for past harms to be identified in a safe way, and (3) it provides a lasting path forward due to the effectiveness of the traditional healing methods provided to the community. While ensuring that the project is lead by the Native, Hispanic and Latino populations, our project's strength comes also from international input into our reconciliation process. From Rwanda to South Africa, from Canada to Mexico, we build upon the foundation created by the numerous communities throughout the world who have struggled to build a future beyond these past harms.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Healing and Reconciliation Institute, currently sponsored by Nonviolence Works, uses a unique curriculum based on past reconciliation processes along with a holistic, trauma-informed healing strategy, by providing media, curriculum content, and storytelling consulting, to support community reconciliation efforts throughout the United States. [Project website URL: https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/taos-heal-amp-reconciliation-project] [Sponsor website URL: https://nonviolenceworks.us/]

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Our coordinator, Anita Rodriguez, a local Taoseña, was motivated by the history of Taos, "a ringside seat for the observation of racism and the playing out of historical trauma." We started first with a desire to heal the hurt and injury within our own families and ancestors, and to heal the divides that existed there. This journey to embrace both the family members who were harmed and the family members who perpetrated harm inspired us to replicate the process for the community to experience.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

As one community member in Taos shared, "what matters to me is finding and practicing a balance of being who we are culturally and also generating income for the community." Prosperity for Taos is deeply impacted, as the different cultural and ethnic groups are challenged in working together for the positive development of the region due to the still simmering tension of their shared history. The land of Northern Mexico has been seized and transferred repeatedly over the past several centuries, first from the native Pueblo Indians, to the Spaniards, to the Mexicans, and most recently to the Americans. This legacy of racial trauma and cultural transgressions has deeply impacted an ability to feel peace for the members of the Taos community. The effects of trauma continue are evident in high levels of gang-violence, drug-related deaths, and suicide among the community's youth.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our community partners include Tri-County Mental Health Services, Taos-Picuris Indian Health Center, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Taos Municipal Schools, the Regeneration project, and NonViolence Works. Healers, therapists, and speakers from a breadth of backgrounds are working in our weekly meetings and our September event to facilitate this healing and a bridging of the racial divide in the community. Our project implementation continues within planning circles held in the Taos community where special weight is placed on the input from Taoseño residents and leaders. Through our project partners, we collect community input and data in the form of listening circles. We distribute online surveys to collect input prior to and during the project to measure success, and to collect data on the longer term well-being of the participants.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Taos is small enough to effect real change. A conceptual thread that runs through curanderismo is that individual, family and community healing cannot be separated. This engaged community has an intimate understanding of their locality and geography, the lineage of inherited trauma, combined with a powerful desire to heal. This is a strong and promising foundation on which to structure our reconciliation program.

Geographic Focus

This project targets Taos, New Mexico and the surrounding northern New Mexico area.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months. The project began in October 2017.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

17 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Karambu Ringera
Team

Dear Maija West, My name is Dr Karambu Ringera from Kenya. Your project is powerful and aligns with what we are doing in East Africa (Kenya, in particular) with the New Generation of Leaders program. I believe in Kenyans/Africans led transformation work that is grounded in local contexts and resources because local people-centred (not outside experts) interventions hold the hope for ownership and sustainability for long-lasting social change at personal, family and community levels. I also believe that as the human family, we are One (we are of, and connected to, something larger than our individual and collective selves), in spite of our differences - and that once we recognize this ONENESS, we are able to heal not only our individual woundedness, but also our collective woundedness. Your work demonstrates this is possible. Thank you for this amazing work.

Photo of Maija West
Team

Dr. Karambu Ringera, thank you so much for your wonderful introduction and feedback. I would love to connect with you to hear what you are doing with the New Generation of Leaders program. Perhaps we can connect via email to find a time for a video call? If so, please email me at maija@maijawest.com. Warmly, Maija

Photo of Karambu Ringera
Team

Thanks for responding Maija. Will email.

Photo of Karambu Ringera
Team

Wonderful to connect. We will speak on Tuesday June 16th via zoom. Excited to share and learn. Warmly,
Karambu
New Generation Leadership (NGL) Program, Kenya

Photo of Maija West
Team

So looking forward to Tuesday! Warmly, Maija

Photo of Eric Wilburn
Team

Hi Maijo,

This work aligns incredibly with our idea around creating spaces for belonging and community. I would love to hear you expand on your key learnings as to how to create a safe psychological space for this sharing, listening and deep belonging to occur between strangers.

Thank you for working in such a needed area! Eric

Photo of Maija West
Team

Eric,
Thank you so much for reaching out! I see that your idea is in CA. I really appreciate your additional inquiry. I have learned so much from others about creating safe spaces for these type of conversations. I would love to hear more about what personally inspired you to create your idea.

Photo of Eric Wilburn
Team

Hi Maija, I would love to chat more with you, especially as our group is considering how we may be able to function as an incubator supporting people like you and programs such as the one you are running. Please feel free to reach out to me via email at ewilburn@stanford.edu!

Photo of Dominican Sisters  of Peace New Orleans Peace Center
Team

I am also curious about your use of "traditional knowledge." My research on Curanderismo reveals that many practicing Roman Catholics utilize curandero, which is not surprising since Catholicism often cooperates hand in hand with indigenous faith. We see this in our work with native Americans in Montana and Colorado.
From your research, is integrating local faith practices an important part of healing racial trauma?

Photo of Maija West
Team

Good morning! Thank you for your inquiry. I do believe that local faith practices are an important part of healing- for all of us. The integration of the mind/body/spirit is a foundation of curanderismo, according to its expert practitioners. Creating a space that honors each person's unique faith is an important part of taking the power out of faith being a perceived division. I would love to hear more about your work as well. Warmly, Maija

Photo of Luz Gallo
Team

Dear Majja,
I find really interesting the idea of applying traditional knwoledge to heal and build a new society. I'm really curious about how the Latino community that is religious has embraced these dynamics?

Photo of Maija West
Team

Thank you for reaching out! I think it is an individual experience, but it has not come up as an issue so far with the community members who are involved with the project. If you have any more to share with our team about your thoughts, or resources that might be helpful to us, I would so appreciate it. Thank you!

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Dear Maija West 

Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya. I am inspired reading about your project for inclusive community healing. We are doing similar work in the Horn of Africa which also deals with core issues around colonialism and racism, as well. I would love to know more about what the Mesoamerican healing technique called Curanderismo is which you team is using and how it works with the concept of being trauma-informed.

All the best with a very powerful project.

Angi.

Photo of Maija West
Team

Angi,
Thank you so much for your encouragement. Regarding your question on the type of healing methods to be offered for this community, the book Cultura y Bienestar, Carrillo, Ricardo A., et al. (2017) is a great reference work, which describes the methods in detail. We hope at least two of its contributors will be at our events.
As a side note, I would love to hear more about your group's work as well. We are interviewing folks right now, and would love to chat with you via Zoom, if you were open to it.

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

We would love to talk. I believe we are nine hours ahead of you. Would like to get a few members from my team for the zoom call.

Our project is on this challenge and is call Kumekucha: It'a New Dawn. Check us out.

Thanks for the resource. In the next month we are placing an amazon order and will include this in the order for our new trauma-informed library.

All the best. Angi.

Photo of Maija West
Team

Wonderful! I will definitely check out your project. Since you are going to place an order, the other book that I would strongly recommend, is Dr. Bessel van der Kolk's book [2015 I think?], the Body Keeps the Score. He also mentions his work in South Africa in the book.
Let's move to email and we can set up a call. My email address is maija@maijawest.com. Sound good? Warmly, Maija

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
Team

Hi. Thanks for the advice... van der Kolk's book is on our trauma 101 list of books and it is one we already have it in our library.

Sending you an email. Angi.