A Sense of Belonging

Our Sense of Belonging:

Pueblo people are social beings. The interrelationship between the individual, family, and community is at the center of our culture, and this connection brings everyone to a common understanding of respect, love, and sharing. After birth, we quickly become part of a family, clan, and community. As we grow, we learn the responsibility that we must have for others, the land, and all life. Our lives radiate out in many directions, but it is our ties to family and community that bring us a sense of being and belonging.

As displayed at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC)

To understand more clearly how “American Myths, Community, & the Individual” can be experienced differently throughout various parts of the country, we travelled by train to the desert southwest. Our week in Albuquerque allowed us to witness some different ways in which culture can be sustained, lived, and celebrated at the intersection of the past, present, and future. It was quite powerfully demonstrated to us at the various sites visits we participated in and from the people we interacted with. We heard the stories of the resiliency of the Pueblo People, and we saw how that history is being preserved in the Indian Pueblo Culture Center, as well as being lived out at an active Pueblo. In all, we are so grateful for the experiences we had this week in getting to learn more about the ways in which the Indigenous communities of this area continue to honor and celebrate not only where they have been, but where they are currently and how they will continue to grow.

Acoma Pueblo, which is a special place for a multitude of reasons, also happens to be the “oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America”. Also referred to as “Sky City”, this village is located 60 miles west of Albuquerque and is situated atop a mesa; it has been actively inhabited and operating as a community since the thirteenth century. By participating in this tour, we were able to hear about the events that have led to Acoma Pueblo being what it is today, and we were able to see evidence left behind by the marks of history in terms of how a community has carved out a space for themselves be able to live in communion with a natural environment. Suffice it to say that the community in Acoma has faced many challenges and threats to their way of existing throughout their history in this place, but what was so remarkable to witness were the ways in which this history has been so intentionally incorporated into the daily lives of this community. It seemed that by in keeping the past alive through the sharing of stories and the incorporation of traditions, it serves as a foundation for understanding where they have been as a community, and thus how they can continue to move forward and continue growing in their community as they move through the present and into the future. To read more about Sky City, please visit http://www.acomaskycity.org/home.html

While the tour of Acoma Pueblo demonstrated to us how a community can participate in their own living history by incorporating the traditions and stories of the past into their daily, individually lived experiences, we also visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center where we were able to continue building our understanding of the history of the Pueblo community. Created with the intention of being a place where the Pueblo people can share their story, the mission of the IPCC is to “preserve and perpetuate Pueblo culture, and to advance understanding by presenting with dignity and respect the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo People of New Mexico. ” We had an incredibly informative tour of this museum, and if you’d like learn more about this center and the Pueblo People as well, please visit https://www.indianpueblo.org/about-ipcc/

What better place to continue practicing how to best live within the intersection of the past, the present, and the future than in a school? The Native American Community Academy (NACA) does this in an exemplary manner. Founded as a collaborative effort to address a key community concern regarding how public education can embrace the future while also sustaining and honoring existing ideas, culture and traditions, NACA has made it their mission “To engage students, educators, families, and community in creating a school that will prepare our students to grow from early childhood to adulthood and begin strengthening communities by developing strong leaders who are academically prepared, secure in their identity and healthy.” Beyond just having the framework of their educational system, and curricular and extracurricular activities to support this goal, we were able to enter various classrooms to hear from the perspective of the teachers. Any system can be designed flawlessly, but, as is the case with schools, it is the human element that will ultimately decide whether or not the system accomplishes its intended goal. It is because of the efforts and the choices of the teachers, the students, the supporting staff, the parents, and the community as a whole to uphold and participate in living out the values and the mission. From what we heard and saw from the teachers and staff who took the time to share with us their approaches to education, it was clear to us that NACA has some incredibly passionate educators who believe in what they do, why they do it, and who they’re doing it for. We were able to observe the tremendous service they provide to their community; what made that even more evident was meeting the various staff who had been alumni of NACA themselves, and how impactful their experience in this school was that they wanted to return to “give back to their community”. It was a remarkable demonstration of how where there exists a positive relationship between the community and individuals that make it up, it can create a pattern and cycle of positivity that can contribute to a greater relationship of mutual flourishing between the community and individuals. Please read more about NACA at http://nacaschool.org/about/

Please enjoy the below photo-dump. What you’ll see are some miscellaneous pictures from our time shopping in Old Town Albuquerque and from our various site visits or classes, as well as photos from our visit to the annual International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque! We woke in the early morning hours to attempt to witness the balloons being inflated and rising into the sky with the sun, but we ended up sitting in traffic for two hours alongside the many other people who were hoping to do the same thing. It was quite a chilly morning, though, so perhaps that was for the best!

Lastly, we would like to extend many appreciations to the Norbertine Community at the Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey in Albuquerque, with whom we stayed during our time in New Mexico. Although we were approximately 1,425 miles away from our SNC campus community, we were made to feel right at home through the ways in which we experienced the Norbertine ideal of communio being lived out in this place. Thank you to all those at the Abbey who have contributed to creating such a peaceful, tranquil, and hospitable environment, and thank you for making us feel so wholly welcomed.