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85 Rina Swentzell Introduction Rina Swentzell was born into the heart of the Tewa world in the Santa Clara Pueblo. She grew up within brief walking distance of the Río Grande. She is a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother in the venerated Naranjo family of Puebloan people whose ancestry in this watershed extends deep into antiquity. Rina successfully maintained the system of attitudes intrinsic to Puebloan culture while earning a master’s degree in architecture and a Ph.D. in American studies. Today, she is venerated as a scholar, as a spokesperson on behalf of Native American perspectives, and as a truly great fellow human by all who know her. In 1988, I had the great honor and privilege to go with Rina to the home of her mother, Rose Naranjo, in the Santa Clara Pueblo. There I recorded her mother singing childhood songs. For several hours, I sat in the shade of the great cottonwood tree outside the family kitchen door absorbing some of the evolved consciousness and great beauty exuded by that remarkable family. In1996,IrecordedaconversationwithmydearfriendRinaSwentzell as she reflected on the human pageant within the flow of Nature. Rina Swentzell, photo by author 86 / Between Fences and Beyond Rina Swentzell JL: Would you just give your thoughts with regard to community and its importance? RS: What I have been thinking is that we have too small a definition of community. I go back to the pueblo thinking because their [Puebloans’] community was not just the human community. It included the place within which we lived, so that the mountains were part of community. The water was part of community. Trees, rock, plants, animals. You couldn’t have moved through any day in that Old World, even when I was growing up, without knowing that you were part of that whole community of trees, rocks, people. Today, what we do is just talk about human community . It gets to be such a small thing within the larger scope of things. And I think that that is the demise of our modern lives today. We keep making the world smaller and smaller until it is nothing but us, just human beings out of our natural context , out of our cosmological context. We have become so small in our view of the world as simply us human beings, and it is crucial that we get beyond that and move back again to seeing ourselves within context. JL: Within the context of Santa Clara and Puebloan culture, is the tradition of perceiving that way still relatively strong? RS: It is fading very fast, and that is frightening for me. I think of community as all of us together, because trees are living beings. Rocks are living beings. Water. The spirit moves through the water. An incredible word that we have for the source of life is on-oh-huh: water-wind-breath. It is there in the water and in the wind that we can see the spirit, that we can see life moving , where the life-force is visible—as well as in the clouds, of course. We don’t take the life-force and put it in a superhuman being, as Christians do with God. That already begins to show the focus on human beings, when you put the life-force in a Rina Swentzell / 87 superhuman creature. God in superhuman form. We keep it within the trees. Within the water. Within the wind. Within the clouds. And we move through that context, with the water, the wind, and breathe the same breath. To say, “We are breathing the same breath that the rocks do, that the wind does.” And that gives you a totally different feeling. This is it. There is no other reality. We don’t go to heaven. We don’t leave this dirty world to go to a golden, clean heaven. We are here. This is it. This is the world. It doesn’t get any better than this. And if we don’t honor it in the sense that this is as beautiful as it is ever going to be, then we can’t take care of it if we think that it is a place to be shunned. If we think we have better things to look forward to, then we can’t walk respectfully where we are at this moment and take care of things and touch things with honor. And breathe each breath. That is what that water-wind-breath is...


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MARC Record
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