Dear Sacred Places
By Zak Rosen
If you’ve heard our show before, you’ve heard the intimate letters residents have written to the place they call home. We feature these Dear ___ letters on the show, and here on the website, and we encourage anyone of you to write your own letter to your hometown.
Marian Naranjo is the eldest daughter of eight siblings, a mother of four children and a grandmother of six grandchildren. She’s a traditional potter and tribal member of Santa Clara Pueblo, located in north-central New Mexico in the area known to the nineteen sovereign Pueblo Nations and archeologists as the Tewa Basin. Marian says she claims her “ancestry from our last migration from the Puye cliff dwellings, located to the west within the Jemez Mountains. Within and around the four mountain ranges that surround the Tewa Basin are the sacred aboriginal ancestral homelands of the Pueblo peoples, my people, who have been the caretakers and guardians of these places for millennium.”
Dear Sacred Places,
Since time immemorial, we, the Pueblo peoples have maintained life ways that were taught and passed down from the ancestors as caregivers and Peace Keepers. Wisdom and strength were taught through Generational Prayers. Prayers that give thanks with songs and dances for the gifts that were bestowed upon the people by our Creator for sustainability. And so Sacred Places, I find myself at a perilous point in time where as an adult human being occupying this earth, I am recognizing responsibility to re-create sustainability. I was born into the Atomic Age, a time of World Wars and as I practice the teachings of the past I have grave concerns. Five years before my birth my people and in my lifetime, have witnessed the release of man-made, highly radioactive materials and toxic chemicals into our land, air and water by a laboratory located in a Sacred Place.
The United States’ top-secret military/scientific mission, the “Manhattan Project,” was the beginning of this Age. Ironically, the place chosen for this mission was within the aboriginal, ancestral homelands sacred to the Pueblo Peoples. As time passes, knowledge of the true impacts to our environment and all that is living has revealed that the nuclear industry has produced a legacy that reaches all corners of Mother Earth. Several years ago, I was taught that pilgrimages to the top of the sacred peaks would reveal destiny, if you asked. I decided to walk to the top of Tsicomo, our sacred mountain peak, and asked my purpose. The revelation came in the face and stories of my mentor and later, in the words of Albert Einstein: “To the village squares we must carry the facts of atomic energy, from there must come America’s voice”. “Science has brought forth this danger…that the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men.”
This has become my walk. Dear Sacred Places, Our duty as Pueblo Peoples is to take care of these places. I sit across the table from the people who carry on the mission of manufacturing weapons of destruction and try to understand their mind and heart. I have learned about uranium mining, processing and enrichment, man-made plutonium, pit production, weapons manufacturing, testing and deployment, transuranic waste, transportation of nuclear waste, non-proliferation treaties, cleanup of contaminated sites, congressional appropriation of funds, emergency response, Homeland Security, all of this within our Sacred Places.
In the Pueblo world, the tribal leaders are the ones whose decisions ultimately represent the voice of the pueblo. It’s important for our tribal leaders to be able to see all aspects of the issues as they arise, in order to make educated decisions on how to deal with them. I assist in sharing the knowledge’s that I have learned with our leaders. I created an organization here at Santa Clara. The work is networking and collaborating with many diverse organizations within New Mexico with the common goal of clean up and to hold industries accountable for degradation our land, air and water. In order to keep balance in our daily lives and to continue our cultural life ways, we teach and build outdoor ovens. These ovens or Pantè, the native name, are vital for Pueblo women to provide bread in abundance for Feast Days and other functions of Pueblo life. The art of building with local mud and rocks is a sure way of demonstrating that sustainability was a teaching of the ancestors. We also network and collaborate with the traditional farmers. There is a great need to help protect native seeds against becoming genetically modified or engineered. For the past five years in the springtime, we gather with the farmers to celebrate the seeds, cultivation and community. We bless the seeds and pray with song and dance passed down from the ancestors here within our Sacred Places. We need to protect our life ways of sustainability and it is sad to say that our place has been tainted by the nuclear industry.
Dear Sacred Places, you have been sacred to the ancestors from the beginning of time and you will always be that. I promise to not ever forget you. I will try my best to continue to be your caregiver and Peace Keeper forever.
Whether you want to write from a place of love, anger, humor, to express your likes or dislikes or to break misconceptions, we welcome you to share your own letter. And be sure to visit our Española page to listen to the radio episode, watch our documentary and enjoy all of the images and collateral we collected during our trip.
All submissions should be 400 words or less and submitted via e-mail to email@example.com.