by Al Qöyawayma
This column is a place where members can help each other foster the resilience that has sustained Indigenous people for generations. In this issue, the message comes from AISES co-founder and founding AISES Chairman Al Qöyawayma, Hopi. This is the first installment of his thoughts on navigating toward a bright future in an emotionally unsettled world by maintaining an attitude of hope.
We’ve all heard the mainstream society saying “when things get tough, the tough get going.” This “getting going” isn’t just about overcoming mental challenges or blocks to emotional performance — it also has to be about the physical process of healthy living.
Today’s new science of physical biology was known by our ancestors as part of their fundamental practical knowledge. Yet that knowledge is not widespread in mainstream medicine or fully accepted among the general public. Science is beginning to confirm what traditional knowledge tells us builds physical, emotional, and mental resilience: simple things like eating right, exercising, treating your body right, meditating, and praying. I predict that in another 10 years a more knowledgeable form of medical practice will come into being, and then our resilience will improve accordingly. Meanwhile, heeding our ancestors’ teaching will pay off in personal success at navigating life’s challenges.
Heeding our ancestors' teaching will pay off in personal success at navigating life's challenges.
Our ancestors had to be resilient through good times and hard times. They learned to control their emotions and put their energy toward solving problems and to meeting goals. As Native peoples we live in more confining places than our ancestors and must deal with much faster changes and new challenges, such as climate change. We know today’s technology and overwhelming data won’t solve problems by themselves. Our Native cultural systems and value systems must remain central and relevant to our lives if we are to maintain the resilience that has sustained us through generations.
Al Qöyawayma received a BS in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly SLO and continued graduate study in systems engineering, receiving an MS from the University of Southern California. He worked 10 years in aerospace advanced research, followed by a 20-year career change to build and manage the environmental science and engineering department for a major water and power utility. In addition to ongoing research, Al is an internationally regarded professional sculptor and potter, whose work is collected and exhibited at many U.S. museums, including Smithsonian NMAI.