Water Ceremony with Cheryl Angel / by Simone Johnson

by Iztac Metztli

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On January 27th, 2019 IIYC Texas, had the honor of holding sacred space with elder and water protector, Cheryl Angel as well as other elders from Texas.

Together, we were able to unify various communities in the Austin area by hosting a water blessing at Aquarena Springs. For those who don’t know the spring is a deeply spiritual location for the indigenous peoples of the region as it is the birthplace of the Coahuiltecans in their creation story. It was because of that special connection to the water that Cheryl felt called to holding the water blessing at Aquarena. As the Texas chapter, we were honored to join this prayer and held the intention of bridging gaps between generations and cultures. The day began on a beautiful Sunday afternoon with a gathering of people, including very valued elders of the Coahuiltecan community, Dr. Garza and Maria Rocha of the Indigenous Cultures Institute.

Standing only feet away from the pristine blue spring we collectively created an altar, decorating it with flowers and water, asking the community to place their own personal items that they would like to have blessed. In a circle of at least 25 people, Cheryl asked us to look across to the person directly in front of us and with our eyes express love. It was a beautiful moment that required not only vulnerability but courage as we looked into the eyes of strangers across the circle. Cheryl shared the importance of calling in love in these spaces and how as humans, we all seek to be held in that love.

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What made this blessing special was the way Cheryl shared space with our Coahuiltecan elders.

Cheryl said that in every place that she goes she believes in acknowledging the people of that land.

She invited elder Maria Rocha to tell the creation story with the community and why the spring is so important. Through her story, Maria shared that long ago, the ancient ones lived in the underworld as spirits only able to look up at the Earth through the water. They were told that they had to come to land, to take care of it, to live on it but had no way of getting out of the underworld through the water. Maria shared that it was then that a blue deer dove into the water and asked the spirits to hang on. They grabbed on to the tail of the deer as it lead them up towards the surface. But the deer was not strong enough to pull the ancestors out of the water and so an eagle circling above, dove down and pulled the deer out along with the ancestors. It was there that the Coahuiltecan people were born and from then on considered the guardians and protectors of the spring.

After listening to the creation story, Cheryl stressed the importance of knowing the histories of the lands we travel to and shared that everywhere she goes acknowledges the people of that place. We were also blessed at that time to share songs as a council. Together we sang four songs for the water and had our members speak more on behalf of the work that we are doing in Texas. Cheryl used this opportunity to encourage the work that is being done by youth, that it is so important for young people everywhere to come back to our traditions and continue holding the legacies and ceremonies of our ancestors.

At the end she passed the bowl of water that had been placed in the center and invited us all to touch it. As she went in the circle with the bowl of water she shared that by doing this, we are allowing the water to know us, we are introducing ourselves to her. From that moment on that specific water knows you and where ever you go you will carry that water with you. Cheryl said that in times of struggle we can always call on that water and all of the waters that we have been blessed with knowing and that those waters will carry us through.

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At a time when we are so in need of our elders, this water prayer called us into becoming active participants as youth who are in a state of recovery.

Recovery from intergenerational trauma, colonization, and the many destructive narratives that we’ve inherited as a result. This shared prayer gave us the space and safety to engage in what we need most, intergenerational healing. What a powerful experience to be able to catch a glimpse of the future and the elders we can become by having the examples of the elders in front us. It’s in these brief but beautiful moments that we are able to see the seeds we are planting for the seven generations ahead of us.

As IIYC Texas, holding this space reaffirmed our commitment to building safe spaces for youth, of all walks of life, to become co-creators in their journeys of healing and reconnection. An event like this may seem like a tiny droplet but through this we hope to create community and spiritual dialogue where our voices are strengthened by our prayers and our prayers are strengthened by our elders. The work isn’t always easy, and as protectors and organizers we can often find ourselves overwhelmed with the tasks set out ahead of us. It’s in our coming together in the name of tonantzin atl (our mother water) that we are able to replenish our own internal waters as we remember why we are advocating for ourselves and our futures in the first place.

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We are reminded that we are not only capable but have nations and ancestors rallied behind us, and will continue to remind ourselves and our people that healing is not only possible but real.