“We are the World!”

We Are the World

I did not want to host the Earth Walks at my home that November 2 in 1998. As an Indigenous friend who had considered moving in as a housemate had said, there were “spirits” there that were not good. I had certainly seen evidence of that myself. I moved to Rio en Medio after I had to leave my Upper Canyon Road home since it was being sold.  I could not find a rental in Santa Fe that I liked and the Rio en Medio location, though way above my price range, was in the country adjacent to an acequia (irrigation canal), orchards, a small pond and a small stream. I could see the Jemez Mountains from the place, which was to me the symbolic fire on the mountain” volcano that was part of the McKenzie Klan emblem on my mother’s side of the family. But once I moved to the house (actually a 5,000 square foot double wide mobile home that included an attached carport, full basement, two story greenhouse and studio) I discovered many negative aspects of the place.

Church at Rio en Medio

Church at Rio en Medio

Search as I did, I could not find another suitable location for the Earth Walks for Health weekend.  There were to be people attending with serious health problems so I called our guide for the weekend, Maria Elena Orona to ask her advice.  Maria Elena was of Mexican Huichol/Raramuri/Tahono O’odam ancestry and was considered a “dream healer.”  She was also a devotee of the east Indian avatar Mata Amritanandamayi.  I trusted her guidance implicitly.  In truth, she told me, there are spirits moving everywhere, spirits that have not found their final resting place.  We were to be doing a purification ceremony that she said would create a doorway of light for the spirits to pass through for their own peace and for our healing as well.  I decided to offer my home, but little did I know what was to take place–on many levels.

Maria explained that Winter Ceremony is a time of acknowledging, thanking and receiving the blessings of our ancestors and in so doing helping health and bring benefit to not only those souls and our own but those to come in the future.  Those who came to this particular Earth Walks included a mother and her three daughters whose husband/father has passed about a year before and people from Indigenous, Hispanic as well as Anglo ancestry.  We did several rituals with Maria Elena which were to “purify the mind,” and created an altar for our loved ones with their pictures, sharing flowers, candles and prayers.  Dinner was delicious, a portion of which was first brought to the altar with a prayer by Maria Elena.

After the evening concluded, I felt a deep sense of peace not only for myself and the others but for the land we were on.  It was my sense that this valley with its relatively constant source of water had been a place of intense struggle and conflict over time, at least since the coming of Europeans.  When I first moved to Santa Fe, I was told as an outsider Anglo I would not be welcome.  There had unfortunately also been a history of drug and alcohol abuse in the valley.  By the time I moved here, much of that had changed, but I felt that the sad part of its history lingered in dark shadows and recesses.

Album Cover for USA for Africa

After the ceremony and all had gone to sleep, I walked into the open field below the house.  The clouds parted and the moon emerged.  I felt so positive about what had happened that I spontaneously broke into the song, “We Are the World.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9BNoNFKCBI    It truly felt that the Winter Ceremony had helped to lift at least some of the disturbing energies of the valley that night. As Maria Elena said, “we helped open a portal through which these and other souls may be with God.”  Just before that time, my father had passed and I felt the ceremony helped Daddy on his journey.  It was the week of my birthday as well and I felt thankful for the gatherings with Earth Walks participants that had occurred and those that were to come. We are the world indeed and I prayed that the healing work that night in some way might be of benefit to others.


“Come in and Eat!”

(This is the latest entry about my times and life in New Mexico, and special experiences with the Earth Walks program I co-founded.)

“Come in and Eat!” 

I moved to Santa Fe in December, 1978 but on August 4, 1984 I received  a heartfelt welcome to my new home of New Mexico.  It happened at the Corn Dance ceremony, Santo Domingo Pueblo (now called Kewa in the original Keres language).

Over 500 dancers entered the plaza for the ceremony.  Umbrellas of onlookers sprouted like gaily colored flowers as the morning sun grew stronger along with the power of the drum and chanting.  Heartbeat, soul beat.  A whirlwind spirit moved through the area, stirring up dust and bits of paper borne high above the crowd. The clouds near the Jemez Mountains across the Rio Grande valley seemed to hear the call of the prayers because they arrived to shower us their gifts of a light rain, answering prayers offered by the dancers and drummers.  

A jellybean ant–or so a little boy next to me called him–did his own ceremonial dance on my arm as I sat cross legged on the ground, eye level with the line of dancers.  At that moment, something happened in my awareness.  Drums beat in rhythm, their vibration transmitted up my spine.  I felt a wordless connection with the ceremony that was so foreign, yet so very familiar.

Hunger brought me back to the mundane.  I took my sack lunch out to the ocean of cars in the dusty parking area beyond the dancers and the plaza and found a perch on a concrete parking curb.  Suddenly I heard from behind me a woman’s loud voice:  “What are you doing?”  Uh, oh, I thought.  Was I violating Pueblo rules?  I turned around and there was the woman standing in the doorway of her home looking at me.  “Come in!” she said emphatically and with a broad smile.  “Come in and eat!”  I was being invited into her home to share a meal.  This was one of my first introductions to Pueblo generosity and hospitality.

This generosity has been a part of recorded history, ever since Spanish explorer Coronado was given shelter and food on his failed quest for the gold and riches of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola.  When they saw Zuni Pueblo shining golden in the sunset, the story goes that they thought they had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  ‘Nothing’ but mud, they pressed on.  What Coronado failed to appreciate was the wealth and richness of the ancient indigenous cultures of the Southwest and their deeply rooted wisdom traditions.  Sitting at the table of my host in her home at Kewa, I tasted this golden heritage and felt honored and blessed.

A humorous side note:  In my earlier “wannabe” days in Santa Fe, I wanted to get a “Pueblo” ribbon shirt like the ones I saw men wearing during feast day ceremonies.  The ones I found were quite expensive.  During a shopping trip at a local western wear store, I found a brightly colored snap button western-style shirt I thought would serve the purpose, at a much more affordable price.  At one of the dances in Kewa Pueblo I attended after that, I noticed an elder in the ceremony who looked like he could be his nineties.  He carried a long ceremonial pole adorned with feathers and flags, moving and dancing with great vigor and concentration. Much to my surprise he was wearing  exactly the  same style shirt that I had bought at the store! It was one more way in which I felt like I had “arrived” in New Mexico.”

The Way of the Drum

                                        Arnold Herrera, Cochiti Pueblo

I joined about 40 other folks to experience the wit and wisdom of Cochiti Pueblo elder Arnold Herrera at his afternoon presentation in the main Library recently.  Arnold and his sons are skilled drum makers, storyteller and keepers of the traditions.  Mr. Herrera has led several drum-making Earth Walks retreats over the years.  Here’s a couple of his comments:

The only people that don’t make mistakes are those who don’t do anything.  (From his Dad)

The drum is the heartbeat of the earth and once you believe that, the miracles start happening.  If you don’t believe, you are just wasting your time.

Enjoy this autumn day, 2022
Earth Walks


Come join a journey near summer solstice time into the vast silence and wonder of Chaco Canyon World Heritage site.  Containing the most sweeping collection of ancient architecture north of Mexico, the park preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas in the United States. Between CE 900 and 1150, Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the Ancient Pueblo peoples.

We are invited to visit this special place with Pueblo guide and scholar, Jon Ghahate, who considers Chaco ancestral homeland. Mr. Ghahate is from the Pueblos of Laguna and Zuni, of the Turkey and Badger Clans. He currently serves as the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Museum Cultural Educator in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jon Ghahate

Here’s what you can look forward to on the journey:

  • A fascinating evening presentation on the archeoastronomy of Chaco and views of distant objects in space through the visitor center observatory
  • Walks and talks by a knowledgeable Pueblo guide through buildings & sites
  • Time on your own in the canyon
  • All meals prepared for you at the campsite
  • Evening story telling around a fire

Cost includes guiding services, campsite fee, all meals.  Transportation by carpooling.  Camper truck/vans OK, no RV.  Participants responsible for own camping equipment.  

For information and to register, contact:  earthwalks1@yahoo.com  or 505-231-5802

Voices from the Road: A Community Listening Project

Four years ago I was honored to be one of 400 folks from around the country to attend Krista Tippett’s “On Being Gathering.

People from many walks of life, ethnicities and ages came together to explore how to create civil dialogue in our society which has become so polarized.  Several months ago, I began my own effort to do this with what I call “Voices from the Road.”  The “road” is called Cerillos in Santa Fe, New Mexico and it is like many other hugely busy streets in America, filled with fast food establishments, a church, big box stores, people experiencing homelessness, upper income folks seeking healthy foods…it is in effect a cross section of Santa Fe.

I decided that instead of traveling thousands of miles to walk Spain’s Camino de Santiago I would walk Cerillos Road in search the stories that make up our community.  I suspected they would be stories of loss and despair, hope and transformation, laughter and tears.  I am going by bus and foot, meeting people on the streets, in workplaces and all along the way.  I’ll be posting some of these stories here along with photos, but if you’d like to be on a regular mailing list, please let me know by using the contact form in this post.


Listening to learn…  In addition to the On Being Gathering, I was inspired by Andrew Forsthoefel and his travels by foot across the country, shared in his book, Walking to Listen. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/30038862-walking-to-listen



Story of the Real Thanksgiving

It’s long overdue but the real story of the first Thanksgiving is finally being heard by a much wider audience.  Take a look at this article from the Smithsonian Magazine:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/

This is not to diminish the fact that despite it all, there is much to be thankful for at this time of year.  May you be healthy and happy.

Ousamequin and Carver

Tewa Women United Healing Oasis Garden

Amaranth!  Earth Walks volunteers helped at the Tewa Women United Healing Oasis Garden this growing season.  It was a growing experience for everyone, learning not only about traditional foods and how many are also used as medicine but how indigenous people of the region are facing serious environmental contamination from the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory where the atomic bomb was first developed.  Despite a long history of environmental justice issues, the people of the region are courageous and resilient.  But they depend on support from allies on all levels.

Here’s an excellent article about amaranth and its vital importance to the Americas that appeared in The Guardian.   

We hope you’ll join us for future volunteer work throughout the U.S. Southwest.  Earth Walks is located on Tewa Pueblo land that is now known as Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Doug Conwell  Earth Walks


Diane Reyna of Taos Pueblo: Reflections on Covid & Other Matters

Interactive Online Earth Walks
Monday, June 28 2021 6 p.m.
Free or by Donation

Limited Enrollment

From anxiety and stress to inspiring courage and spiritual strength, Diane Reyna, Taos/Ohkay Owinge Pueblo artist, shares a series of drawings that reflect her thoughts on the events and situations that occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown last year.  With pen and paper, hope, faith, and love, Diane created the drawings between March 16, 2020 and March 16, 2021. The ink drawings embody her experience in all its dimensions, including the cultural traditions that helped her navigate the year. She will guide participants through a hands on activity that will offer an avenue for individual insight and possibilities for the future.

Due to the nature of this event, there will be a limited number of participants. Register as soon as possible by contacting:  info@earthwalks.org  There is no charge, but a donation is appreciated. Everyone is welcome!

Diane was raised at her father’s village of Taos Pueblo in Northern New Mexico; her mother was from the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh. She is an experienced facilitator, college instructor, and trainer. She retired from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2015, where she provided comprehensive support and services to first year students. Prior to working at the Institute, she spent 20 years as a videographer, producer, and director in the field of video news and documentary production. She directed the PBS documentary, “Surviving Columbus”, which was awarded the George Foster Peabody in 1993. She has spent most of her adult life in engaged in the arts, education, and facilitation.

Watch Surviving Columbus online
Late one afternoon in May 1539, the world of the Indigenous Pueblo people changed forever when Estebanico – a Black slave from Morocco – and his 300 retinue of Mexican Indians marched into the Zuni city of Hawikuh. Through wild tales and exaggerations, Hawikuh would be transformed into one of the fabled Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, and a year later, Coronado and his soldiers would wreak destruction and violence on this peaceful world in search of non existent gold. Surviving Columbus is a search for the Pueblo people’s view of these first encounters with European civilization, told exclusively through the voices and visions of the Pueblo people themselves..
Due to the nature of this event, there will be a limited number of participants. Register as soon as possible by contacting:  info@earthwalks.org  There is no charge, but a donation is appreciated. Everyone is welcome!

Cultivating a Garden of Peace and Justice

Beata Tsosie-Pena.jpg

Free online event Thursday, May 20, 2021  5 p.m.

How do a people who have endured generations of oppression survive?  It’s a question Beata Tsosie-Pena of Santa Clara Pueblo and El Rito is often asked.

Historical trauma and inequities and living in the shadow of a nuclear production facility motivated Beata to work in environmental health and justice with the non-profit Tewa Women United program for over a decade.

“These the are things our people have faced. But that doesn’t negate our strength and power,” Beata said.  “We are resilient.”  Her activist concerns led her to become a full-spectrum doula and breastfeeding support counselor as well as infant massage specialist. Even her poetry reflects a deep commitment to the land and its people and is evidenced in the Healing Foods Oasis Garden which she coordinates.  The Garden is a project of TWU and the City of Espanola.

Resiliency—that’s at the heart of the many stories that are lived and shared at the Garden.  On Thursday, May 20 at 5 p.m., Beata will conduct a free public online storytelling and dialogue which will highlight the collaboration between art, science and indigenous wisdom.  It’s a collaboration that offers a model of sustainability critical in this Anthropocene era of climate change, she believes.

(To register, contact:  earthwalks1@yahoo.com)                     New Mexico's Community Garden Revolution

The Garden is both a symbol of the traditional Tewa Pueblo values of place and the teachings of water and a grassroots act of prayer, ceremony, song—as well as resistance and survival.  “It’s about building the beloved community,” she says.  For her, that community is both local and global.

Heirloom seeds hand-harvested at the Garden are donated to the Espanola Public Library next door and available to the public. Seeds are kept in a refurbished card catalog cabinet. After picking which types to grow, patrons fill out a “seed caregiver sign-up” form and become part of a growing cadre of those planting and caring for heirloom plants.

Children participating are taught how to use the library and learn about local farming practices.  It’s ecological literacy, what Beata calls “voices of the plant elders and relatives.”

The online presentation will be followed by a series of volunteer days at the garden for those who wish to help.

The event is being sponsored by Earth Walks, a cross cultural education program based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, original homeland of the Tewa Pueblo indigenous people.    https://earthwalks.org/   To register, contact earthwalks1@yahoo.com

                                     Environmental Health and Justice Program | Tewa Women United


Earth Walks Event Online Saturday December 12, 2020

Nothing Is Falling Apart
An online Earth Walks event with Wolf Martinez 
December 12, 2020  Saturday 2-4 p.m.

“JOY is a gateway through which Spirit comes rushing,” says  Wolf Martinez, a Two-Spirited ceremonialist and practitioner of healing arts who will lead the Earth Walks online event December 12, 2020.  “When we open our hearts and are with each other in a meaningful place, we are in the language of relationship to all life.”

That sums up Wolf’s focus and intention for the event.  It will include sacred song, prayer, experiential exercises for deep centering–all to help participants welcome life consciously, “to drink it in” as he says.  Each person will be invited to offer a positive intention of their own, if they wish, and there will be time for dialogue with Wolf and other participants.

Wolf has studied with indigenous, shamanic and Asian traditional leaders over 25 years.  He teaches internationally, focusing on “courageous listening,” right relationship with self and others and all aspects of nature, seen and unseen.

The event will be via Zoom, which should be downloaded onto your device.  Free will affordable donation. For more information and to register, please email:  info@earthwalks.org