Prague · United Nations

Over Here Somewhere

In the Acoma Pueblo language the phrase hauchaw tyah haati is a response to a query about where someone might be. It means they are out there somewhere, in the world, in life. Out there somewhere.

Out There Somewhere is also the title of a wonderful poetry collection by the famous indigenous poet Simon J. Ortiz, and it was over here somewhere that I got to meet and spend some good time with him.

It was a crazy set of synchronicities that led to our encounter over here in Prague: It was Thanksgiving and my friend Sviatlana was asking me what I would be doing to celebrate. I told her that in honour of the genocide of indigenous peoples around the world, and especially in the USA, I do a prayer fast for Thanksgiving. Her eyes simply lit up and she began to ask me questions about my work at the UN, telling me she was always interested and curious about native Americans, but she had never met anyone who knew anything about the topic.

A couple days later, Sviatlana let me know that the American Center would be organising a series of talks featuring indigenous artists, and the first invitee would be Simon J. Ortiz. My jaw dropped for a couple reasons. One reason was that one of my mentors during my time at the UN, the historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, is Mr. Ortiz’s ex-wife and good friend. She helped me get the only funding I ever received for my UN work to attend one of the Draft Declaration meetings. The second reason I was so excited was that another friend from my UN days, Petuuche G, who is one of the few people who regularly writes to me and always has something beautiful and inspiring to say, is Mr. Ortiz’s brother! Imagine that!

I went to the talk armed with a pouch of tobacco for Mr. Ortiz, and gifts for both Roxanne and Petuuche. It was so wonderful to hear him read his poetry and talk about his life. He has a very gentle way of speaking, but commanding nonetheless. And his poetry is gorgeous. Very indigenous, is the only way I can describe it. Afterwards, I had a small chat with him and we arranged to meet up over the weekend before he returned back home.

Adding to the synchronicity was that his hotel was a five minute walk from my flat! Crazy crazy. We had a lovely dinner at a neighborhood restaurant the night before he left, where he presented me with two signed copies of his books. I almost cried. The most remarkable thing about the experience was that in the past when I began my UN work, I was looking for salvation, I wanted to be rescued. And I was. I was taken under the wings of many wonderful people who changed my life fundamentally. This time however, meeting Simon, it was more like two individuals who have an external connection through family and friends who came together to connect personally. It was a very real and grounded experience. I was not looking for answers or guidance. He was not looking to help me. We were just two human beings sharing moments of our lives, our dreams, our hopes for the future. It was so special.

At the end of the evening, his friend gifted me a beautiful beaded Acoma necklace. I was overcome. It was such a beautiful experience, and Simon, Roxanne and Petuuche are all such special souls. I felt reconnected with all of them after spending time with Simon.

And, for the first time in a really long time I felt strong and secure in myself and all the things that I have accomplished in these 28 years. I felt and knew that in these few years away from the UN I really and truly have grown up. I am no longer wincincala, the little girl: I am a woman now.

Over here somewhere I am discovering who I am. God is with me even though I may not be as active in that relationship than I have been in the past. Something I am doing is right. Somehow, things are working out in their little ways. And the Spirit still leads.