Maw Gu Wam! Greetings! My name is Danielle Lucero, and I am from the Pueblo of Isleta. I am also Hispano with connections to the small New Mexican town of Santa Rosa.
I am thrilled to be learning, teaching, sharing and building healthier (and sexier!) futures for Indigenous communities as a new Board member for Indigenous Women Rising. I was asked recently, and during Board interviews, “Why do you want to be a part of/involved with Indigenous Women Rising and the reproductive health and justice world?” My answer was simple: reproductive health is vital for the future of Native nations, especially here in the United States. There is no tribal sovereignty without reproductive sovereignty, and there is no self-determination without body sovereignty.
As Indigenous People’s Day has passed and we've moved into Native American Heritage Month, I find comfort and a resurrected fire in myself knowing that the work IWR does and will do in the future is guided by a set of values and an incredible staff, and that even when people transition to other jobs, these values will continue to guide their path. IWR was founded on the Indigenous (and in my opinion, Pueblo) values of humility and rebellion, and it was founded to address the need for and lack of comprehensive reproductive healthcare for Indigenous people living within a variety of social and physical contexts.
The organization exists because Indigenous people have needs that have not yet been met, and, in many cases, deliberately ignored. Indigenous people have had their reproductive agency and health stripped and controlled by colonialism, masquerading as well-intentioned healthcare workers, organizations, policies, etc. From the abortion fund to the Emergence fund, to providing free condoms and period care, IWR is making strides in the reproductive autonomy of Indigenous people in the United States.
I hold many hopes for the organization, the biggest one that it will cease to be needed. I hope one day we live in a society that understands the importance of access, including financial, social, cultural and spiritual, necessary for reproductive healthcare and that organizations like IWR no longer have to serve as combat medics triaging the hemorrhages left behind from an outdated and deeply white supremacist and colonial understanding of reproductive health. I hope my grandchildren will get to exist in a world where organizations like IWR are not supplementary but rather they are the standard by which all other institutions and organizations are measured by!
Until then, I imagine IWR continuing to spread its wings and work to continue to create futures we haven’t yet seen - ones unconstrained by colonialism and heteropatriarchy.
As a Pueblo woman, I have been in many spaces where my Indigeneity and my Pueblo womanhood were not welcomed or my identities have been used as targets for colonial acts of violence. Institutions of higher education, school boards, municipal governments, non-profits, you name it, but in each of these settings, it was me against a tidal wave of “prove it”, “you don’t belong”, “we don’t have data to support your claim” and “stop complaining.” For the first time in my career, I have the honor of working with an organization that is rooted in Indigenous values, specifically Pueblo values.
What has made me feel hopeful, excited and ready to kick ass are the staff, my fellow Board members and the hard work they put in to rethink organizational structures, to build a work environment that is respectful, reciprocal, and based on accountability - accountability to each other and to the communities and people they serve. And that’s what makes IWR so special to me, what sets it apart from other repro orgs. In just a few months, I have learned so much about humility, leadership, collaboration, and, most importantly, being a good relative.
My Indigeneity is not an asterisk when sharing my thoughts or helping to write policies. My Puebloness is granted space - in fact, it is the first time in a very long time that my whole being is allowed to be as rowdy, loud, complicated, and messy as I am. I will be forever grateful to the staff of IWR and IWR in general for teaching me what a workplace can and should be and how to serve the people and communities I care about the most while also caring for myself.