Student Profile Header - Kayleigh W.

Watch me tell my story...

Unbi a:gindi. Ohkuwa Tsawa o kwijowa piye khawa. I am a Tewa and Tiwa woman from the Pueblo tribes of Khap'o Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo), She'whiph-tue'i (Isleta Pueblo).

Photo of Kayleigh in the greenhouse at her school. Kayleigh was raised on the Santa Clara Pueblo Indian Reservation in northern New Mexico.

I was raised on the Santa Clara Pueblo Indian Reservation in northern New Mexico. Nestled in the Rio Grande Valley, my people's land is a high desert bordered by the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, the Jemez Mountains, and the Rio Grande River.

I have been speaking our Tewa language since infancy, and am extremely involved in all of our cultural and ceremonial activities. Being a Tewa woman, however, is more than just knowing the language and the culture.

I was brought up with, and live by, the Tewa values of compassion, respect, humility, and sacrifice. My culture and upbringing has had a direct influence on the woman I have become, the work I undertake, and the contribution I aspire to make. My bloodline is woven with ribbons of resilience, hardship, victory, and love.

Photo of Kayleigh showing us the inside of her dorm room, Kayleigh believes her culture and upbringing has had a direct influence on the woman she has become.

For generations, Tewa children have been raised with this saying: "Bi sigi ma 'ave. Bi se 'khane ma 'ave.", meaning, "Always love and care for one another."

As an adult, this teaching serves as the principal guideline for my mannerisms and actions. I acknowledge it as the essence of what has sustained by people through the hell of colonization and assimilation.

I believe that loving intentionally, extravagantly, and unconditionally is the most powerful method in healing and protecting the most vulnerable. My ancestors' legacy and my people's strength have instilled in me a passion for justice and service that has blessed me with many opportunities of advocacy and social change.

Photo of Kayleigh next to a hibiscus plant in the greenhouse at her school. After college, Kayleigh plans to serve in the Peace Corps.

After I complete my undergraduate studies, I plan to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. I am interested in international Indigenous relations, and how Native people globally are preserving their cultures, languages, and ability to thrive in a world that so often pushes us aside.

My ultimate goal would be to work at the United Nations or the World Bank, or with local grassroots organizations to fight for environmental protection, cultural preservation, women's rights, and economic development in indigenous communities.

Once I can make that contribution, I would like to return to my people in New Mexico. As an older woman, the ultimate blessing for me would be to take on the traditional role of mentorship, ensuring that our tradition and language endure, and loving my community to a brighter future.

If I am blessed with a life where I can serve indigenous communities, protect the most vulnerable, fight for justice, and then return to my ancestral lands and assume our traditional way of life, I believe I will have lived the best life a person could hope for.

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