Community / by Karie Luidens

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What does commitment to a place and its well-being actually look like?

Let’s call it the cultivation of community.

As if in direct answer to Rita Swentzell’s reflections on the unsustainability of constantly wandering the world like tourists, and the need to counter that with a renewed “rootedness in place,” her daughter Roxanne went on to invest in an incredibly rooted existence for herself, her children, and many others around her in Santa Clara Pueblo by founding the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute in 1987. Its mission: “To nurture healthy communities through practices based on Indigenous ways of knowing. Moving with purposeful care for a sustainable future.”

Over the last thirty years, Flowering Tree has grown into a multigenerational food farm, learning center, and conscientious way of life for dozens of participants. Roxanne describes the significance of the community’s coming together in her recent collaborative publication, The Pueblo Food Experience Cookbook:

People tend to think of farmers as men on tractors, but these farmers [at the Institute] sat on the ground touching the soil inch by inch, noticing life up close while singing songs that came to mind. [...]

After working hard mornings, we would stop for lunch, gathering in the shade of the porch and eating [....] We were tired but grateful for the time together, so much so that many times no one  wanted to leave. [...] Everyone was sad when the season came to an end and the gatherings stopped. We had other jobs and school to attend. 

I can’t help but think that a long time ago, when we were a tighter community, these kinds of gatherings happened every day, year-round, because that is how we survived and enjoyed life. We had to grow our own food because there were no stores. We cooked meals because there were no restaurants. During these times, we visited and saw one another often. We learned how to be respectful and grateful for our food because we knew all the steps it took to get to our tables. 

In these modern times, it is rare to think of manual labor and farming as a good life. We hire someone else to do the work so that we don’t have to. Is this because we have forgotten how to be communal? It is hard and lonely to work in a field without others to talk to and work alongside, so it is understandable that we have divorced ourselves from our food. But on a small part of the earth in the summer of 2014, there was a moment of remembering community and the blessings that come from being connected to one another and our food again. (pp 20-21)