Local Activism   |   Tucson, AZ

Interview with Dr. PennElys Droz on LandBack,
Indigenous Parenting, and Building Sustainable Futures 

June 2021​ | Interview by Raye Winch | Photos by Rachel Castillo

PennElys Droz standing in garden.

PennElys Droz (she/her) stands near her home garden in South Tucson. Arizona. She talks about food growing as a key to sustainable living.

“I think that my biggest purpose is to help facilitate the connection and the reconnection of people with land.”  - PennElys 

 

Dr. PennElys Droz is an Anishnaabe mother of five and founding member of Sustainable Nations. She creates opportunities for people to connect with land through building with natural materials, growing food, and by attuning to the natural world around them. 

 

PennElys is a Program Officer for the NDN Collective, where she organizes for the return of land to indigenous people, #LandBack.

Links: 

The NDN Collective - link to website

Sustainable Nations -  link to website

Original music produced by Jaime J. Soto

PennElys Droz_standing against blue wall in her backyard.

PennElys Droz (39) of the Anishnaabe First Nations Tribe, is an activist, mother, and partner.

Pennelys stands inside her hand-made adobe room. She and her family built the 7ft x14ft structure from recycled and natural building materials such as wood pallets, hay, cliche (hard clay like dirt, native to the surrounding area).  

Transcripts English

Raye Winch: Welcome to Amplifying Voices: People Sparking Change. Today we are joined by Dr. PennElys Droz, an Anishnaabe mother of five, Program Officer for the NDN Collective, and founding member of Sustainable Nations. PennElys, what issues of urgency are calling you the most now?

PennElys Droz: I think that my biggest purpose is to help facilitate the connection and the reconnection of people with land. Folks gotta be disconnected from land in order to extract and exploit. That's the vision that NDN collective serves too, is that by flipping capitalism and decolonizing wealth into, into Land Back, into reparations for Black folks into indigenous hands, it's gonna, it's gonna serve the liberation of us all.

 

Raye: Could you speak more about what that looks like in practice?

 

PennElys: Absolutely. So, yeah, Land Back. Land Back means a lot of things. Land Back does mean literal land back. If you are a land owner that has hundreds of acres, no one needs hundreds of acres. Find out whose lands, whose sacred homelands are those, and give them back. Another part of Land Back is extending indigenous care to land. We believe that land is best care-taken by the original peoples. I just had the blessing of being able to interview and talk to some folks from the Wiyot tribe. During the gold rush in California, during the time of their World Renewal Ceremony, a group of vigilantes came and just, a massacre happened, and they lost most of their small tribe. In that one incident on an island on a, on a sacred island. When I was a child, Cheryl Seidner and Leona Wilkinson, two sisters who were the descendants of, of their Wiyot people that survived began just dreaming again. I started hosting vigils and prayers and after decades and decades of that, of that prayerful relationship building and that just powerful force to be reckoned with. And they bought back like a acre and a half or something of the island. Um, and eventually the city of Eureka gave all 200 acres of that island back. They didn't have to buy it. They gave it back. First case, first incident of, of a city giving land back. So that the Wiyot can have their World Renewal Ceremony there again. And that's some power. And I believe that that heals everybody. I believe that heals the descendants of those who committed the genocide.

 

Raye: I know there are many people and organizations that are wanting to go beyond Land Acknowledgements. I'm wondering for those individuals, where you see as a starting place.

 

PennElys: I mean, step one is learn whose land you're on and why it's their land. Step two is learn the history, learn where, where, what is your place in the threads of history. But besides that, I do think it's really important also to learn, learn the dirt where you're at. Learn the plants. Learn the uses of all the native plants. Start observing the way the weather patterns move over the land and really attune yourself to those things. Because that way you'll have a baseline to be able to have conversations with native folks because you'll be growing in love for the land that is their ancestral land that they love. And then, and then maybe go have some conversations.

 

Raye:

What ways can people support you in your work?

PennElys:

Go outside every day to the same natural place and use all your senses to observe, every day for as many months as you can. Go check out NDNCollective.org. Checkout sustainablenations.org. Come lend a hand however you can.

PennElys Droz_sitting in her home garden in South Tucson, AZ

PennElys playfully sits on a small patch of grass near her home garden. She jokingly tells us this her daughters' favorite place to sit and talk. Shaded by trees and just off the homemade swimming pond. PennElys tells us her backyard was a dirt lot when her family moved in 10 years ago - now it is a lush garden oasis.

Transcripciones Español

Raye Winch: Bienvenides a Amplificando Voces: Personas Impulsando Cambios. Hoy nos acompaña la Dra. PennElys Droz, una mujer Anishnaabe, madre de cinco hijes, oficial de programas del colectivo NDN y miembro fundador de Sustainable Nations. PennElys, ¿qué temas de urgencia  llaman más tu atención ahora?

 

PennElys Droz: Creo que mi mayor propósito es ayudar a facilitar la conexión y la reconexión de las personas con la tierra. La gente tiene que estar desconectada de la tierra para poder extraer y explotar. Esa es la visión a la que el colectivo NDN también sirve, es que al convertir el capitalismo y descolonizar la riqueza en Land Back, en reparaciones para personas Afro-Americanas, en manos indígenas, todo eso servirá para la liberación de todos nosotres.

 

Raye: Hablaste de Land Back,  la cual sé que es una de las prioridades del Colectivo NDN. ¿Podrías hablar más sobre cómo se ve eso en práctica?

 

PennElys: Claro Sí, Land Back. Land Back significa muchas cosas. Land Back significa literalmente que se regrese la tierra . Si eres  propietario de tierras que tienen cientos de acres, nadie necesita cientos de acres. Averigua de quién son esas tierras, de quién son esas patrias sagradas, y devuélvelas. Otra parte de Land Back es extender  el cuidado indígena a la tierra. Creemos que la tierra está mejor cuidada por los pueblos originarios. Tuve la bendición de poder entrevistar y hablar con algunas personas de la tribu Wiyot. Durante la Fiebre del Oro en California, durante el tiempo de su Ceremonia de Renovación Mundial, llegó un grupo de milicia y, justo ahí, ocurrió una masacre y perdieron la mayor parte de su pequeña tribu. En ese incidente en una isla , en una isla sagrada. Cuando era niña, Cheryl Seidner y Leona Wilkinson, dos hermanas que eran descendientes de la gente Wiyot que sobrevivió, empezaron a soñar de nuevo. Comencé a organizar vigilias y oraciones y después de décadas y décadas de eso, de esa construcción de relaciones de oración y esa fuerza poderosa a tener en cuenta. Y volvieron a comprar como un acre y medio o algo así de la isla, y finalmente la ciudad de Eureka devolvió los 200 acres de esa isla. No tuvieron que comprarlos. Ellos los devolvieron. Primer caso, primer incidente de una ciudad devolviendo tierras. P para que el pueblo Wiyot vuelva a tener allí su Ceremonia de Renovación Mundial. Y eso es poder. Y creo que eso cura a todes. Creo que cura a los descendientes de quienes cometieron el genocidio.

 

Raye: Sé que hay muchas personas y organizaciones que están haciendo reconocimientos de tierra y quieren hacer más que solo reconocer la tierra. ¿Dónde crees que pueden comenzar?

 

PennElys: Creo que, el primer paso es saber de quién es el territorio en que se encuentra uno y por qué es  territorio  de elles. El segundo paso es aprender la historia, aprender cuál es el lugar que  uno tiene en los hilos de la historia. Pero además de eso, creo que también es muy importante aprender, aprender sobre la tierra en la que estás. Aprender las plantas. Aprender los usos de todas las plantas nativas. Comenzar  a observar la forma en que los patrones climáticos se mueven sobre la tierra y sintonizarse realmente con esas cosas. Porque de esa manera tendrás una base para poder tener conversaciones con los nativos porque te estarás desarrollando  en amor por la tierra que es la  tierra ancestral de elles y que aman. Y luego, y luego quizás ir a tener algunas conversaciones.

 

Raye: ¿De qué maneras puede la gente apoyar  tu trabajo?

 

PennElys: Sal todos los días al mismo lugar natural y usa todos tus sentidos para observar todos los días durante tantos meses  puedas. Visita NDNCollective.org. Visita SustainableNations.org. Ven y echa una mano como puedas.

 

Raye: Para obtener la entrevista completa, fotos, y enlaces a más información, visite www.peoplesparkingchange.org.

Esta entrevista se grabó originalmente en inglés. Traducción de Indira Arce.

PennElys Droz_standing near the leaves of a fruit tree in her home garden. She is wearing hand beaded earrings.

PennElys in her garden wearing earrings she made herself. 

PennElys reminds us of the importance of slowing down. To spend our time on the essentials.