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A motherhood journey guided by ancestral wisdom with Tatiana Dahteste

Tatiana Dahteste comes from a lineage of Yaqui, Apache and Mexica ancestors and began familiarizing herself with their traditions after a major life event at age eighteen. Now a mother of two, living in a small mountain town in the northwestern region of the United States, she shares her views on indigenous motherhood: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re indigenous or not, you have to remember nature is a part of us.’

On walking the red road
‘I try to live as close as I can to the way my ancestors did, but I didn’t grow up with my traditions. I would be around them, but I wouldn’t be interested. But after a near-death experience, I dove into them and I went back to the reservation to reconnect. To be able to know your traditions is a gift. Not a lot of my people want to embrace their traditions, because of embarrassment, or because they are disconnected. But for me, I have to keep my life’s way. We call it the red road, it’s like a spiritual discipline we follow.’

On sacred matriarch motherhood
‘I come from a lineage of Yaqui, Apache, and Mexica (the colonizers gave us the Aztec name, but it’s really Mexica). My indigenous views towards motherhood are sacred, because we try to raise our children as close to the earth as possible. Learning the tools of the earth and the footsteps that our ancestors left for us: the crafting, the primitive ways, the languages, the songs, the prayers. It’s a lot to pass down to our children. I learned my indigenous ways from my grandmother and my grandfather. Their DNA keeps me disciplined in motherhood because I have my ancestors watching me.’

On the most powerful force to connect with
‘Nature is our church, basically. All people are equal, but nature is beyond our power, so it’s the most powerful force to connect with and surrender to. I show my seeds how to embrace our roots without fear, to be unapologetic, sharing ancestral ways with them. Honoring our traditions is the only thing that keeps us alive and resilient. It shows that we’re still here.’

On breaking cycles in family lineage
‘I had a near-death experience and when I left this realm, I saw my ancestor. My grandmother had long beautiful braids and right when I was about to go to the other realm, she grabbed my hand. That’s when I came back to earth. Since then, I felt like my ancestors are channeled in me. I made a promise to stay on track with my traditional ways. I’m the first in my family line since my great-grandmothers to have a natural water birth. I decided to surrender and feel the empowerment of natural birth. Birthing my kids naturally without medication and feeling what birth actually is, helped me break a lot of cycles in my family. In my culture, they see birth as the most spiritual experience you can witness. It’s being in the middle of this reality and after life. I feel that, once you have a natural birth, you enter the birth portal. That’s what makes the family tree empowered. The way you give birth to a child is what’s breaking the curses and cycles in the family tree.’

On learning to connect with the power of creation
‘My grandmother would tell me stories of her pueblos and connecting with creators. I grew up with her telling me traditional stories and to remember to walk in a good direction. She was like my guardian angel, every time I would make a mistake or get out of line, she would remind me that the creator and ancestors are watching over me. After my grandmother passed away, I started going to ceremonies. That’s when I got really connected to creation and my ancestors. Ancestors are like spirit guides. They help us see things we can’t see when we’re blind. I connect with them through drumming, chanting, through my children, walking as an indigenous woman. I like to represent my culture. I wear our regalia, our medicine. I never go out of the house without some kind of medicine protection, but I always have my ancestors with me just to help protect me from the outer chaos. I feel their presence, especially giving birth. They help me get through hard times and they help me stay on track.’

On relearning and teaching ancestral primitive ways
‘It doesn’t matter if you’re indigenous or not, you have to remember nature is a part of us. I believe the most sovereign way is to go back to living off land. I learned skills, ancestral tools and ancient crafting. I learned herbalism, the wild foods that grow out there and how to use tools from nature. With none of the essentials a house has, I sacrificed a lot to be where I am living off land. I was in my wall tent with a wood stove in the middle of the wild, learning these ways, so I could teach them to the youth and to my family.’

On rehab for humanity
‘Living the traditional way was bittersweet at the beginning, like going through rehab. But it’s evolved me and made me who I am. I stay grounded and more connected to the present moment. It’s also given me a duty to pass these ways down to the youth or to any human that wants to remember their essence through nature. It’s very sad to witness so many people in the city disconnected from themselves, caught up in mainstream ways. If everybody could just go out in nature as much as they can to reconnect, I feel like humanity could be a bit better.’

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