+SPOTLIGHT | Tecpatl Tonalyohlotl Kuauhtzin
TECPATL TONALYOHLOTL KUAUHTZI
What are your tribe(s): Nahua, Tsalagi, and Cucapá
What’s your age:19
Ndn Name: Tecpatl Tonalyohlotl Kuauhtzin
White Name: N/A
What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?
Bio/ backstory, tell us what you DO and a bit about how you came to do it.
I was born into the movement. My story, and what I do, begins with the work of my parents. Both being indigenous warriors, they paved a road for my sisters and I that involved indigenous education, ceremony and tradition. I was mostly raised as a Nahua boy, though was fortunate to have uncles, aunts, and elders from many nations across Turtle Island. The time immemorial connection of north and south and our ancient, yet still very relevant and interconnected, creation stories played a very big roll in my upbringing. I regard the times I acted as a translator for my Nahua grandfather and A:shiwi, Hopi, Haudenosaunee, etc. elders to be just as vital to my development as a culture-bearer as the times I spoke out on behalf of the concerns for language revitalization of Native youth in my community at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
Currently, I am a second year student pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in American NDN Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. I aspire to become an attorney for NDN Country and be a voice for our four legged and winged relatives.
How do you heal?
I am an artist. My journey with healing as an indigenous person is carried by my passion in photographing friends, relatives, and elders: all of which are talented Natives with their own missions. Together, we are a community and my goal with my art is to demonstrate diversity within our collective. The way I like to think about it is with every click of the shutter button a story is being told; a story that, otherwise, may have never had the opportunity or platform to be shared. I am fortunate to have quite a few friends that create art in similar ways, and with them I heal.
What is your calling right now?
My current calling is to very simply be there. I seek to be an older brother, younger brother, or even an uncle for any indigenous youth that may need somebody. I seek to be a nephew for any elder that may be itching to teach something. Our human connections are sacred, and I was raised to appreciate all teachings. Within the last couple years I have made countless relationships that I am honored to maintain. Right now, wellness for NDN Country is my calling and being a worthy relative is my method.
Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live? If so, how? Like in what way?
My ancestors affect everything I do. The way I live my life is based on the old teachings that were passed down to my parents, which in turn were passed down to me. Everything, from the way I conduct myself with the female nation, to the way I carry my hair is influenced by the wewetlatohle (literally translated as old Language, though it refers to our epistemology) of those before me. All of my nations are matriarchal, and my mother is my primary teacher. I was raised to live by my creation stories. I was raised to care for those who are less fortunate. I was raised to be a good ancestor.
Who are your Mentors/ role models?
My primary role models are my parents. I have too many elders and guides to be able to create a list without missing anyone, though I would like to talk about one in particular who has been around since I can remember. I call him K’u’ łana, but his legal name is Edward Wemytewa and he is of the A:shiwi (Zuni) people of New Mexico. He and my father, both, taught me how to hunt and skin. They both taught me how to carry myself the way a Native man should.
What inspires/ drives you to keep going?
My people are my inspiration and drive. That may sound cliché, but it is my truth. The well-being of my parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, and brothers are my reason for spending so much time away in university. Every day in this Western educational system is a battle because these institutions were never designed to house the success of a Nahua/Cucapá/Tsalagi. My ancestors had it much worse, and I remind myself of this almost daily.
If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?
Shkeman tikitos ka maske tikmatis ititlantohke (Not even until our last breath of life will we give up.)