+ SPOTLIGHT | Cheryn Vigil
What are your tribe(s):
Apache ( 8 different bands: Chiricahua Apache, Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Warm Springs
Apache, White Mountain Apache, San Carlos Apache, Jicarilla Apache, Fort Sill Apache) I’m actually
more, but they’re hard to spell and say. Zacatecas and Black [I Acknowledge every Ancestor]
Whats your age:
20 years old
Cheryn Lou Vigil
What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?
Truth, Peace, and Culture
Bio/ backstory, tell us what you DO and a bit about how you came to do it.
Mixed Media Artista, member of the National Leadership of Society and Success, Honors
Society, Black Student Union, LatinX, Real Food Challenge Team, Aesthetic Activist team,
Local Growers, Student Diversity Council, and Uprooted and Rising. Mentor at the Mescalero
Boys and Girls Club. Passionate individual about food justice, environmental issues, and
social issues. I’m a Student Lead Coordinator for Cooking Matters, a non-profit organization
that teaches low-income individuals how to eat healthy on a budget. I grew up on the rez,
spent my time outside running around the mountains and attending ceremonies. I was raised
by strong people who taught me to care for the Earth and my people. The Apache were the
last tribe to surrender to the government, I do it for them. I grew up watching my relatives
be strong people, not take bs from anybody, and fight for what they want/deserve. I learned
from watching them.
How do you heal?
I heal by being honest with myself. I acknowledge every ancestor. Growing and eating the
foods of my ancestors. Painting, sculpting, dancing, writing poetry, drawing, photography,
making videos, graphic design, and crafting. Being around familia, being outside, and
What is your calling rn?
The Revolution is my calling right now.
I’m also trying to expand my artistic business, My art is my calling. I use my art to tell truth and show who we are as brown and black people.
Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live? If so, how?
I walk with all my ancestors every day. They speak to me through my dreams, del sol, La
Luna, the sky, the wind, the water, the children, every fruit, every seed, every living thing.
They never left. I feel their energy from the rainstorms the beat of the drum, the last piece of
fry bread. They speak to you through everything, you just have to know How to pay
Who are your Mentors/ role models?
People who I admire are the women of mi familia, Geronimo, Cochise, Naiche, MalcolmX,
Frida Kahlo, Tupac, Nipsey, LatinX. Basically, anybody who fights for what’s right, is real, true
to their word, is a peaceful spirit, takes care of their bodies, and mental health.
What inspires/ drives you to keep going?
My creativity keeps me going every day. Finding new ways to live keeps the adrenaline going.
My ancestors speak to me through my art. It’s them painting, not me. I come from the
Mescalero Apache Reservation of Nuevo Mexico. For a community of 4,000, I’ve lost around
50 people (probably more). I’m in my junior year of college. September 2018, I get call, my
21-year-old cousin was in a drinking accident and lost his right leg. October 25, 2018, I get a
call, my 18-year-old brother, a senior in high school, had been shot. A gringo killed my brother. Autopsy says there was hard drugs and alcohol in his system. January 1, 2019 I was in a psych ward, I tried committing suicide. Here I am back at college, whoopie. Days later, I received an invitation from the NSLS. I sat there in silence, what if I had killed myself? I get an email that I made it on the Honors Society. A month later, I get a call, “dads been arrested, he has a chance of going back to prison.” March 7 th , I get a call, “the tribes head medicine man has passed from diabetes.” We lost the main person, ahh hell. March 13th, I see on Facebook, my homie, 19 years old, hung himself. My rez sits two hours from Juárez, Mexico, the most “dangerous” city in the world, we got a lot of cartel activity going on. I’ve been through a lot, but I got a spirit that a bullet can’t kill. Must be the Apache in me. The dream is to create an art center for the youth because I’m tired of us turning to alcohol or drugs to deal with our problems. I live to carry on the ancient food, the stories, and the language for future generations. I call the children of my life my seeds. I live to give my seeds the best soil, the cleanest water, and the freshest air.
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?
Recognize the Power that is in your blood line. The Ancient never left. Every breathe is of
every ancestor that ever walked the earth. Our ancestors are the plants, the animals, and the
stars. Don’t give up, We Need You. We are in this together. We are in a new time. Every
ancestor that has ever lived is coming together to create the biggest Revolucion that has ever
occurred, are you going to be a part of it? Decolonize your thoughts and your diet. Know real
history and understand systems are colonized. Call people out. Challenge systems. Teach the youth and your people. Its time to reclaim and Rise Up. We’re so Resilient. While at Fort Lewis College, Black Student Union made history by fighting for a space on campus. LatinX made history; immigrant students are now legally protected by the college from ICE coming in and taking them away. The Real Food Challenge team made history by taking initiative with a national project, Uprooted and Rising, to change college food systems, and get them to incorporate more humane and local foods. I was involved with every journey, fought with the institution, protested, wrote demands, used art my for activism, painted a mural, and attended meetings with the board of trustees. I can say I’m leaving a very beautiful foundation for current and future brown and black students. You’re welcome. Ixehe