Month: December 2014

Tribe Over Troubled Water

As mentioned previously, I had come from an enlightening road trip from New Mexico in October that took me as far north as Taos. This trip was my first real exposure to different Natives and how they are living currently. While visiting the famous Taos Pueblo, considered to be the oldest pueblo in the world, I chatted with a local woman who shared some startling revelations about tribal government and their communities. Not surprising, some tribal government are just as corrupt as any.

I suppose I hold Native Americans to a higher moral and ethic standard, considering the traumatizing effects that Anglo culture has had on their communities. But perhaps it’s simply this forced hybridization of Anglo with Native culture that has caused the corruption. While this woman said not all tribal governments are corrupt; unfortunately, hers is and there is little room for recourse for her with high stakes of retaliation as a repercussion for loose lips.

Taos Pueblo Church
Taos Pueblo Church

As mentioned in a previous post, New Mexico is an impoverished state with many families struggling to get by. While tribal governments can apply for grants and loans from the U.S. government, the problem is, the tribal officials will pocket this money and not evenly distribute funds to benefit the community. The Taos woman told me, “When the town came, so did this end our culture.” In other words, building the town of Taos made Natives more used to Anglo/U.S. amenities, needs, and wants and drove them further away from the principles of community and more towards greed. For example, a Native family may rely on the generosity of their community or their neighbor to share some of their food stores for the winter. But the building of the town and the adoption of Anglo ideals has made families less open, less likely to share resources with one another, and permeated a scarcity mentality since the government is not evenly distributing wealth and resources.

View of Taos Pueblo
View of Taos Pueblo

I asked this woman what can she do about the corrupt government? Can she take these members to tribal court? Can new officials be elected? Apparently not…she explained that officials will just re-elect themselves and they can have indefinite terms. They often will nominate and vote in other like-minded, corrupt individuals that are usually just family members so this cycle continues.  A small group of tribal families therefore control this specific tribe and try to silence anyone that tries to speak against them. While tribal members are free to leave the reservation at any time (and some do), this could potentially result in a lost of inherited land. In other words, if a family chooses to move out of the pueblo, another family can take their property by illegal means with the support of the government. If you choose to go against the government, they can also seek out to “destroy you,” as this woman explained. While she was extremely vocal with me and my traveling companion about the “real story” of life on a Rez, she seemed to be very unhappy. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. While she only spoke to tourists about this, as rumors are rampant in this small community, she hoped that one day she would tell the right person who could help her make changes. In some small way I hope by putting her story out there on this blog, the universe can return the favor and help her and her family.

Afternoon sun behind a pueblo
Afternoon sun behind a pueblo

While her story is the story of David versus Goliath, she explained that there are indeed tribes in New Mexico who run their government right and help their people. She gave one example of the Pueblo of Sandia tribe who operates a casino and uses those funds to put their children through college for free and keep them off drugs and alcohol. While no government is perfect, as least this government has a clear example of benefiting it’s members and future generation.

Hoping to send positivity and change to this woman in Taos.

DIY Natural Eye Cream and Face Exfoliator!

I’m sure you’re sick of the phrase “Times are tough,” but because of these tough times I decided not to compromise my beauty routine and researched how to create some products I love. I used to work at Sephora almost 10 years ago and since that time, they drilled into me a ‘routine.’ Of course that’s changed over the years but I remember some of the trainings I received mentioned how most people (men included) do not use an eye cream and this is where the first signs of aging can show. While I’m not obessed with a youthful appearance, I like having healthly, glowing skin. Keeping the skin under my eyes hydrated has been essential to minimize dark circles and tired looking eyes.

After my Ole Henriksen eye cream ran out, I simply cleaned the  0.5 oz jar out and mixed the following recipe:

  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Vitamin E Capsules
  • Rose Hip Oil


Natural Eye Cream 0.5 oz
Natural Eye Cream 0.5 oz

Pretty simple. I just mix a few little q-tip dollops until I have a fairly thick consistency. You will want to use maybe 2-3 vitamin E capsules and poke them with a safety pin. Once you’re done stirring the mixture to the desired consistency, you can pop it in the freezer so it adds a nice cooling effect.

This website here also gives a nice video tutorial of another similar eye cream.

This recipe is so simple, cheap, and natural you won’t want to use another eye cream that is packed with other junk and parabens. Plus, once you buy these products, you can use them for other DIY beauty products…such as the amazing face exfoliator below.

After reading a Sunset magazine article about what it’s like to be a celebrity for a day, the dermatologist for the stars, Dr. Harold Lancer said that celebrities have normal skin issues like the rest of us, but the difference is that they actually are consistent and follow the doctor’s orders to achieve results. He also mentioned that his secret to great skin is to exfoliate first, then wash your wash to get a better, deeper clean. With this in mind, and knowing how pricey a good, natural exfoliator could be, I researched some simple recipes. This is the one that I am in love with and have been using everyday (because it’s that gentle!):

  • Raw organic cane sugar
  • Vitamin E oil and/or Jojoba Oil
  • Lavender Essential Oil (2-3 drops)
  • Coconut Oil (optional)


Face Exfoliator 1.5 oz
Face Exfoliator 1.5 oz

I mix about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar in a 1.5 oz jar and add the oils accordingly. I stir until the oil is absorbed into the sugar and it makes a nice paste. This exfoliator is great if your skin is dry and in need of the extra moisture. You can also substitute and use organic baking soda instead of raw sugar. The lavender oil acts as an antibacterial agent, while the sugar provides a gentle buffer to the skin that can be used daily. My skin is oily, and the oil helps to hydrate my skin better. I still generally wash my face with an organic facial cleanser just to give my face a nice squeaky clean feeling.

exfloliator 2

Since using this face exfoliator first to wash my face, followed by a cleanser, my skin appears hydrated and radiant, with less blemishes. Give it a try!


Observing the Land of Enchantment

Disclaimer: The opinions I express below are merely based on what I felt and saw. They are not meant to be “truths” but rather my personal, sociological observations of my journey in New Mexico.

My road trekking took me into the land of enchantment and the land of Breaking Bad–otherwise known as New Mexico.  The show may have exaggerated some aspects of a white drug lord’s problems in the business, but it certainly did not fictionalize the rampant drug problem in New Mexico. While many joked with me prior to my trip to stay away from Albuquerque based on the show, I honestly dismissed this, once again assuming a TV show had sensationalized the persona of this Southwestern state.


I was operating under the false pretense that New Mexico was the land of enchantment like the state motto dictates. That the state was a spiritual, desert epicenter and everywhere you happened to turn, a calming rush of GOD just trickled over your body. Sadly, the rumors are somewhat true. The state (as a whole) is impoverished, desolate, and shows little visible signs of economic growth and opportunity. There is nuclear dumping in Los Alamos and it is one of the worst states plagued with income inequality. New Mexico ranks as #6 in the poorest state in the U.S. I don’t know how else to convey how I felt driving through New Mexico other than hopeless. This feeling permeated every truck stop, every casino, every mobile home, every shanty I encountered. This heaviness was not at all the feelings I was anticipating; I was expecting to feel elated, joyful, optimistic, and most importantly RENEWED.

After escaping Santa Fe’s clash of wealth and druggies, we came to the quiet artist community known as Taos. Even further up the mountain, the temperature dropped and the crack in our car’s windshield seemed to enlarge itself with the brisker air. Taos was still just as impoverished as areas of Santa Fe, but due to the town being pretty spread out over the valley area, it didn’t seem as apparent or noticeable. There seemed to be less drug addicts and homeless folks meandering about and more working class families and wealthy retirees. I was sort of obsessed with the fact that Julia Roberts has a residence in Taos and was curious what drew her there. I’m not a fan per se, but considering that this millionaire celebrity resides there some of the time, I wondered if she has helped the community at all and donated any money. Turns out she has. Check out this article:

Julia Roberts Donates to Tao High

While as I might hope or desire for Julia Roberts to just donate her earnings to all of New Mexico, this is not the case. While I might not have initially felt some spiritual vibrancy upon crossing the state line, I did ultimately feel a strong sense of community and an urge to protect and help this place. I wanted to support and buy locally, buy authentic Native goods from Native traders, and partake in local cuisine. You can’t help but be converted to a red/green chili fiend after a few days in New Mexico and I was pretty close to buying a huge chili ristra to show my admiration for the state’s favorite side dish/salsa.

Ristra Strands for sale
Ristra Strands for sale

Driving through reservations is unfortunately an unpleasantly jarring excursion because you are confronted with the fact of how Native communities live today (certainly not all). They live in run down mobile homes or dilapidated houses, gutted out cars sitting in front yards with overgrowth, stray dogs roaming about, etc. It’s probably what most abandoned U.S. towns look like that were ravaged by the failing economic (e.g., Detroit, Gary, etc.). As we drove through the dusty, unpaved road, we were led to a parking lot away from the actual tourist attraction of old adobe structures known as Taos Pueblo.

Being a dog lover, I felt overwhelmed with the need to tend to and care for all the stray dogs–mostly lab, German shepherd, and husky mixes. One particularly gentle yellow, medium-sized lab mix was lazily lying in the sun and dirt near some cars. I locked eyes with her and something beckoned me to go to her. I kept a safe distance in the event she got scared or wasn’t friendly, but I spoke softly in a baby voice and was met with a wagging tail. I called her to come to me and she kept wagging feverishly, being a little lazy and not immediately wanting to get up, but getting excited at the attention a strange human was giving her. She slowly rose and meandered over to me, consistently wagging her tail. I scratched her ears and pet her chest area and she collapsed and rolled on her back, insisting on a belly rub. Her teets were large and her belly was thin and pink. My co-pilot slowly approached and gave her some pets and rubs on her dusty coat.  She named her “Lady,” and for the remainder of the trip we kept singing that tune from Styx’s “Lady” (of which we only know the word “Lady”). She left and returned with a bowl of channa masala and beans we had been eating the night before and a cup of water. Lady initially refused the masala even though she was so skinny and looked hungry. Once we decided to hand feed her she became to gulp the food down and guzzled the cool water. I know the plan was to go on this tour of the village first, but I wanted to honestly drop everything and care for this dog and take her home. During my journey, I had converted my co-pilot to a dog lover and she felt a spark from Lady and was ready to take on this task. I think she would have made an excellent dog mom.

Rez dog "Lady"

However, after we returned from the tour of the village and got sidetracked with conversing with a Native shop owner, we returned to our car to find Lady gone. I felt visibly upset and saddened since I was anticipating taking care of this wonderfully tempered dog for the rest of our journey and showering her with love, affection, and food and water. I’m still a little emotional about this animal because there are so many dogs like her wandering, homeless on reservations without families to love them or consistent food. This is partly a result of the lack of spaying and neutering which has exploded the pet population on reservations and due to lack of funding and resources to control it. While some families on the reservation have pets and/or take care of some of the Rez Dogs, there is, of course, no way to feasible care for them all. I wrestled with (and still do) the idea of being an outsider and coming to someone’s community to try to take a piece of that community in my ego-centric belief I could care for this one dog and, if I can, then others can. But these dogs are part of the community in one way or another and the solutions should come from within this community, not from outsiders expressing their opinions on the situation.

While there are some rescues geared towards helping Rez Dogs, they are still overwhelmed by the amount of animals in the area and the best (albeit costly) solution is to help spay and neuter the animals. Stray Hearts, is one such rescue group that our hotel manager had picked up a stray Rez Dog and dropped the pooch off here for placement in a forever home. I hope one day to return to the area to help contribute in some way, but for now, I can simply donate.