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Joseph Brophy Toledo Discusses Jémez Pueblo Traditions and Their Relation to Earth Day

To wake the earth, Native Americans from Pueblo of Jémez play “Shinny Stick,” a game similar to modern field hockey but without the same boundaries and specific goals. Before his presentation on Monday, Joseph Brophy Toledo, a medicine man from the Jémez Pueblo, led Andover community members in this game to connect with the Earth.

Drawing on his knowledge of healing and teaching, Brophy discussed the Jémez Pueblo Natives’ view of the relationship between humans and Earth. He also discussed the traditions of his people and the legend of the “Earth People,” offering a different perspective on how people relate to the environment on Earth Day.

According to the Jémez tradition, people were created from the Earth. “[The Creator] said, ‘The way I’m going to design an Earth person is exactly how I designed Mother Earth,’” said Brophy. Thus the Jémez people feel a powerful connection with the Earth, Brophy said .

“We are all equal; we are all earth people,” said Brophy. He repeated this idea after the lecture, saying that he hoped students took away an understanding of how connected the world is. Kevin Newhall ’13, co-head of Archaeology and History Club, helped bring Brophy to campus. He agreed with Brophy’s outlook, adding “We might look different, we might act different, but we’re all still Earth people.”

Brophy also spoke about the earth and many of the environmental problems humans face. “We wanted to expose students to a different perspective about the environment and our relationship to the Earth,” said Marla Taylor, advisor to the Archaeology and History Club, of the decision to bring Brophy to campus on Earth Day.

Water is a scarce resource in New Mexico, where the Pueblo of Jémez is located. Brophy, as Lieutenant Governor, often handled water negotiations with the United States government and neighboring pueblos and tribes.

Brophy did have words of hope, however, saying, “Everything is man-made in this world. So everything is man-solvable.” After the lecture, speaking on the theme of equality, he added, “If we work together, I guarantee that we could succeed more.”

Brophy also talked about his experiences with healing. “[Healing] was automatically in me when I was growing, as a young boy, because healing was on my mind all the time… It was all natural; it was already in me. I think I was reincarnated, that I lived a long time before, and when I came back I had this knowledge of healing,” said Brophy.

As a medicine man, Brophy has practiced herbalism and healing since he was 11 years old. He also graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He believes that the strongest medicine blends Western and Native practices.

“They always called our medicines ‘alternative’ but that term has changed. Now, it’s ‘complimentary’… because the doctors understand that Western medicine has a lot of side-effects, and then you come to an herbalist, like me. I take care of all the side-effects,” said Brophy.

In addition, Brophy spoke about his experiences as a medicine man and knowledge of medicinal herbs and Native healing techniques. He claims he has cured people after strokes. Ali Belinkie ’13, Publicity Director of the Archaeology and History Club, met Brophy over the summer on the Pecos Pathways program and helped organize his visit with funds from the Abbot Academy Association.

“[During my hike with him,] he kept picking up all the plants and saying ‘this does this, eat it!’ and it was so cool and so interesting. I just thought he should come to Andover and share his knowledge with the community,” said Belinkie.

In addition to his status as a healer, Brophy served as the Lieutenant Governor for the Pueblo of Jémez. In this role, he hosted the first Native American Sports Convention in 1993 with the U.S. Olympics Committee. He also works as a Youth Leadership Specialist with the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and teaches wellness and healing techniques in the Pueblo education system.