Tania Bhattacharyya talks to Rev. Adelia Sandoval, Spiritual Leader and Cultural Director for the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians. She is a Ceremonial Leader, Song Keeper, Wisdom Holder, Tribal Teacher, and Healer.
As she learned the stories and ways from her teachers, she also learned she didn’t have to “save the tribe” … she just had to become more of herself. It took a burden off so she could breathe again and do what she did best: spiritually overseeing her community. She could show up, pray with people, sit with people … and that was more than enough.
She settled into leaning on the wisdom of her ancestors while becoming a good ancestor for those to come.
Sharing our stories creates a ripple effect, and even if one person hears our story and does something different because of it, well, then we just changed the trajectory of the world. In a good way.
Highlights from the podcast episode:
Becoming a Spiritual Leader (or Overseer) for the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians [02:20]
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Rev. Adelia heard about her eventual mentor, Ka’chi, and became her student. Their relationship grew and eventually, Adelia would drive to see her every Monday to sit and learn from her. She learned the ceremonial songs and dances and became the go-between for the tribe and Ka’chi. It was a phenomenal education, and Adelia also learned about what it was like to listen, to be silent, and to watch and observe. To notice how people reacted to things. It wasn’t just informational learning but learning a way of being.
Adelia never thought she would replace Ka’chi but as she got older, it became apparent she’d have to continue on. Comfort came in the form of learning she didn’t have to become Ka’chi, but she simply had to settle in and become more of herself. That’s what Ka’chi was teaching her the whole time – how to be herself. And, she removed the burden of having to “save the whole tribe.” She wanted Adelia to know she had given her all the teachings she needed. She was ready – and she was enough.
So, instead of calling herself a spiritual leader today, she considers herself a spiritual over-seer. If she sees a family who is having trouble, she shows up to sit and be. She sings a healing song. She counsels. She may do a wedding for a young couple. She’s there for people. And Ka’chi shows up in dreams and thoughts so she’s constantly guiding her.
Dealing with “Imposter Syndrome” as a leader [12:28]
It’s about having faith. Her ancestors were deeply spiritual people before the missionaries came, and we know this from the songs that have come down from generations. Adelia learned about praying from her grandmother and mother in a multitude of ways – from religious ceremonies to the practice of preparing “one bean at a time” with patience and peace.
As a child, Adelia was a little bundle of anxious energy. Her mom taught her to ask for help, which continues to help her today. She took the Catholic teaching and the Acjachemen teaching and weaved it together into a beautiful basket of faith.
We don’t have to have all the answers because we’re divinely guided.
Our relationship with the Earth [18:00]
Personally, I see Rev. Adelia as an activist and organizer. From protesting nuclear waste storage in San Onofre to advocating for cities in Orange County to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, she takes real action to leave our world better than we found it.
Rebuilding our relationship with the Earth comes up deeply when we talk about change-making. Human beings have gotten away from caring for Mother Earth. We’ve forgotten our roots … but we still have an ancestral line that goes back to the Earth. We can call upon that, and Earth will find us and inspire us to come up with a solution for whatever we are working on.
Looking back at what the village system was like, especially in Orange County, CA [27:06]
Wherever you live, it’s important to know who was there before. It’s about respect, humility, and bridging the past, present, and future. Newport Back Bay was one of the largest villages in what is now Orange County.
If you use your imagination, you can almost see it. In your mind, get rid of all the buildings, houses, and freeway in your imagination and just see native California plants and trees, the coast, teems of marsh grasses, birds, and creatures going around the edges. You can see the dolphins playing in the ocean. It was totally idyllic. There were hundreds of villages working together before the European people came. They had a wonderful, connected system.
When the time came for everyone to gather for celebrations or events, they would. While there were squabbles here and there, it wasn’t about conquering each other – it was about collaboration. They’d bring all the things they had to share, the host would make sure everyone was taken care of, and it all worked. It worked for thousands of years.
What Rev. Adelia hopes future generations say about us [34:49]
We tend to romanticize our ancestors. Rev. Adelia once had a deep realization that her ancestors had huge, difficult, scary decisions to make so that she could be alive today. Her ancestors cared deeply about the future generations to come and that gave them the strength to make hard choices. Rev. Adelia hopes that our future generations romanticize us too, as we continue making hard choices and fighting the good fight to make the world a better place.
Thanks for listening!
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