Tipi Raisers visit Eagle County to bring Indigenous knowledge to conserved lands

Darryl Slim teaches Diné ways of healing during guided walk on Eagle River Preserve

Darryl Slim, Diné tribe member and Spiritual and Cultural Advisor to the Tipi Raisers, guides the group through breathing exercises at the Eagle River Preserve in Edwards on Monday.
Zoe Goldstein/Vail Daily

On Monday, June 26, Darryl Slim led a group of attendees on a guided walk through the Eagle River Preserve in Edwards designed to educate the group on indigenous practices of self-understanding and healing through interactions with the natural world. Slim, a Diné (formerly known as Navajo) tribal member and Spiritual and Cultural Advisor to the Tipi Raisers, practices traditional Diné methods of medicine, and shared his knowledge with those participating in the walk.

“Today is about getting to know the sound of your body,” Slim said at the beginning of his talk. “When you recognize the sound of your body, come to find out, we are the environment.”

The walk was the final event in a four-day marathon of the Tipi Raisers’ Indigenous Wisdom Gathering, which began on Friday as part of Eagle Flight Days. Friday and Saturday’s events included a ceremonial tipi raising, a four directions horse ride, and a performance by Indigenous dancers, while Sunday included a talk on Indigenous spirituality and a youth gathering.

The Tipi Raisers, a nonprofit registered in Colorado and South Dakota, works to unite Native and non-Native people around four key pillars: Alleviating poverty, Gen7 youth, Indigenous wisdom, and reconciliation. The organization currently works primarily with three tribes: the Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the Diné (Navajo) and Hopi in Arizona, though their mission to connect non-Native people with Native people includes all tribes, and their events feature citizens of many tribes.

“Part of what Tipi Raisers is trying to do is expose non-Native people to the Native perspective of history, and to the Native perspective of how they walk in the world, and how they see the trees and the grass,” — Dave Ventimiglia, Executive Director of the Tipi Raisers

“Part of what Tipi Raisers is trying to do is expose non-Native people to the Native perspective of history, and to the Native perspective of how they walk in the world, and how they see the trees and the grass,” said Dave Ventimiglia, the executive director of the Tipi Raisers.

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The event was part of the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Community Land Connection series, a set of free, public events that are designed to connect the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s community to conserved lands and each other. Jessica Foulis, the executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, said that in meetings with Lori and Dave Ventimiglia, “we talked about the connection between land conservation and indigenous conversations and ways of being.”

Joette Gilbert, an Eagle resident, coordinated the Tipi Raisers’ travels to Eagle, as well as working alongside the Tipi Raisers to organize the Indigenous Wisdom Gathering events that took place throughout the four days. She also hosted the 25 Tipi Raisers travelers on her property as her guests. “You’re only one person, but you never know what you can do with the power of one,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert spoke of the power of love, and the effort that Native Americans are currently making to combat the centuries of history of colonization and subjugation.

“Did you know that the word Navajo means thief? It was given to them by the Spaniards. Right now, the people that have been called Navajo are going back to being called Diné. They are trying so hard to get their identity back,” she said.

Darryl Slim provides final words to the crowd during his talk, imparting advice on healing through connection to the Earth.
Zoe Goldstein/Vail Daily

Slim’s talk, rooted in the knowledge of his tribal elders, focused on finding and healing one’s true self through experience. Every part of the natural world, according to Slim, is also integrated within each human being.

“No one can experience anything outside of themselves. Everything is experienced within,” he said. He explained that the nearby sound of a bird, and even the sound of his own voice, were experienced within, rather than heard without, by listeners.

“Deep listening is my work,” said Slim, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, and grew up on the Diné (Navajo) nation. Slim’s knowledge, he said, comes from his grandfather, whose medicine he carries, as well as Diné tradition.

“Our traditional ceremony is willing to sit and listen, and letting the healing heal itself, because we can only heal ourselves,” he said.

The type of healing that Slim practices involves an individualistic focus, which Slim deliberately promotes.

“People say it’s selfish, only thinking about yourself, but it really isn’t. It’s when you get to know you, and then you can see, your perception is so clear. You know how to be of service, you know how to help someone that needs help,” Slim said.

Healing, to Slim, begins with fully engaging with the surrounding world. “A lot of people that do nature walks, they walk so fast, they don’t even hear themselves,” he said. He refocused the participants on his walk toward recognizing the interactions between themselves and the earth around them, including the way their feet massaged the ground. “As we’re walking on this earth, as you’re using your senses fully, a healing begins from your body,” Slim said.

“As we’re walking, we want to be walking here, not at the destination,” Slim said. Part of “walking here” involves simply noticing and accepting forces, without naming or judging them. “When something shows up for us, and we don’t understand it, it’s because we’re not here. We’re at the destination, or behind us, somewhere. So we have to be here,” Slim said.

Engaging in practices such as removing one’s shoes three times per day, and taking three seconds to acknowledge the elements of the Earth are part of Slim’s medicine cabinet.

“Pausing, for this moment, it lines everything back up for us,” he said.

Slim wanted participants in the walk to take away, rather than his words, their own experience, in order to find their own path to healing.

“The more you listen to yourself, you can find out, being on the Earth, taking off your shoes, swimming in the natural spring water, there’s so much medicine in that way,” he said.

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