July 2023
Reimagining Assets

Reimagining Assets: A Navajo Perspective

This article is also available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aquí.

The Western definition of assets does not fit the reality of Indigenous communities, where we include our relationship with the land, intergenerational wisdom, culture and lineage among our community assets. And rather than using our assets to maximize profit, we believe they are an important way to conserve culture for future generations: What assets do we need to be sustainable?

My name is GJ Gordy, and my clans are One Who Walks Around born into the Salt People Clan. My maternal grandparents are the Edge Water People, and my paternal grandparents are the Mud People. That is how I am a Navajo Woman.

We value our connection to land and community

Clanship is essential to Navajo people for greeting and establishing relations. From infancy, we are filled with spirituality by the teachings of our ancestors, passed down through the generations through storytelling.

Our connection to land and community – including the community of all living things – fulfills our spiritual consciousness from birth. It molds our minds to see beyond ourselves, to include all living things in the community. The most significant assets in Navajoland are our agriculture, our culture, and our rich traditions.

Leveraging our most significant assets helps heal and strengthen our community

Farming and planting have become special projects in Navajoland to help us reimagine community, engagement and spiritual sustainability.

Three gardens exist at three Navajoland missions with a strong driving force to engage community, health and well-being, and storytelling. These gardens create a natural space for intergenerational relationships and exchange. In them, members practice ancient planting techniques; local community members take stake in the development; and visitors from around the country can share in the work. From building to planting, watering and harvesting, clergy and congregations offer prayers during each step. At harvest, the fun happens as we share the bounty and learn traditional and modern recipes.

We cannot be blind to the past – and you are part of our future

The emphasis on passing along intergenerational wisdom is important work because of past atrocities committed against Indigenous communities. As victims, we believe that the process of healing and understanding needs to come, first, by looking to the past, and then by turning to the present and future.

Our history includes witnessing the theft, extraction, and misuse of assets, which has led to impoverished communities, addiction and family dysfunction. To heal, we are strengthening our community bonds and reconnecting with creation through the practice of Hozho (balance, peace, beauty and harmony).

As we move forward in healing, we ask that you join us as members of the beloved community by committing yourself to listening and understanding, and by holding us in prayer. Please pray the Gathering Prayer from the Indigenous Disciples Prayer Book from the office of Native American/Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church:

Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us for our visit within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the center of this sacred circle through which all of creation is related. You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen.

Gerlene Gordy (GJ) is Navajo from Coal Mine, New Mexico. She is the Communication Director for the Episcopal Church in Navajoland (ECN) and a web developer for Cheii’s Web (https://cheiiswebdev.com) founded by ECN to help share people’s stories. GJ has a husband and a nine-year-old daughter. She has worked with children for more than 12 years and enjoys sweet tea on a hot New Mexico afternoon.


This article is part of the July 2023 Vestry Papers issue on Reimagining Assets