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River Memories and Visions for Next Steps with Josefina Cardenas and David Tenario

On August 26, we had a thought-provoking and grounding River Run Network event where we learned about the perspectives and ancestral knowledge of rivers from two local leaders: Josefina Cardenas of Barrio Kroeger Lane, and David Tenario of the San Xavier District of the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Josefina got us started by speaking about the spiritual significance of the Santa Cruz River as well as our washes and creeks, including the tradition of Dia de San Juan — a yearly celebration of the coming of the summer rains. She also shared beautiful poetry written by the children in her neighborhood about the river. (A favorite line from a poem by Marytza Catalan, Age 13: “I can Smell the Extraordinary Creosote./I Love that the River is a place I can go to help me cope.”)

Josefina Cardenas shares poetry about the Santa Cruz River by youth from Barrio
Kroeger Lane during a River Run Network event on Aug. 26.

David Tenario also shared community stories of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s relationship with local rivers: people his father’s age sharing memories of playing in the river canals when they still flowed, the sadness of an elder who saw the trees fall and wash away into the river after the 1983 flood, and the San Xavier District Council’s vision for seeing the river heal itself. He also gave River Run Network members a brief Tohono O’odham language lesson!

We closed on shared hopes for connecting youth to river restoration, and uniting around taking next steps to preserve these sacred waters. If you couldn’t make it, you can watch the Zoom recording on YouTube here.