Indigenous Resilience with Jen Rivera Bell




Jen Rivera Bell is back! The last time Jen joined the podcast she and Carly talked about the beautiful intersections of her identity; being Indigenous, vegan, low waste, a mother, an activist, a lover of mother Earth and so much more. This time Jen came on to dive deeper into the resilience of Indigenous Peoples. Jen shares beautiful insight into how to be an ally to Indigenous People, her experience as an Indigenous woman in a white world, and more.


Please note, this episode has been transcribed by a computer, expect some typos!


Carly Puch

Welcome back to another episode of Consciously Clueless. I'm your host, Carly, and I'll be your guide in this journey from consciousness to cluelessness and back around again. Today on the podcast, Jen Rivera Bell is back. Last time Jen joined, she and I talked about the beautiful intersections of her identity, being indigenous vegan low waist, a mother and activist, a lover of Mother Earth and so much more. This time, Jen came on to dive deeper into the resilience of indigenous peoples. In honor of indigenous peoples day, she shared beautiful insight into how to be an ally to indigenous people, her experience as an indigenous woman in a white world, and so much more. I guess the question that you've already been asked, thank you for joining me again.


Jen Rivera Bell

I'm really excited. Happy to be here. Because yeah, I'm


Carly Puch

really excited to chat with you again. But so how are you doing on the spectrum from conscious to clueless this time around?


Jen Rivera Bell

I'm always clueless and always conscious. That's my answer.


Carly Puch

I like that.


Jen Rivera Bell

Oh, yeah, I'm just this Equinox, I think is just brings so much shift of energy. And I'm lucky to be able to not only see it, but receive it. with open arms, I'm trying to be very open to it. I've just felt such a positive like push. And I'm just ready for it. I'm ready for it. I'm excited. I'm feeling like where I dreamt of where I want it to be like, I feel like that's where I'm heading. And it's, I'm, I'm so ready to receive it and ready to be there. And I know that it's taking a lot of work and a lot of energy on my part and a lot of self reflection. I've just been super aware of my own behaviors, the way that I've been talking to people the way that I talked to myself. And just like being like, Okay, you need to chill, you need to settle down. And just be more mindful and more present. I think I kind of lost myself a little bit in these past couple of months, especially because of COVID, because of COVID. So much more of our lives are online, right. And so I felt the need to make more connections. So I felt the need to be more connected. And then with everything else that's going on. I feel like it's my job to spread information. It's my job to inform people, but then I lose my own sense of self because I feel like I'm just a reciprocating of energy and never for myself. And that's one of the hardest things that I've been working on in these past few years is just valuing myself by productivity. And I think we chatted a little bit about that before just like okay, how did my to do list look today, okay, I failed as a person and I'm unworthy now or I did great. And I'm, I'm still worthy of love and appreciation now. And so working a lot on that as of late. And just like I said, being more present, like, literally like listening to the leaves and watching the leaves fall and like watching all the animals kind of roam around and and just doing that. Nothing else. Mono tasking has been the theme of this. Yes. The past couple of weeks. Yeah. And so I'm just, I'm trying, I'm listening and and I'm open to what I'm the energies that I'm feeling and like going in that direction. Because I've been I've been needing to move this way. And now I feel like it's the perfect time.


Carly Puch

Yeah, I love that so much. It's funny you say that because just actually in the last few days, I felt an energetic shift. Like I went from saying, This is what I want, this is what I want. This is what I want. This is what I want. And then the last few days I'm like, oh, it's mine. I'm that's what I'm here to your layer. It's already there. And I I knew that I needed to get there but I didn't fully feel it. And I just feel in the last few days. I'm like feeling a little more joyful about those things. Instead of being like, this is what I need. This is what I'm manifesting and being like manic about it. Yes, yes, absolutely. Truly thinking, Oh, those things already exist. They're mine. This is just the path to get there. I really like how you said that.


Jen Rivera Bell

I think that that's one of the hardest parts. When it comes to being open to manifesting your future and manifesting your reality is even in the way that we say it of one day this will be mine as opposed to this is Mine, I just have to wait for this time, you know, and, and when it's right, it does happen, and we're just receiving that energy. And that doesn't mean we don't do our part in it, you know, like, we're still have to do our part and do the work, while also being open to it. I think that sometimes we go too in one direction or the other. And it's finding that, that duality of you got to put in the work, you got to dismantle the systems, and then also being aware of the energy, you know, we can do both at the same time, we tend to not give ourselves enough credit. Yeah,


Carly Puch

I think I've said this phrase in 2020. Like, a, I don't know, zillion times by now. But both and like I've said so many times both. And because we get so stuck in specifically in the Western world, I think of just things are black and white, it is good or bad is this or that. And I think of all the million lessons that 2020 is bringing, it's that everything exists at the same time. And it's complicated. It's both and and that's, you know, that duality?


Jen Rivera Bell

Sure, I think that, as human beings, you know, we like simplicity, our brain will compartmentalize things into black and white. And it is our job as higher beings to be like, No, actually, this entire area is gray. And that is not as simple as it is, it's so much more complex, and it's our job to really dig into that, as opposed to just being like, this is this. And that's and because that's easy, it's so easy to see it that way. And, and the reality of it is that that's not how it works, you know, it's all interconnected. Everything is intersectional. And it's so much more than just like that, I think that one of my biggest things that I would always go to when it comes to that used to be veganism, this idea of like, okay, well, you know, I know this information. And now why doesn't everybody do it? I don't get it like, but, you know, get to it. What's everybody waiting on? And then like really digging into it into like, oh, okay, these people aren't just evil cow murderers. Like, that's not how it works, you know. And so understanding those complexities, makes you a better activist makes you a better person to understand that you have to understand where the person is coming from, in order to to dismantle those systems, you can't just pinpoint at individual people, they're all systems at play.


Carly Puch

Yes, absolutely. I think that has been so crucial for me, especially with for someone speaking for myself with so much privilege to just be able to ask people why they're not changing, because these things are easy for me. And last Sunday, my solo episode was about the angry vegan phase. And I just like talked about, like, that's a real thing, that is a real part of it, absolutely. Wake up to it. And then you're just like, oh, everything that I knew is a lie. It's all a lie. I'm so scared, and everyone's evil, and everyone's evil. And these people that are making these choices, and it's so like you, I definitely like put myself in this, like, I'm over here kind of camp. And it's a part of it, because you feel like you kind of have to go through this like wake up phase. But even just some of the things I said, or some of the things I believed were just from such a place of no understanding of the systems at play of the intersectionality of all of those things. And that's a part of it, like, not only learning it, but being like yo, I was wrong. I was really wrong. Yes.


Jen Rivera Bell

I think that that's one of the most important parts is after saying things or doing things that like we're just not okay, being able to say, Hey, I did XYZ and like, Hey, y'all, like I shouldn't have done that. Here's why. Here's what I'm doing now. And that goes for everyone, because we're not perfect. You know, I come from a place of speaking on intersectionality of talking about different avenues for marginalized people. And yet I still mess up all the time, all the time. I, you know, we have these ingrained biases. And that's, that's normal, right? And it's kind of hard for us to talk about that of like, hey, we all are part of this system. We've all been raised with racism, with sexism. And so we have these biases, it is our job to vocalize when we do have these views when we do think these things and be like, Whoa, let me take a step back. This is stemming from this, I'm going to do better. No one's asking for anyone tomorrow to just be just streamline you know, whatever. It's about taking accountability. And that that's one of the most awkward hardest parts, especially when you're in Indies. Circles of activism in the circles of justice because you're seen and perceived as like flawless, right? Yes. Like no, I know, vast amounts of activists who who mess up all the time, right? We mess up all the time. And the good thing is taking accountability and making sure that people see that, right. Because if we're seen as flawless, then people will see that as unattainable and be like, Okay, well, what's the point of me trying if I'm never going to be like that? And it's like, no, like, we mess up every day. We say things that are are not correct. We hurt people, whether intentionally or not, the intention is not the problem. It's what what was the damage? And you know, and so, taking that accountability, I think is just, that's why I enjoyed that episode. So much was just listening to you be like, hey, like, I thought these things, I said these things. And, you know, I now know better. And, you know, here's, here's the deal. I think a lot of people don't like to vocalize when they mess up, because it's awkward, right? Like, it's weird. Like, I don't, I don't want to talk about like, hey, last time I was doing this, but that's the only way to really get better is by showing other people that we are all imperfect, right? Like, nobody is out here doing it. 100 Like, no matter what, what realm they're in.


Carly Puch

And it also just points to, like, nobody is outside of that indoctrination of the systems. Like no matter how woke you think you are, or how much you know, like, we are all in it? Absolutely. There's no way to say like, well, I don't subscribe to like, yeah, I try not to be sexist and racist. And you know, like, obviously, and I'm working actively against those things. But when they're culturally ingrained, and they're in systems, and then they're, like, systematic injustice, like, that's what you know. So it's a battle, it is a battle to unlearn and choose to relearn?


Jen Rivera Bell

Absolutely. I think that we, we don't, we don't realize this, because, again, we see it as black and white issues. We see it as those bad people are being racist. Those bad people are doing these things. It's like, no, that's not it. We are perpetuating those systems just as much as those people it might not be obvious, you know, like, you know, there's people who like blatantly say, the N word and blatantly do blackface. Those are obvious senses of racism. But that's easy to point out and say that, what about the anti blackness that I hold? What about the racist things that I, you know, like, those are the things, those are the things that are more difficult? Because like I said, we we see it in black and white. And so we want to pinpoint the bad apples. We want to say those people, as opposed to be like, okay, yeah, those people are being really shitty. And like, yeah, also, here's the system that we need to dismantle. Right. It's not just about the bad individuals doing individual actions, like that's not what it is. And that's so hard for people to understand. Because it's so much harder to say, it's systematic than it is to say that one individual is racist. Yeah, it's so much more work.


Carly Puch

Yes, that's the thing is it's so much more work. And I think this perfectly segues into one of the million reasons I wanted to chat with you again, other than the fact that I just enjoyed chatting so much before is that this week, when this airs, it will be after but it will be the week during indigenous peoples day. And I think there's a lot of everything we just talked about, I think is coming up more and more and more the statues that are toppling over, and all of that, that pushback, I think from people that don't understand why that is healing or why that might be helpful is systematic, and it's why rewrite this or it's why blah, blah, blah. And it's not being able to understand the systematic injustice native people in specifically in the United States, North America, North America at wide, have endured for centuries. And I I wanted to talk about that specifically, because I think it's so important to continue the conversation and not just and I've said this before, years past when things would come up, I would like rally around things, you know, like I was at the state capitol, Minnesota for gay marriage, and then we like got that and I was like, okay, cool, that's checked off the list. But instead of like, sticking with it and seeing where all these things are and all the different ways that injustice is carried out


Jen Rivera Bell

because, again, that's, that's the hard part is seeing that it's not just one bill. It's not just one person to fire. It's not just one thing, but it's so interconnected and seeing how different realms of people's marginality goes into play, right? Because yeah, even for folks who fight for gay marriage, right, and then those same people will then disregard transgender folks, right? And so it comes into play and so much more. Which is why as allies of all of these different realms, we don't get breaks, right? Because those people of that marginalized groups don't get a break, right? I feel as though because being an ally isn't a noun, right? Like, I see it as a verb, it is what it is. Because you don't get like a sticker and be like, I'm an ally. Now. I see those all the time. It's like, those are cute. And like, I love it, I'm all about it. But at the same time, it's like, is a constant action that you have to do you don't like go to a protest and be like, I became an ally. That's it. Like, ya know, it's like, every day, what did you do every day, every day? Because these people from these groups don't get to not be from that group. Yep. They don't get to take that break. Yeah. And so it is our job to constantly be there for them. Because they don't get that luxury of just being like, Okay, I'm gonna just chill and not be, you know, X today. Like, that's not how that works.


Carly Puch

Yeah. So when you were growing up in school, did you learn about Columbus and Columbus Day?


Jen Rivera Bell

Oh, yeah, we had, you know, our little what's it called the Thanksgiving program, where half of us just wore, you know, some feathers on our forehead, and the other half wore the little, you know, hats. And it's even, I mean, it's so damaging on so many different levels. I was the only brown person at the school, everyone at our school was black. And so it was so problematic on like, eight different levels. What they had us doing, right, yeah, no, it was just atrocious. And so, to me, seeing that, especially now having children, our children, our youth, just absorbs whatever is placed in front of them. And so when they see these portrayals of what history is, like, they just automatically assume it to be true, because grownups are saying it. And so that is truth to them. And that was true to us. That is literally what we became. I mean, I know adults, right now, that when we talk about this, they're like, but I thought they like all sat down. And I'm like, no, stop right there. Yeah, not how it happened. You know, we, we want to fault these people. And, and again, when I'm angry, I do want to fault them. I want to be like, how, how do you not know this? You know, and at the same time, I grew up in that same, that same way. So like, I know how I didn't know, I know how, you know, I was in college, and I still didn't know these things. And so it's baffling. How we have just let these things go on for so long that they become our norm. Right, my little sister, she's 13 now, but I remember, you know, for kindergarten or first grade, they made her do that. And at the time, I still didn't know any of this. And so I just thought it was cute. Yeah, and then now, when I help her with her history, homework, I have to like, hold myself back, because I'm just going so hard on these teachers that they don't know where it's coming from. It's, it's something so enraging, yet empowering to know our history. Yeah, it is something that we must go through, and it's a mourning, and it's a grieving process. And then at the same time, like a rebirth all at the same time. Because being able to sit down and realize, you know, the true effects of colonization of genocide that we are that percent that survived is so heartbreaking and powerful at the same time. It it's, it's so hard to even like, conceptualize what that feeling is, like, have, you know, for us, in particular were indigenous to Mesoamerica and just knowing you know, all that, I don't know, breaks my heart, you know, like we lost Hi As to our languages and so now I'm struggling on a daily basis to try to get that connection back. And you know, I'm very fortunate to have teachers, indigenous teachers from inside of Allah that I'm learning from and an elders that I'm learning from, but not everyone has that luxury. Right, you know, like people will come and go at having never known their language having never known their traditions have never known their rituals and ceremonies. And so to have the audacity to have an entire day for Christopher Columbus is laughable. It is yeah, football at best. Right. And, I mean, in in fell by Lord in all of these places in Central America in Cologne was our currency. It was based on the coins, you know, in the same way that, you know, we have the President's on Mount Rushmore, all of these things that to, to an outsider's perspective of people who lack the knowledge of that history. They're like, what's the big deal? I don't get what the big deal is, right. But to you know, to the indigenous people where those sacred mountains are, it means everything, right? And it's, it's being able to understand the deep hurt, that that history has caused that deep sorrow that these statues hold, you know, to somebody else who doesn't have the context or like it's a statue, what's the big deal? Right, you know, but but to those people, it is everything right? It is. It is putting in the most literal term, the colonizer on a pedestal like Yeah, yeah. Like showcasing it. Yeah.


Carly Puch

carving the colonizer out of stone. Mm hmm. and putting it as like a tourist attraction.


Jen Rivera Bell

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. It's horrifying.


Carly Puch

I think it's horrifying. Is does it like doesn't even fully describe. But I think I was, as you were talking, I was realizing to just like fall in general. And I'm not saying that it's harder or easier anytime of the year to be indigenous. But I'm just thinking of like, okay, we have still Columbus Day in some areas. Many areas, it is not called indigenous peoples day recognize me. And then we come up on Halloween, where we continue to beg people to not use a culture as a costume, and then football season, where we're still having teams with names that I just like, I can't wrap my head around it, that it still is a thing. Like, I actually can't wrap my eye like I can't, I'm like yes. And then I was just gonna say and then bam, Thanksgiving. And then everyone acts like, you know, like the program in school. Like it was just this like long table of love. And I just how have you how do you approach these conversations with people who are like, let's say, like, but you can't rewrite history? Why would we take down a statue? Or why would we change the name of some? Absolutely.


Jen Rivera Bell

And I am such a history advocate. And so I don't want to erase history. I want to embrace what true history really is. And so if by that logic, you know, these people, they're like, this is history. This is, you know, whatever it is, you're right. And I want the true history. I want to know exactly what happened. I want to know what the truth was not some made up fictional history that Disney produced, right? I mean, literally, every kid growing up, saw Pocahontas, and saw that to be the truth, right? Like, that was our reality. And I think that people do not give children enough credit and do not understand that these little people turn into adults. And so all of these biases that the media portrays all of this misinformation that they are given, is not just silly cartoons, right? It's not just like, Oh, they're just watching this and like, they're not even gonna remember in 10 minutes. No, that is the furthest thing away from the truth. Right? And so we grew up thinking that Pocahontas, was this personal adult, we, we all assume that she was an adult? Yeah. And we assumed that, you know, she did all of these things willingly. And she went to England willingly, you know, like, all of these things. And it's like, she was a child. First of all, as a child, he was literally a child. And so just just that alone should be enough for us to be like, Wow, maybe we shouldn't be getting our history from a Disney movie. And to this day, it's hard. It's so enraging. And it's sad that at this point, I'm just so used to it. But being an indigenous person who is married to a white man, I have been with Zach for almost 10 years now. And so I didn't get started in this journey of decolonizing. until about five years ago, whenever I was pregnant with Luna. And so to this day, still, I get angry Indigenous men to try to call me Pocahontas. And gosh, it is so baffling. Because first of all them trying to police, an indigenous woman is an act of white supremacy, right, that is patriarchal. That is white supremacy. So you are being like the colonizer one. Secondly, you don't know your history if you're using the name of a child, who was part of this horrific, like time in order to try to insult me, right. And so


there's so much that we have to learn collectively as a people to be able to be better, right? And I'm not saying that there aren't people who do know history and and still continue to perpetuate these ideas. But there are a lot of people who just really have no idea. You just really don't know what happened. They don't know how disrespectful certain things are. And when we have these conversations, a lot of the times when I have these conversations with people, they're just mind blown. They're like, I had no idea. Yeah, you know, we sit down and, and I give a couple book recommendations. And, you know, I talk with a lot of people online, Instagram is my main platform of connecting with people, and I get a lot of people who, you know, will message me and try to rile me up or try to, you know, ruffle some feathers. Yeah, I'm so unfazed by it at this point. And, and then I, I explained to them, you know, like six different points, and I'm like, you know, here you go. And they're like, but, but this isn't true. And I'm like, okay, then Google it. And they're like, I had no idea. Oh, my God, how is this going? I'm like, exactly. And, and I don't know if it's a fault, or a good thing that I empathize with these people so much. Because I get it, I get it, I get where they're coming from, I get how they have been misinformed for so long, that it becomes a reality. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. To them. It is right, it becomes their reality. And so when being exposed to the truth, when being exposed to accurate history, people will get defensive, right? Because you're you're, you're attacking their reality. And so you're you're making their reality crumble right in front of them. So of course, they're going to defend it. Of course, they're going to be upset by that. But, you know, some people just stick to that and will disregard the truth and other people won't. Other people will see it, and be like, Wow, I had no idea. This is awful. And yeah, sorry about that. Like, I get a lot of people that get like that. I'm like, it's all good. I just, I just needed you to know what the truth is. Because I mean, from the time that we're three years old, there's the the even the whole idea of cowboys and Indians, you know, like, they still sell these little toys, you know, these things are still being sold and perpetuated. Indigenous people are characters on a TV show. They don't think that they're real people. They're literally cartoons. I don't know. When's the last time you watch like the Disney version of Peter Pan? But I can't I highly suggest, though, and it's like, I recently saw some clips my friend like recent them to me, and I was just like, yep. Yeah, I mean, and that's what we watched, right? Yeah. What all of us saw and that's what became our reality. When we see these literal caricatures of entire groups of people. As human beings, we just put them in that box. And we're like, Okay, well, all of them are like that, right? Like, that's, that's the easiest thing for my brain to do. And so they're all like that, and that's the box that I'm gonna keep those people in.


Carly Puch

So for me, as a white woman, I get to put people in that box, right? Like that's, I can. I can do that. How was that for you as an indigenous woman watching those caricatures? Like, I'm just wondering if there's this This disconnect of like, but that's not how I look. Is that how I'm supposed to look? That's not how I act? Is that how I'm supposed to act? Like I don't?


Jen Rivera Bell

How was that for you? What's, what's worse is you believe those stereotypes, you believe what it is that you're seeing, like I said, I went to an all black school and the town that I grew up with, was mostly black. And just seeing all of these black children being told they're not beautiful on TV, right? Being told that their hair is not how it's supposed to be. These people didn't think these children didn't think, Oh, well, they're not. They're not right, you know, I am beautiful. I am this. No, they believed it. They believed all these lies they believed, and, and those are the effects that, you know, colonization has on children is that and adults too, but I mean, in particularly us, when we saw all of these things, we just believed it, you know, believed that we weren't as smart as everybody else, that we weren't beautiful, that we weren't valued. And so we take that weight on with us for forever, until we're able to, like sit down and think about it, and say, you know, my eyes are, you know, dark, like obsidian. Not, they're dull, and, and not, not beautiful, like blue eyes, they're not like water, you know, all of these things that, like, our, our time told to us are shown to us are. And, and it's not until we put in the effort, as we grow these things, because we just become them, we, we receive that information, and it becomes our reality. It's, it's heartbreaking to see children even now, you know, who still don't see themselves in literature, they don't see themselves in movies. And when they do, they're terrible depictions. Right? Even Even young girls, you know, like, finally now. There are so there's so much more, right? There's so many more black and brown children in books, which is beautiful, so many more characters that they can see and reflect on and see goodness and see wholeness, because everyone is flawed, right? Where I don't want to see only characters of like, the idol of black and brown person, right? I want to see regular people with flaws and, and aspirations and despair, everything, right? We don't want just that perfect person, because that's also damaging to, you know, people who have fallen into, you know, the model minority, you know, that that has been super problematic for those people. And so, we just need to be people, right? Like, whole Can we just be like regular people, right, like be depicted as regular people, but no, whiteness is always depicted as norm, right? Whiteness, cisgendered able bodied, all of these things are the norm and we are always outside of that norm, we are always the token or the stereotype, or whatever the case may be. And so it is our job now, as people who are aware, to really sit down and be like, Okay, I always thought that, you know, my hair was just not pretty and not whatever it's like, oh, wow, the only reason why was because I was comparing it to like, white people hair. And so like, obviously, it doesn't look like that. And so it's never gonna, you know, whatever. And so that goes for everything, right? Everything including like our cultural behaviors, our cultural tastes, all of these things that that it takes so much work to unlearn, in order for us to value ourselves as individuals and as a people.


Carly Puch

The only thing I can draw any sort of comparison to is unlearning, like an a part of my identity that is mine. Is that patriarchal unlearning what it means to be a woman and starting on that process was really, really jarring and really, really scary and really, really eye opening and it was all the things so what kind of started you on that journey of decolonizing and like seeing yourself differently


Jen Rivera Bell

um, so for me my journey started as soon as I found out that I was pregnant. I just more on an analytical, tangible level wanted to know more about myself in order for me to tell my child right I was like, oh, we need to find out like exactly who we are in order for us to be able to tell Luna I have all these conversations with Luna. And with Zach it was quite easy because his grandma has like little notebooks filled with like who you was whose mom and like where she was from and like fetal social security number like the whole night? Yeah, yeah. And then I, I spoke with my dad and my dad has always been very, very open about his childhood and about their past growing up in in Senegal or during the Civil War was somehow traumatic is not even a word that would be of any use. And growing up like that he he would show me videos of the war we talked about it, I learned a lot about it. But then when I was pregnant with noon, I was like, I want to dig deeper like what, you know, look, tell me more. And we just started talking about, you know, these massacres that happened and then some of our lower to indigenous people, and that that's why, you know, we don't know our language and like just digging into and I was like, I had no idea. How did I have no idea and there's so much shame with it, too. And so, for us, in particular, like I said, in instead of our Lord. There's a shame. If you're indigenous, that means you're unintelligent, it means that you're crass. It means that you're homely, it means all of these negative things. So even people who are I mean, straight up indigenous, do not claim it, they will say anything other than their indigenous, they will say no, but, you know, my abuela, she was from Spain. And so and it's like, I don't think so I do, I highly doubt that, you know, and so, even coming to terms with the fact that we're indigenous is a battle for so many of us. Yeah, because it comes with such a negative idea, it comes with such a just terrible connotation around it to were getting people to even see their own identity is step one, much less getting, wow, digging deeper, and realizing that we are a value, and we are beautiful, and we are all of these things, I mean, just being able to accept that that's who we are, is just a hurdle in and of itself. And then from then, like I mentioned before, sitting down and realizing how much we've lost sitting down and realizing how much that we will never be able to gain, you know, from the tangible land that has been taken away from the waterways, from all of these things that we have been physically disconnected to from from being into the dysphoria, right? Like we're here, I'm only here because of the war, right? That's the only reason I'm in these so called United States, I wouldn't be here if all of that hadn't happened. And so being able to sit with that is is really hard. Yeah, and really difficult to just navigate. And then working through and being able to find not only hope, but like that resilience, that I'm still here, like I made it, right, right. And so that that in and of itself is beautiful. That in and of itself is powerful. And now it's my job, not only to teach my children, but also everyone that I can talk to like anyone that I can relate this message to of like, no, like, you are beautiful, you are smart, you are all of these things. It's just these these terrible perceptions that we've gotten. And we've been taught that we've internalized.


Carly Puch

What advice do you have for indigenous folks who are kind of starting on this journey.


Jen Rivera Bell

So the heart, that's the hardest thing is starting, the hardest thing is really connecting? Because I am so fortunate to have elders who are still present with us being able to talk with my great aunt and her being open about it, right? Because it's one thing, having them present, but then having to even be able to talk about it, because they hadn't talked about it for as long as I have been here. They hadn't talked about it. And so it took a lot of very careful working around these situations in order to be able to have people talk about it. I have friends up in the north, who only recently have gotten their grandparents or parents to talk about the residential schools, right. Like it took a lot of effort for them to even be able to talk about it, and sometimes they won't, they will not talk about it. And so it's so hard for us to, to navigate this so so for so many of us, we don't have the luxury of just opening up a book and being able to step one, do this step one, that's that's not how it works. And so the the best thing that we can do is connect with our elders and connect with with our our people. But again, that's, that's not always tangible for everybody. That's not always doable. Even if we have those people in our lives. They might not want Want to talk about these things, because these are heavy things, to unpack things that have been silenced for years, for years for decades. And so we can only hope that they are ready to talk about it and taking that process very gently with those people. Like I mentioned, speaking with, like my own my own people, it took a very long time for them to to have these discussions to have these conversations. Even even speaking with my mom, who is again, further disconnected from it, but being able to, to speak about why we see ourselves that way. We are still in these very self hating


Carly Puch

that like internalized colonization. Yes, absolutely.


Jen Rivera Bell

And so, you know, growing up hearing, like, oh, you would look so much better if you would get some highlights in your hair, if you would dye it lighter because I have such pitch black hair. And it's like all activists on India, you look so Indian is the term that I heard all growing up. And it's like a What else do you want me to look like? Like? You're not supposed to look any different? And also, how horrible is that for a child to hear? For an adult to hear, but really, particularly for a child to hear? Like, maybe you should change this about yourself, so that you would look less like your people? Because however you


Carly Puch

look isn't good enough? That's the message.


Jen Rivera Bell

Exactly. Exactly. Why Why would I be changing? If it was good enough? Right? Why would you want me to change? If, if I was the ideal, then you wouldn't want me to change, right? Going to El Salvador. With Luna for the first time she was around, maybe eight or nine months. And that see so many people were so thrilled to see her? Yeah, yeah. So many people were so thrilled to see her. And yet at the same time, I remember seeing it was like a great aunt or something. And I have like a million of those. That's why I said it that way. But we showed up and she was so excited. And she was like, I learned that Donita. And she said, Oh, she's so perfect. Too bad. She's got brown eyes. And I was just so angry. But like I mentioned, I completely understood where that idea came from. Right. And so, instinct like, instinctively, I just wanted to go hard and be like, you just go off on her. I know why she thought that. Yeah, I know, years of this of me thinking that about myself, much less her who's never had the language to be able to talk about this, right? Like, no concept of colonization. And so she just lives it. And so for me to go off on her was it was it right, right. Like I knew two seconds after I wanted to go off, but that wasn't what I was supposed to do. And I just said, No, I'm so lucky that her eyes came out just like her mama. Oh, okay. You know, like, kind of kind of dismissed it. But But yeah, I mean, this is this is what we deal with all of the time. And my children are very fair compared to me, right? Like they have brown hair. And they do have pitch black eyes. Squale has eyes. I don't even know how, how he managed to get such dark eyes. But it's so funny to see how, how little things like that. I know because of my childhood and so I reverse it with them. Right? Even you ever since Luna was aware of her body parts. I used to always, always tell her the Ennis olhos the choco latte you have chocolate eyes. And so now, anytime anyone is talking about as she goes, Mama says I have chocolate eyes, you know something so beautiful something so you know, whatever. And I have so I have I mean an embarrassing amount of books right and just like stacks and stacks and stacks of children's books. And so I make sure that I am really showcasing black and brown children as as what they are right as perfect little bundles of light. That's That's what these children are. And so really showing these things showcasing these things so that she doesn't have those same perceptions that I did. So I'm very hopeful and very


excited to see How she perceives it because we have such limited, it's it's kind of it can seem kind of weird to other people, but because we have such limited contact with other folks, especially now with COVID, I'm very, very limited. But we live out here in such a rural area, we have no neighbors. And so it's pretty much just me, and Luna and Zack and quality all the time like this, it's just this is our reality. And, and right and everything that she absorbs, is from the books that I read is from the documentaries that we see. So me always showcasing children from all areas of the spectrum children with disabilities, children, who come from just a plethora of different places and showcasing them, they're just children, right? And whatever else they are, that's an addition, right? But they're just children, and they're just like you, and they're also different from you, you know, all of these things, I think that she's able to have a better, more whole picture of what we are, right? Because it's sometimes exhausting just to be your group, or just your marginalization like, that's, that's so you're a representative. And so anytime that you mess up, anytime that you're human, you down your entire group of people, right, like you are this Oh, all women are like that you are this Oh, all indigenous people like and that's that. White people don't have that weight. If if any one does something like that. It's like, oh, it's just because that one individual did this one specific thing, ya know, when it's a marginalized person, it's Oh, it's literally throw that blanket on there. All of those people are like that. And so by teaching her that all these people are different, and that they're not just their group. I feel it, I feel like I'm able to teach her more a more encompassing way to see the world as opposed to how I saw it, which was so black and white.


Carly Puch

Well, I think what I hear you saying too, is, like you said earlier, we underestimate children a lot. And if they're old enough to be specifically children that are from marginalized groups, if they're old enough to be marginalized, right? If they're old enough to have those comments thrown at them, if they're old enough to be seen differently, if they're old enough to be scared to wear a hoodie down the street alone, then they're old enough to have those conversations. Because I think there's a lot of being worried about talking to kids about stuff, but like you said, like kids, they're they're ahead. They know, they're absorbed. Yeah,


Jen Rivera Bell

they're so ahead. Absolutely. We don't give them enough credit. They are little elders, like they're so aware. And we can we can seek solutions from children, their, their way of thinking is so so without limitations, right, that that we need to learn from them. Yeah, like, we need to learn what what, what that means because we've been calloused with bias. And we've been callous with all of these ideas that most of the time simply aren't true. And so to, to hear what they have to say, is so uplifting and so joyous. And like with me and Luna, like we have hard conversations with you, and I don't want her childhood to be destroyed, right? I don't want her to think that this world is just like a horrific place, right, whatever. But I also want her to know what what is going on. And so just the other day, I have these moments all the time where I'm just like, I don't, I can't even comprehend how proud I am. Like, I didn't even know that I could be this proud. Like, we were just sitting at the table, and she's just, you know, eating her food. And it's just me and her sack has quality somewhere and we're just sharing our meal together. And she goes, Mama, not everybody has food. You have to fight so that everybody has food. And I mean, I literally almost started to cry because I was like, you're like you're so right. Yes. Yes. Oh, my hearing. Hearing those words come out of my three year old like, I felt I felt a crunch right now like, but I felt like what I'm doing is right. I felt like she knows, like, you know, not known as gonna be a game changer. Like going ready. So hearing those words come out of her and knowing that she is going to mobilize people, right? She is going to change people. And so I have so many children that I know that are like that so many children that are like that. I'm just like, who like I feel almost like a weight lifted like Yes, like this is what we're fighting for. Right? This is what this is. This is why I do what I do. Because I want Luna to have the best capacity to do what she has to do. We're all we're all have to have these duties, and she has hers. And I need to fulfill mine in order for her to be able to do what she has to do on this side, because she's going to be unstoppable.


Carly Puch

And we're all healing those generational wounds, right? Like we're all if we want, if we choose that path to heal those generational wounds, and the more we heal, the more that next generation can heal, the less shit they have to go through, right? Like, taking that on, whatever it is, is so crucial and so important and breaking those patterns is a game changer.


Jen Rivera Bell

Exactly. Because that wait, if we don't put in the work will just be left for our children. Right? Then they just have to deal with it if we don't put in the work. And the work isn't glamorous, is pretty. It's not it's not anything, it's hard and shitty, and tears and anger and despair. But I do this work. So that way, you know how to do that less, right? So that's why he has to do that list. Because otherwise, if I just push on these, you know, anti black ideas, these, these sexist, all of these ideas, if I just push them on, then then she has to do all this healing, then equality has theology. And so it's work. But I do it gladly. Because I know the world that I want Luna to live in when she's older, right? Like I know, I envision what the capacity that she can do. But that only happens if I put in the work to


Carly Puch

I think that's a motivating thing, for me, at least to is once you truly make that connection that the world is bigger than you, right. Like once you get past that ego and realize that, like the ripple effects of your actions actually means so much more than we learn. Growing up like that, at first is overwhelming. But then it makes me really hopeful. Because it's like, that's why I'm doing it. I'm not just doing this for me. I'm not just vegan. Yeah, it helps my health or I'm not just doing this for this reason, or I'm not just trying to use less plastic. Because of me. It's like, that's why it's that's a wide reaching effect. And that's like systematic and all of that stuff. And it's motivating, I think.