On Thursday, January 20th from 7pm to 8pm, login to Zoom + join scientist Jessica Hernandez for the virtual launch of her book “Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science” (2021, North Atlantic Books).
At the event, Hernandez will talk about the book’s research process, and address questions about Indigenous science, settler colonialism, and ecological debt.
Click here to know more + register
Click here to purchase “Fresh Banana Leaves” from Massy Books
To understand more about Hernandez’s research, Community Engagement Coordinator Rafael Zen interviewed the author for Massy Books, investigating the feeling of wandering on Earth as an unwelcome guest, and science’s responsibility towards ancestry.
Jessica Hernandez – Our Ancestors’ Voices: writing as a form of healing
Rafael Zen – How has your identity as a displaced Indigenous woman from Mexico and El Salvador shaped the way you view your environment?
Jessica Hernandez – My cultural and family roots will also continue to play a major role in the legacy I will get to leave as a future ancestor. They also remind me that anywhere I go I am either an unwelcome or welcomed guest. This was a teaching my grandmother instilled in me at a young age whenever I would visit her in my maternal homelands.
She would tell me, “Never forget that anywhere you go that is not your home, it is someone’s home, and you must pay them respect and build relationships with the land and the people to be welcomed into their home. Otherwise, you are walking in their home as an unwelcome guest.”
This reminder and teaching shaped how I carry myself as a displaced Indigenous woman. I do not forget that I have the responsibility of an unwelcome guest to carry on my teachings and work to build relationships with the stewards of my new home and lands.
This is a constant reminder that I am always residing on Indigenous lands, no matter if I move into a city or rural location within the United States. This entire continent of North America and the rest of the Americas—Central America, South America, and the Caribbean—are Indigenous lands.
The same way I expect guests to behave in my homelands and build relationships with our land and our people is the same way I carry myself as a displaced Indigenous woman.
RZ – Your work also claims that it is necessary to heal our environments, which are all Indigenous. What, in your perspective, is necessary for this healing to be done. What are we healing our environments from? Should it start with the healing of our ability to dialogue, and listen?
JH – My grandmother always told me that when she left this world, my tears would be her way of speaking to me, because this is how our ancestors communicate with us.
Since tears have healing properties, which Western science has also concluded to be true, 29 our ancestors communicate through us in our tears because when we are healing, they are also healing. As I continue to work as an Indigenous environmental scientist and advocate, I will embrace the tears I shed and not see them as a sign of weakness.
My tears are my grandmother and my ancestors communicating through me. This is why I know writing this book was a form of healing for my relatives, for my community members who provided their testimonies, and for me, because I had never embraced or experienced so much crying in completing a task like writing this book was able to provide.
When we heal ourselves we heal landscapes, and it is time we create space for Indigenous peoples to heal as we move forward in life. Community makes space and room for us to grow, continue learning, and embrace our flaws. This is part of the healing process we have to embrace and make room for.
In order for Indigenous peoples to heal themselves and as a result heal our Indigenous landscapes, oppressive systems must address the further harm they perpetuate against us.
This starts by embracing the true and harmful history that enacted violence against our ancestors and take a stand against the dominant narratives that continue to perpetuate falsehood within our histories—histories that are taught to make some comfortable and further their naiveness to what it is to be Indigenous today.