Lyla June Johnston and the power of prayer

The activist and New Mexico Legislature candidate speaks at Unity of Taos

By Lynne Robinson
Posted 2/19/20

Lyla June Johnston grew up here in Taos, and is a descendant of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages. She is a musician, public speaker and internationally recognized performance poet, and will be giving a "Spiritual Activism" talk at Unity of Taos church Sunday , Feb. 23.

Tempo caught up with the very busy Johnston last week.:

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Lyla June Johnston and the power of prayer

The activist and New Mexico Legislature candidate speaks at Unity of Taos

Posted

Lyla June Johnston grew up here in Taos, and is a descendant of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages.

She is running for the seat of New Mexico House of Representatives District 47.

She is a co-founder of the Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council, which works to heal intergenerational trauma and ethnic division in Northern New Mexico. She is a walker within the Nihigaal Bee Iiná Movement, a 1,000-mile prayer walk through Diné Tah (the Navajo homeland), which is exposing the exploitation of Diné land and people by uranium, coal, oil and gas industries.

She is the lead organizer of the Black Hill Unity Concert, which gathers native and nonnative musicians to pray for the return of guardianship of the Black Hills to the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota nations. She is also the founder of Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration of children that occurs in 13 countries around the world every September.

In 2012, she graduated with honors from Stanford University with a degree in environmental anthropology. She is a musician, public speaker and internationally recognized performance poet.

Tempo caught up with the very busy Johnston last week.

You are a poet and writer, and an activist. Can you tell our readers a little about your decision to go into politics?

My decision to go into politics was about giving people hope that there could be a government that actually represented our desires and will. I'm just one of hundreds of unconventional candidates who are stepping forward and saying, "Why can't everyday people run this thing since it's everyday people who are affected the most?" I also wanted to run a campaign that, even if we lost, would empower the people to create their own solutions.

Taos County voters will not be able to vote for you. Why the decision to run in Santa Fe outside of our jurisdiction?

I went to Santa Fe specifically to take on the Democratic establishment. I've identified as a Democrat my whole life, but I'm sick and tired of establishment Democrats saying they care about climate, on one hand, and taking money from oil and gas, on the other. They think this is a game? This is the life or death of our people and our planet. I couldn't shake things up in Taos the way I could in District 47.

You are giving a "Spiritual Activism" talk at Unity of Taos church. Tell us about that.

Even though the talk is called "Spiritual Activism," I have problems with both those words. Why does wanting a safe planet for our children make us "activists"? Why does wanting every human being to be treated with decency make us "spiritual"? At the same time there is merit to these words because in our attempts to mobilize the community toward action, [there] is most power when done in prayer. I think there is a reason why all the greats that we revere in history are people of faith - because their greatness is not of them, but of something much bigger than them, something they make themselves available to.

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