Tewa Women United earns $900K grant for loss, trauma program

Money comes from foundation funded by Warren Buffett's son and daughter-in-law


As a young woman, Corrine Sanchez watched her mother and aunts wrestle with trauma and loss.

In a burgeoning forum that would become the Española-based nonprofit Tewa Women United, the women, members of San Ildefonso Pueblo, shared their pain and worked to heal.

For Sanchez, a rape survivor who now serves as the group's executive director, that collaborative healing was transformative: a kind of self-care domino effect that helped her quell her demons.

Decades later, Sanchez is hoping a three-year, $900,000 grant from the New York-based NoVo Foundation will provide a path to long-term healing for so many more of her fellow Native women. Tewa Women United is one of 19 social-justice organizations around the world selected from about 1,000 applicants to receive a combined $34 million in grants from the foundation's Radical Hope Fund.

The foundation, started in 2006 by Peter and Jennifer Buffett, the son and daughter-in-law of business magnate Warren Buffett, awards millions in grants each year to further its social- and gender-justice missions.

"Centering indigenous women in their leadership is one of the most powerful pathways we have to transformation, and no one does that more thoughtfully than Tewa Women United," said Pamela Shifman, the foundation's executive director.

Over the next year, Sanchez said, Tewa Women United will use the funds to host nonprofit leaders from coast to coast, with an aim of exploring and documenting ancestral approaches to healing from loss and trauma, and not only in the Native American community.

"We're working across race, class and gender," Sanchez said.

The input then will be used to develop programs to support Native women suffering from deep wounds.

Sanchez said it's a problem all too common in her community.

"We have generations of substance-using families in our community, and it's not just their struggle alone," she said. "There are circumstances and systemic issues that have led to that path."

Personal healing, Sanchez said, could make tackling those systemic issues much easier.

The grant award to Tewa Women United marks the sixth time NoVo has supported the nonprofit. Since 2011, the foundation has donated $1.5 million for the group's programs and operational expenses.

Programs run the gamut from domestic- and sexual-violence support to environmental-justic­e projects.

Sanchez's mother, Kathy Sanchez, founded Tewa Women United in 1989 as a forum for Native women to seek guidance and counseling. The group gained nonprofit status in 2001.

This story first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News.