Navajo tea

Back in the UK, sipping Navajo tea from the greenthread plant.

Crystal had told me about the tea – organic greenthread tea grown near Gallup.

I could not stay for Gallup’s farmers’ market to get some but, luckily, on our way back from the Navajo nation to Flagstaff, I found greenthread tea at a gas station on Route 66.

See the packet of Yanabah tea in the pic above, a shot taken on my first day back in the UK, plus homecoming flowers.

Tonight I sit at home sipping Yanabah tea.

I love the taste, reminds me of nettle tea. Like European nettles, greenthread grow wild, its strength-giving properties still intact.

The warmth and strength of Navajo tea sipped in England connects me to my summer in the US, and two conversations I don’t want to forget.

We visited Anna Rondon on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico with my sister and her husband. Several years ago they had made a film on depleted uranium featuring Anna Rondon, the chair of the Navajo Green Economy mission.

Bear with me while I explain about depleted uranium: a by-product of refining uranium ore, which has been mined in the Navajo nation, it causes radioactive hell for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and the US and UK military.

A green economy provides the Navajo nation with alternative employment to cancer-causing uranium ore mining.

Back to my visit: So here I am in New Mexico for the first time in my life and I have been cooped up in a car or house since leaving Flagstaff that morning.

“I need to go out for a stroll,” I say.

Anna’s daughter, Crystal, gives me directions from the residential street to nearby open land on a rock.

I feel English and befuddled.

Crystal patiently explains: “Follow the trail.”

Then she adds: “Sometimes we make our own trail.”

On the rock, I feel like a child allowed out to play.

“Sometimes we make our own trail”. Stays in my mind.

I leave the stony path feeling brave. I only take a ten-minute detour but feels like the start of a good practice.

That was the first conversation I don’t want to forget.

The next day Anna Rondon takes us to a Sun Dance in the heart of the nation.

On the way she tells me more about her work building an eco-economy for the nation. New Mexico has the resources to make solar power work all the year round.

She does not use the word “sustainable” to describe her work. On purpose.

I rejoice – I have always disliked that word because a) it has too many syllables b) no one really knows what it means.

We both agree – “sustainable” has become a meaningless word co-opted by corporations to improve their image.

Instead Anna Rondon uses the Dine (Navajo) term to describe how to make a living in harmony with the earth: lifeways.

Native American lifeways have been inspiring the green movement for decades.

So, that is the second conversation I don’t want to forget.

14 responses to “Navajo tea

  1. Hi Elisabeth, I’m Jasmine, the Italian foodblogger who contacted you on Facebook 🙂
    Again, my compliments on this blog!


  2. Hi Jasmine

    Love the title of your food blog, Amore in Cucina, and the account of your visit to Bristol. Now to dust off my Italian (I did three years a scuola you know…..) and see how much I understand!


  3. Excellent post, I agree totally with what you say about the word sustainable.

    I’m currently looking for bloggers to blog for Organic Fortnight 3-17 September, if you’re interested, you can email me at: jwilsonATsoilassociationDOTcom or you can visit my blog Crafty Green Poet ( I look forward to hearing from you!


  4. “Sometimes we make our own trail.”

    Beautiful and something that I am deeply passionate about.

    If we consider life as a journey, it is vital that we make our own trail and not just follow the sheep or worse, the corporate spin masters who dream that we make a trail to their burger stall.

    Thanks for another excellent post!


  5. Great post! You have captured the feeling of wonder and rediscovery I had when we worked with Navajo activists the first time about 10 years ago. They combine spirituality with activism, for example, praying for the good outcome of a political initiative, bringing natural benevolent magic into the mix. The Navajo Nation has been subjected to an epidemic of cancers and birth defects, because the US government used their lands and their labor power to dig up uranium. As Anna Rondon says, ‘leave uranium in the ground’. It’s under the ground for a reason, hidden from the people. I feel that way about oil. It’s really I believe a lubricant for the planet’s tectonic plates. The indigenous peoples of the planet want self determination, instead their lands are plundered for coal, iron, uranium, water. But things are turning around.


  6. Thanks for linking to my organic greenthread Navajo tea farm here in Gallup, NM. I have included a link here to my blog as grower. We are eager to share this distinctive herb with people all over the world.



  7. To me the concept of ‘sustainable’ can be summed up in the philosophy 0f ‘seven generations’. Any decisions made Now should have the following seven generations’ welfare at their core. This takes us out of short-term thinking and into the ‘bigger picture’. I think the 7 is arbitary as future generations too must also be considered. Funny that this also comes from the wisdom of the North American Indians. Was it not a term you heard whilst there E?


  8. What a nice soothing article to ease me back into my rain spattered life after a sun drenched Mallorcan break. And yes, ‘sustainable’ does grate – George Orwell would turn in his grave.


    • Thank you, John. I am glad you felt the sun in your bones. I am grateful I had south western desert heat – it makes me less regretful about the current incessant rain.

      And thank you for that comment on ‘sustainable’. I never know when I am going too far out-on-a-limb.

      Evoking George Orwell makes me feel in good company.

      Does the term ‘double speak’ come to mind?


  9. Great post, I’m not so fun in drinking tea. But I was told by my friends that drinking tea is good for the health. Maybe I should try some of this.


  10. Elisabeth, I rejoice too… I really enjoyed this post – even more so when I got to the part about your dislike of the word ‘sustainable’. I felt like jumping up and down on the spot, shouting ‘hear! hear!’ at the top of my voice… it is great to see an echo of my own views expressed with such clarity. Such a woolly and vacuous term. Incidentally, this is clearly an Elisabeth-is-great day, for I read your Winkler Writing Tips too and found them very useful – a reminder of Arvon days 🙂 Much love to you xx Jemima (who is about to start a food-related blog too)


    • Jemima, many thanks for your comment – it is gratifying to hear that my words spoke to you. And so interesting to find that I am not alone on my aversion to “sustainability”.

      I am delighted to hear about your food blog. Please come back to tell us when we can visit it.

      Thanks for appreciation of Winkler’s Writing Tips. You might like my Blog Tips. Also: Every writer needs a blog.

      It is nice to have mention of Arvon days – I was teaching a course on Writing for positive change, with Chris Johnstone.

      So I went to Arvon website just now and go the idea to offer to be a tutor again. Thanks, Jemima!


  11. Pingback: Military Times: One of original Navajo Code Talkers dies « Center for Intelligence News Study

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