The Cihuapactli Collective (CC) began seven years ago in Phoenix, Arizona, in response to the call of a mother, CC’s co-executive director, Maria Parra Cano.

The collective took shape two months after Parra Cano gave birth. Her mother had recently passed away, and she was experiencing the baby blues. In response to her call, 14 founding CC members began meeting in coffee shops to discuss healing ourselves. Conversations regarding womb health and parenting in an urban Indigenous setting led to the development of community workshops that centered women’s and partum health. Over time, CC began to be recognized for its work, and the organization expanded to serve BIPOC families in Phoenix from womb to tomb.

As we grew herbs for postpartum care, it became clear that food is fundamental to all aspects of healing and that there was a broad public need for this knowledge to be disseminated. As the pandemic raged on, we found that the ancestral earth-based knowledge and Native science that we provided had become practical information and skills that were widely requested by community members and the media.

Our community began to read articles that provided practical nutritional information and receive our nutrient dense Indigenous food packages. We are touched when community members share stories about how the food that we serve reminds them of their grandmother or recipes from childhood.

The conversations as we handed food bags into the driver-side windows of cars on our makeshift driveway often went something like: “Oh wow. It’s heavy! Thank you! I didn’t know you all got an office. I didn’t know that the collective did food work. I think of you all as providing postpartum care.”

We would quickly catch up through car windows and masks. These conversations with our community helped us to weave together a narrative in which postpartum care, food, and land restoration are inextricably linked. Increasingly, our birthing, food justice, and land restoration work occured in tandem and became a fixture of CC’s strategic plan. As we witnessed the growth of our humble garden, the regenerative aspects of the gardening process reminded us that the land is restored through these ancestral land practices—and the ways that individuals and communities reconnect to their lineages, family recipes, and traditional ways began to resurface.

When birth work, food justice, and land restoration occur in tandem, the womb can be a place to heal from generational trauma. This work is at the root of CC’s efforts towards systemic change. Simply put, it dawned on us that something as simple as restoring ancestral practices of food cultivation could not only increase nutrition, but also reduce generational trauma.

Read the full article about food justice by Enjolie Lafaurie and Maria Parra Cano at Nonprofit Quarterly.