For Navajos, Desert 'Tea' Fosters Kinship With Heritage And Nature

For Navajos, Desert 'Tea' Fosters Kinship With Heritage And Nature

Posted by : Mary Wutz   /  

"Deborah Tsosie grew up on the reservation and teaches third grade at Canyon De Chelly Elementary School in the town of Chinle. She is a regular drinker of Navajo tea. This wild herb resonates deeply with her as a means to connect with distant pieces of her culture, and the great-grandmother who first taught her how to harvest it.

"Each year, [Great-grandma] would gather the extended family up, and we would spend a few days picking tea," recalls Tsosie. "We would make camp where the tea was, cooking outdoors with oak and cedar fire. These are the times when I learned that you always appreciate what you have. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't know anything," about traditional Navajo ways.

Navajo talk of a deep sense of kinship with all things in nature, called K'é. Honoring that, Tsosie picks greenthread by snapping it off low-down on its stem, taking care not to pull out its roots. Then, she shakes the plant to release its seeds back into the soil.

"That way, it will be replenished," she says. After rinsing and a day or two of drying, the plants are folded into tidy bundles and strung into garlands. "Tea" is made by snipping off a bundle and boiling it in water for several minutes with sugar or honey. "


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