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Vivian Delgado

It’s Never Too Late to Present Yourself as a Spiritual Being  

All indigenous tribes have creation stories of how they believe they came to be on this earth, an emergence from a geographical area that has always been and will always be. 

Vivian Delgado is of the Yaqui/Tiwa nations and comes from a direct line of enslavement and captivity, the connection to the land her people have always called home runs deep. Taking in the Colorado mountains, she feels the same sense of release one might experience after a reunion with your mother following a long absence. The landscape of mountains, water, and clouds lends itself to a feeling of wholeness and empowerment, she says. Names and citizenship have changed as a rotation of colonizers struggled for control of the region, but the language and the land remained.

Vivian’s grandparents were born into a world in which indigenous people were still indentured or enslaved, forced into hard labor in the fields for little to no compensation. Conditions improved only slightly for the next generation. Driven by an internal mission to understand and challenge the institutions and systems that had repeatedly failed her community, Vivian blazed a new trail for her own life, becoming the first in her family not only to graduate high school but also to complete college and a PhD program. 

Growing up, Vivian was bombarded with messages that she was less than those in the dominant culture.  She was isolated at school and stared at in public. By the time she was in her teens, Vivian started pushing back. She got involved in social justice activism and began attending trials in support of indigenous rights. She became deeply connected to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in South Dakota, a connection which has remained a key aspect of her work and identity.

Vivian received a PhD in Indigenous Philosophy and went on to become a professor and create a four year degree program in Indigenous Studies at Bemidji State University in Northern Minnesota. She hopes that program will impart a different perspective of how knowledge is acquired and values are instilled. In her community, those fundamental truths go beyond what can be taught in books; rather, knowledge is shared through observation and connection on many levels – psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

Vivian’s life and work, for which she sees no separation, still frequently take her back to South Dakota, where she is contributing to various tribal projects in the Black Hills.  The work is not only fulfilling in itself, but also gives Vivian the opportunity to attend ceremonies and connect in ways that feel spiritually necessary. She is also still teaching and continuing her research on treaties and land grants, liaising with Colorado museums to exhibit that painful but vital portion of American history. 

Most recently, she has been honored to take a seat at the table at Lotus. In her mother’s generation, she says, people would have spoken for her because they would have assumed she wasn’t capable of speaking for herself. Today, she lends her voice to a chorus filled with mutual admiration and respect. 

Years ago, when her father was asked what he had aspired to be, he answered that he had been a son, a brother, a nephew, an uncle and a father and was now a grandfather. What else was there? he asked. In his world, the world he brought Vivian into, success is not defined by material pursuits. Instead, success was and is measured in authenticity and community and connection.

It’s Never Too Late to Present Yourself as a Spiritual Being.