Regina Aquilera – The Resiliency Factor

These words came up several times in my conversation with Regina Aquilera, who is a member the Yaqui Tribe, an acupuncturist, herbologist, yoga teacher, mother of three, and on the Board of Directors for the Native Wellness Institute.

What is the resiliency factor?

It’s about us remembering who we are and where we’ve come from. Despite the fact that much of our culture has been taken away or diluted. We have a common thread, who we are is important to us, we are proud of our heritage. We have a connection to this land that is spiritual, and we’re still here.

As a teacher and trainer with Native Wellness Institute, how do you bring this resiliency into your area of focus?

I especially enjoy working with Native youth and adults in disease prevention, and promoting healthy lifestyles. I utilize the combined philosophies of Eastern & Native cultures to encourage Native people toward wellness. One thing I like to do in my session is to have people visualize their village 150-200 years ago, what are your ancestors doing, how are they living, what are they eating? Their great-great grandparents were hunters , gatherers, farmers, and fishermen. They didn’t eat anything that wasn’t fresh, caught by them, or grown by them. It reconnects them with their heritage, and it also reminds them that traditional ways are very balanced ways.

How does Native Wellness Institute work toward that balance?

The mission of the Native Wellness Institute is to promote the well-being of Native people through programs & trainings embracing the traditions of our ancestors. Native Wellness is a traditional model to guide us along a path of Balance. A holistic and integrated approach in the way we live our lives. The four directions of wellness are: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. This is a Plains model of the Medicine Wheel or Circle of Life. Everything in the circle is connected, the wheel evolves around each aspect, it continues, it’s always growing..

Native Wellness embraces the teaching of our ancestors, living life in balance and with respect.
Our goal is to serve as a resource for Native specific training programs and technical assistance services to Native people, communities and organizations. We accomplish this goal by bringing together highly skilled Native trainers and consultants across the United States and Canada for conferences, workshops and other projects, implementing a leadership training initiative that will strengthen the circle and prepare Native people for leadership opportunities, and developing programs and services to meet other areas of need that impact the physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being of Native people.

You mentioned your enjoyment of working with native youth. Does NWI have a special focus on youth?

The Native Wellness Institute is serious about their responsibility to teach, train and prepare our young people for living in a good way in today’s world. Many of our young people are doing fantastic things and balancing the two worlds in which they live very well. Others are struggling and trying to find their path in these often chaotic times. NWI strives to provide a process where our young ones can make a “head to heart” connection and understand the “why” of behaviors and how we can promote and maintain living by the “Warrior’s Spirit” being positive, productive and proactive.

Can you tell me more about ‘living by the Warrior Spirit’?

It’s about being alive, connected , we want our youth to be healthy leaders, not followers. It’s about taking the extra step, stepping up to the plate. Many of our youth are learning to speak their language. They design projects for their community, school, or family. A warrior finds balance from within, to be able to go out into the world and be positive.

Regina how were you taught your native traditions?

Most of the Yaqui traditions have been merged with Catholicism. I was not taught to speak Yaqui or Spanish because for my parents to fit in it was not ok to be Indian. I do remember my Dad singing songs and telling stories. He is gifted in the oral traditions. I learned the most from my grandmother, she was all about natural ways to heal your body. She was a herbologist, she used hot stones to massage us. She always had something boiling that would heal a stomach ache or headache or fever. She understood the circle, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. By spiritual, I mean not religious, our spiritual connection to the earth.

So I see by your chosen profession you keep some of your family traditions alive. What are other ways you do that today?

Learning songs and dances, holding true our sacred items, wearing native jewelry that is culturally significant.

Regina thank you for your warrior spirit, I am grateful that it’s still so strong.

If you would like to know more about the work of Native Wellness Institute please visit their website at, or you can contact Regina at nativetouch.

Also if you would like to learn more about Native American affairs you can visit Bureau of Indian Affairs or Administration for Native Americans (ANA).

Image Source – Native Wellness Institute
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