Monyssha Rose Trujillo 

Cochiti, Santa Clara, Laguna, Jicarilla, Diné

Monyssha Rose Trujillo (Cochiti, Santa Clara, Laguna, Jicarilla, Diné) is an anthropologist and geographer working toward the creation of inclusive spaces for Indigenous people in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). Her work is driven by the desire to expand areas of knowledge through Indigenous teachings and to reclaim narratives of the natural world.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Monyssha chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Santo Domingo water jar

Santo Domingo water jar
c. 1905–15
Clay and paint
11½ x 10¾ (29.2 x 27.3 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Water Is Life

Spirit breathed into being by relatives.
Minds molded from Clay inherited by Creator.
Water gives the soul eternal life.
Fire hardens our bodies until trials in flame outlive
     our experiences.
Air spiraling through the canyons of our ancestors.
Earth broken and washed back into Sea.

I chose this piece because its design is striking. In between sections of solid black paint, this vessel’s “true” surface is found in its vacant spaces. One independent section that will never see other parts of this vessel is defined by a vertical line through the center of a diamond-like design. Lines around pots are often left unclosed in vessels from Pueblos that trace their origins to the Middle Rio Grande region. These lines may signify the continuance of life or the importance of giving a vessel the ability to breathe, or both. This vessel is a physical marker and a reminder of family. It did not ask to be created, but now it is here and must serve a purpose. We offer a piece of ourselves and let it exist in peace. We must be wary of its fragility and, when it speaks, listen in silence. There is no need to seek and ask the “right” questions; answers will be provided. You will learn only what you need to know. Many, if not all, intact Pueblo jars in collections were used to store and serve water until the introduction, forced implementation, and subsequent growth of a colonial marketplace.

Humanity is not well. It is not a friendly time to be alive, but time and knowledge remain the most valuable forms of currency. Living is a selfless act because existence is painful. Our former life cycle has been forever disrupted and replaced by greed in ownership. We secure our destiny through the choices we make, and death is the only promise kept. Our truth stems from our thoughts, our words, our choices. It is our actions that solidify all we can become. Saying things out loud makes them very real, yet we hide our nakedness and paint our faces and tell the world this is who we are. We are evaluated by what can be extracted from us, and our worth is contingent on an exclusive set of arbitrary conditions. We put a price tag on what we are worth, and our flaws transcend immortality. Bits of peeled paint indicate that a price tag was once attached to the surface of this jar, and now it might never know peace.

In this reality, we are all vessels of water. Vessels with the potential for creating life. A gift given to us by Mother Earth. We return to Her after we have lived our best lives and ask that the pieces of ourselves that return, continue to inspire.