Dr. Inés M. Talamantez ¡Presente!

Image courtesy of World Wisdom

by Linda Heidenreich

Dr. Inés M. Talamantez, scholar, mentor, teacher, and activist, passed to the next life on September 27, 2019.  In her scholarship and in our meetings Dr. Talamantez, a long-time member of NACCS as well as our sister organization Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, and of the American Academy of Religion, consistently called on all of us to reject colonial and patriarchal mindsets and institutions. It was Dr. Talamantez who, when Dr. Margo Tamez, Lipan Apache, received the Antonia I. Castañeda Award, made sure we honored protocol.  As we honor her life, we also remember her role in building the field of Native American religious studies, her fierce scholar-activism, engagement with the Indigenous caucus, and commitment to calling us all to activism, accountability, power, and life.

Often referred to as the “mother of the field of Native American religious traditions”, Dr. Talamantez earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego, served a postdoc at Harvard Divinity School, and later accepted a position at the University of California at Santa Barbara. It was at UCSB that she would teach for most of the next four decades, but her mentorship and field-building extended far beyond the UC system.  Her mentorship, scholarship and pedagogy were seamless.  Once, in an interview with Natalie Avalos, also Apache and Chicana, she noted “My pedagogy has always been focused on issues of authenticity: religious, historical, linguistic, and political, both in the past and present.  I am open to and excited about the theme of reimagining communication and cooperation… It’s time to recognize each other in a new way that we never thought of before.  I’m amazed by what we know and curious about learning more about each other with sincere respect—dropping our fear of each other and learning the true definitions of power” (Avalos, 2016, 154).

Many NACCS members will remember the powerful work Dr. Talamantez contributed to Fleshing the Spirit—a volume critical to scholars of religion and spirituality, and to anyone committed to wholeness. Through their ongoing conversations with other mujeres about Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous spirituality Elisa Facio and Irené Lara conceived of and developed this first anthology of Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous women’s spiritualities. It was Dr. Talamantez’s work that opened the volume, and so I close this brief memorial with her teaching words:

On this sun day I offer my thoughts for all of our journeys to succeed.

This is hard labor

The ancestors knew we were coming

They left work for us

Now we carry their wisdom forward.

Know who you are, sabe quien eres

Know your land, conoce tu tierra

Learn your language, aprende tu idioma (2014, xi)

Dr. Inés M. Talamantez ¡Presente!

Works Cited

Talamantez, Inés, “A Mindful Invitation: Una invitación consiente” from Fleshing the Spirit, edited by Elisa Facio and Irené Lara, University of Arizona Press, 2014.

Avalos, Natalie. “Interview with Inés Talamantez.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, vol. 32 no. 1, 2016, p. 153-168. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/616355

Spring 2020 – Vol. 45 No. 1

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