Meet Tina Cordova, co-founder of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, and this year’s Hero of Health for her advocacy on behalf of New Mexicans exposed to nuclear testing. She inspires us, for her unwavering commitment to fight for compensation and acknowledgement that the government’s nuclear testing caused incredible suffering in south central New Mexico.
The beauty of the people and the landscape in New Mexico is breathtaking. Our state has an ancient history that has developed into a beautiful, multi-cultural place with deep roots and traditions. I love that. Footprints were discovered at White Sands Monument that date back 23,000 years. Few people can say they live in a place with proof that their ancestors have been here for 23,000 years. I love that.
Her definition of healthy communities:
It means all people have access to good health care no matter their circumstance, that people have a place to go when they are well and to be screened for potential problems. I survived thyroid cancer because I had access to good health care in Albuquerque and it was detected early. I may have had a much different outcome if I had been living in rural New Mexico. I believe access to good health care is a right that all people living in the United States should be afforded.
Being overexposed to radiation has taken a significant toll on the health and well-being of many New Mexicans, beginning with the uranium miners/workers. We will never fully know what this has cost in our lives or the economic impact it has had. I cannot and will not look away. The truth has to be told, and there will come a day when we receive the justice we so deserve.”
Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss
Meet Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, southern Ute on his maternal side and Southern Cheyenne and Caddo on his maternal grandfather’s side, and this year’s youth Hero of Health. He co-founded Tribal Adaptive Organization when he was 17 to give Native youth with disabilities sports opportunities. He inspires us for overcoming personal challenges to succeed in life, and then lift up people in his community who face similar hardships.
My father truly encompasses all the qualities I think a father/leader in the community should be. As a single father taking care of four kids, he always provided for us and ensured that I could participate in life. He even modified a raft frame so I could row when we went rafting. He also made sure to keep us connected to our heritage, teaching us ceremonies, songs, and history. He is someone I strive to embody today.
His definition of healthy communities:
I was surrounded by hardships growing up on the reservation. I witnessed people struggling with drugs, alcohol abuse, and suicide. As I grew older, I found new communities through sports and ceremonial practices. A healthy community supports and pushes each other to reach new heights. Healthy communities learn to embrace change and push on, even when things seem lost. I plan to continue fostering healthy habits to create a long-lasting community for generations.
When I was injured, I thought I had lost all value in life. I was no longer able to be the child I once was. When I was introduced to adaptive sports, my whole life changed. I competed against other kids in wheelchairs, traveling to competitions while building lifelong friendships. Not everyone has those opportunities. My dad and I decided to start Tribal Adaptive to make an impact, and to use sports to change Native lives the way it changed mine