Dr. RabyBonfires, dances, feasts—celebrating the holidays in New Mexico as a child was an incredibly unique and enchanting time in my life. While my own family isn’t of Native American descent, Pueblo Indians are a cultural force in and around Albuquerque, where I grew up. December in particular is a major time of ceremony for them.


Some of those ceremonies are now closed off to non-Natives in order to preserve the people’s cultural and religious integrity. However, when I was growing up, I loved when local Native American communities would invite us to ceremonies, as well as to meals in their homes.


Even when I was young, I realized the power of what they were doing. By welcoming outsiders in, they were trusting us and offering a glimpse into their world. We all found connection and compassion through food, stories, ceremony, and laughter.


Those experiences still influence me today. Because I grew up with people who held beliefs and practiced traditions apart from my own, I’m now cognizant of different cultures and how they might interpret various aspects of modern life—from medicine to language, education to religion.


In the Native families with whom I spent the holidays, I witnessed their strong connection to the land and to their history. I think of them at Thanksgiving and through the weeks leading up to Christmas, imagining their heads bowed in prayer, their hearts lifted in dance—all part of the ceremonies that breathe life into their culture.


This year in particular, my thoughts and prayers are with the water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Hundreds of Native American tribes and thousands of allies have joined together at the banks of the Missouri River.


They’re fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline—a steel oil pipeline that would travel under the Missouri River, putting drinking water and medicinal plants at risk for millions of people, including those of Standing Rock Reservation. In constructing the pipeline, workers already have desecrated sacred indigenous burial grounds, and violence has escalated as police use tear gas, rubber bullets, and water and sound canons on the water protectors.

In October, our Retail Coordinator Samantha and Content Strategist Katie traveled to Standing Rock to bring supplies and support to the people. Leading up to their trip, our staff collected warm clothes, feminine hygiene products, baby supplies, and medical items to send with them. We also donated money to the Medic and Healer Council on the ground at the camps.


In a thank you note once they returned, Sam and Katie wrote, “If we could go back right now, we would. This is a huge issue for public health, environmental justice, first amendment rights, and indigenous rights. It isn't history; it is now.”


This issue was especially important to me in part because of what I saw in Native cultures when I was growing up. I know firsthand how important ceremony, prayer, history, and land is to this group of people. What's happening at Standing Rock also matters to me as a physician, because I know the vital importance of clean drinking water. I tell my patients every single day: Drink. More. Water.


Among other benefits, drinking water helps you:

  • Flush toxins from your body and kidneys

  • Improve your complexion

  • Digest food

  • Increase energy and decrease fatigue

  • Promote weight loss

  • Boost the immune system

  • Lubricate muscles and joints

Our bodies are roughly 60 percent water. It’s a huge part of us, and I believe it’s a living entity with energy. It moves, provides life, and some studies even say our emotions can alter water molecules.


I hope you find peace and joy this holiday season in your own traditions, culture, and family. Take a moment to give thanks for your clean water, and keep everyone with whom we share this world—and its water—in your thoughts and prayers.


Happy Holidays!

Theri Griego-Raby, MD, ABHM

He, who has health, has hope; and he who has hope has everything.
- Arabian Proverb