So’oh-Shinálí Sister Project (SSSP) is the Indigenous Circle of Wellness’ (ICOW) community-based extension project that began in 2010, when three first-generation college graduates met while working for a tribal agency in the Los Angeles area. The three young womxn; Monique Castro (Diné/Xicana), Elena Nourrie (Hopi/Cherokee/Chicanx), and Melissa Alcala (Diné/Xicana), discussed a shared dream about one day starting a community-based project that would serve their urban Native community that was rooted in indigenous core values. All three womxn were born and raised on Tongva land, what is now the Los Angeles area, by way of federal termination and assimilation policies that forced their ancestors to attend boarding school and later relocate to the urban setting. Almost a decade later, the three sisters by relations, have come together to make this dream a reality to reclaim and recenter Indigenous ways of being.
So’oh-Shinálí Sister Project responds to the urgent need to develop decolonized learning environments that foster the equitable participation of Indigenous students while upholding the strengths and addressing the challenges that impact our community. We understand that our students are often the only Indigenous students in their classrooms. We know that they do not see themselves represented in leadership roles or positions of power. We want to change this underrepresentation and invisibility by empowering our community members to step into leadership positions. We recognize the intergenerational resilience of our collective people. We also honor the strengths of our cultural teachings, traditional practices, tribal diversity and community solidarity.
We are dedicated to decolonizing education and wellness by staying rooted in indigenous core values, practices, and beliefs passed on to us by the matriarchs in our family, our grandmothers. This is why "So’oh” translates to “grandmother” in the Hopi language and “Shinálí” meaning grandmother in “Navajo.” Each “S” represents the three sisters who brought this project to fruition and their continued commitment and dedication to serving the community that raised them.