Isleta Pueblo Chief Judge Verna Teller Makes History, Becomes First Native American to Deliver the Opening Prayer in the U.S. House

Verna Teller, Pueblo of Isleta Chief Judge and former Governor of the Pueblo. Photo by James R. Mountain/valleydailypost.com

 

 

Press Release – November 13, 2019 
WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, Isleta Pueblo Chief Judge Verna Teller made history when she became the first Native American to deliver the opening prayer in the U.S. House of Representatives. Teller, a guest of Congresswoman Deb Haaland, delivered the invocation as Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) celebrates her first Native American History Month as a Member of Congress.

Teller’s prayer highlighted the Native American connection to the Earth as a call to respect natural resources and the life they provide. Haaland invited Teller to deliver the historic prayer as part of her work to bring the indigenous voices to Congress and inspire young girls to reach for leadership positions.

Teller’s full prayer as prepared for delivery is below:

Oh Creator and Great Mother.

Having asked and received your permission to invoke your blessings today to all directions: East, North, West, South and the Center. 

We thank you for the life you give to all your children: the two legged ones, the four legged, those who live in the waters, and those who watch over us from the skies above.  

Sacred Pollen, sacred Earth Mother, sacred Water that manifest your desires, oh Creator and Great Mother, we thank them for the nourishment they give us equally with no regard to race color or creed.

Creator and Great Mother bless those standing before you, who carry a sacred trust to all of us who inhabit Turtle Island, our homeland, and I pray today that you will give them the wisdom and the courage to carry out their sacred trust with the same equality that we receive from the Sun and Rain.

 

Haaland’s remarks honoring Chief Judge Teller are below:

Good afternoon I am honored to have a fierce woman from my district, to deliver a historic opening prayer. 

Isleta Pueblo Chief Judge Verna Teller is the first Native American to deliver the opening prayer in US House of Representatives.

This is a special time not only in history, but also in honor of Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the contributions of Native Americans to this country.

Chief Judge Teller made her own history in New Mexico.

She broke barriers when she was elected as the first woman Pueblo Governor.

Because of the history of colonization, many Pueblos don’t allow women to hold leadership positions, but that didn’t stop Judge Teller from knowing her value as a tribal leader. 

I am proud to stand with Chief Judge Teller to highlight the resilience of indigenous women and our perseverance to uplift our girls and our women in all of our communities. 

Thank you.

 

ABOUT CHIEF JUDGE VERNA TELLER 

As an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta, Chief Judge Teller broke barriers in New Mexico when she was elected as the first female Pueblo Governor of Isleta in 1987. Her legacy has been instrumental in amplifying the voices of Native American women in elected leadership positions and tribal governance, not only during her tenure as Governor, but also through her eight-years of service as President of the Isleta Tribal Council. Through her leadership, the Pueblo was successful in becoming the first Tribe in the United States to assert their right under federal law to establish water quality standards to protect the health of their community, traditional ceremonial practices, and waters of the Rio Grande.