Lower Rio Grande, New Mexico

“Water is Life (Oliver’s Song)” | Otero County

Oliver Enjady & Lyla June


Lyla June and Oliver Enjady’s song, “Water Is Life,” questions the future of water in the region and the world, addresses the ways in which water has been misused by humans, and foregrounds the importance of water to Indigenous Nations. It was composed by Lyla June based on an interview with Oliver about his perspective on water as a Mescalero man. —Ane González Lara, Diverse Peoples, Arid Landscapes, and the Built Environment report editor

Water is Life (Oliver’s Song)

Copyright Oliver Enjady and Lyla June Johnston

He said it’s not a song.
It’s a way of life.
It’s a forever thing.
It’s a message.

He said, “You can say
that water is life.
You can sing it again and again
but will they listen?”

Are we gonna stand by these words?
Are we gonna find a way to change the
way we’re living?

Mother Earth — She feels everything,
and it hurts.
Like the moon, like the body of a woman,
she is changing.

Can we return to the times when
water was alive?
When we prayed at her edge
and gave thanks for this life.

When the water fell from the sky
and we drank from her bosom.
When the water fell from our eyes,
and the water fell from our wombs.

When it rose up to the surface
and we knew every spring.
No fear or competition
just a relative to all things.

We are the people of the sun.
We are the people of the water.
Txó éí iiná at’é.
Shá’in bee iindá.

We will celebrate our sons.
We will celebrate our daughters.
Give ’em ceremony
so when drought comes
they’ll be ready.

Will the next war
be for water?
All our solutions are part of the problem;
can’t win war with war.

There is more than one creation story.
Worlds have died and worlds
have been reborn before.

When you touch the water,
you touch the world.
From Taos peaks to gulf streams,
the memories they hold.

We sell her by the acre-foot
and treat her as our captive.
The rivers are undrinkable
while the aquifer’s extracted.

Our food will need water to grow
but do you have to take it all?
We try to hold her and control her
as we watch our empire

He said it’s not a song.
It’s a way of life.
It’s a forever thing.
It’s a message.

He said “You can say
that water is life.
You can sing it again and again
but can you live it?”


Watching, hoping, praying
that this time,
this time it becomes

As done by the grandmothers,
grandfathers, long ago,
when they spoke with animals,
their smoke still floating,
touching their morning prayers.

Grandfathers, Grandmothers,
sons and daughters,
me, us,
the mountains, and animals
covered with the morning pollen.

Copyright Oliver Enjady and Lyla June Johnston.

Painting by Oliver Enjady


Oliver Enjady

is a Mescalero actor and artist from Mescalero, NM.

Lyla June

is an Indigenous musician, scholar, and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne), and European lineages. Her dynamic, multi-genre presentation style has engaged audiences across the globe towards personal, collective, and ecological healing. She blends studies in Human Ecology at Stanford, graduate work in Indigenous Pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives, and solutions. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree, focusing on Indigenous food systems revitalization.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.