Owl and Panther / Hopi Foundation


Some immigrants arrive in the U.S. with wounded souls, having witnessed or suffered violence, torture and deprivation in war-torn countries. Many of those are children and young adults.

In Tucson, refugees find safe haven in a small organization of friendly volunteers – many of them former refugees – who tend the wounds of newcomers’ souls though art and storytelling. The organization has the strange name Owl and Panther, but it makes perfect sense since it comes from an ancient Cherokee creation story:

“On the seventh day, only the owl and the panther were still awake. Because they did not succumb to sleep, they were given the power to see in the dark.” 

Through the Owl and Panther community and the hope that art brings, these refugees are given the power to see past the darkness of their difficulties and begin to thrive.

Owl and Panther sprang from The Hopi Foundation’s Center for Prevention and Resolution of Violence (CPRV) in Tucson, which treated refugees struggling with pain, poverty, loss of community, and/or family problems. The Hopi Foundation is their fiscal partner.

The organization is also an heir to the sanctuary movement of the 1980s. Volunteers springing into action started a creative writing group for Central American youth escaping violence though the U.S.-Mexico border. Today, families from Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Congo express their feelings through poetry, art, drama and music, and discover their strengths.

“The Hopi word for trauma, tsawana, means ‘a state of mind that is in terror.’ Like the owl and the panther, we must learn the power of being able to see in this terrifying darkness and to strive towards a state of Qa Tutsawanavu – a state of living, unintimidated by fear from any source. Such people, the Hopis believe, will enjoy a full life, regardless of the fear around them.”