By Phyllis Spears
Some individuals come into our lives and change it, change us. We don’t even know or feel this change happening, it’s so subtle. We are encouraged, opened up, asked to take a leap of faith. So, in spite of our fear or struggle, we do it! And we begin to grow and learn about new ways of seeing, of being. Arlo did this to people. He was a healer, an educator, eager to learn and then to share his knowledge.
I first met Arlo in 2016 at the NADA Albuquerque conference. He became my little brother, my nephew, a friend and colleague. During the NADA conference, I facilitated a panel and decided to open by speaking my language, Cherokee. “Osiyo nigad. Phyllis dawadowa.” I figured no one there would know what I said or, more importantly to me, if I was making mistakes. To my surprise, after the panel here comes Arlo, a big smile on his face, greeting me and introducing himself in Cherokee. OMG, I felt like I’d been caught. That was the beginning of our friendship, our partnership, this sharing of our love of Cherokee language and culture, as well as a belief in acudetox to help heal and transform people.
Neither of us had grown up in the culture, but we were working to make it a part of our lives. Each week during the pandemic, he joined me and others to be part of a Zoom class that studied the Cherokee language. This he did in spite of all his other commitments, responsibilities and activities.
Arlo was a healer. He was tireless in promoting healing and not only as an acupuncturist and an acudetox specialist. He knew that language and culture were intricate to healing our native communities, decreasing rates of suicide, helping us recover from addictions, and from historical and current traumas. Knowing this, in 2020, he completed a Masters with a focus on Education and teaching native languages. His work took him to many parts of Indian Country, from the Acoma Pueblos to the Pacific Northwest to assist with the Veterans Canoe Journey, bringing healing energy and tools, learning the songs and sharing the journey.
Arlo led NADA trainings on the reservations in New Mexico and Washington and in the rural towns of Tahlequah and Keys, in Oklahoma. These trainees now volunteer at the Urban Indian Program in Albuquerque providing acudetox to the homeless, and at addiction and behavioral health programs.
It seems his work with NADA had just begun. He planted many seeds of healing that are still growing and spreading in our world. Arlo Starr, gigesv’i (late) will be missed but remembered with smiles in the heart.
Following Another’s Example
I see him around the village,
planting his karmic seeds
in every lawn—
a minor Johnny Chapman
Carefully, he sows,
always allowing for drainage,
hoping he’s fooled the slugs.
May root systems take hold!
May there be germination!
They’re so fragile, he says,
especially at the start,
before the first four true leaves.
Loving wishes, quiet favors,
compassionate acts, small good deeds.
How pleasant his stooped back,
to know he’s at work
over carrots and peas.
Near at hand, may great pumpkins
swell from the ground.
Arlo taught the NADA protocol to students serving refugees, migrants and the poorest of the poor in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. His joy for teaching and his passion for making acupuncture accessible to all communities was obvious. Below are some messages from his students in Mexico.
~ Ryan Bemis, NADA trainer, New Mexico
Arlo – Saying thank you is so little for what you deserve. You left us a great teaching and not only your knowledge. I also learned from you what a true human being is, simple and sharing with those who approached you. I say this now with a smile that you always gave us, and I ask God to give comfort to your family and that the light of the creator illuminates your path.
~ Rosario Ortiz Andrade
At our Barefoot Health Promoters project we are indebted to brilliant people like Arlo Starr – a teacher, a partner, a friend. Arlo is among those human beings who out of humility, or perhaps conviction in their lives, give that special touch, realizing that people really desire to be served with quality, with honesty and a lot of courage. I have hope and yet I resign to the great loss of a human being who did the right thing in life for others, giving the best of himself, leaving a story full of wonders. May the light guide Arlo Starr: my teacher, my friend, a great man, a warrior spirit.
~ Rudy Vargas
We say goodbye with much sadness to a great person – Arlo. You left a mark in the hearts of your students from Ciudad Juárez. We will always remember the joy you transmitted in each of your teachings and the love with which you did it. Thank you for giving us part of your valuable time and knowledge – we ask God to receive you and give comfort to your family and all your loved ones.
~ Nancy Gonzalez Ortiz