Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) was born on the Southern Ute Reservation in 1935 and grew up at Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico. Joseph’s life took him across the country and around the world. After a vision in 1983, he built a Sound Peace Chamber, and then worked on building over 65 chambers around the world — leading to recognition by the United Nations for his work for world peace. Through his friend and co-author, David Kopacz MD, Joseph shares his life and lessons for people, young and old, growing through the transition from childhood into adulthood.
Joseph says that when he was sent to the Santa Fe Indian boarding school, they were trying to make American kids out of Indian kids, in this book, Joseph tells us, “I am trying to make Indian kids out of American kids.” Joseph passes on his wisdom and artwork to the next generations who will inherit the many problems that we have created in breaking the medicine wheel. Joseph tells us, “Let’s not leave the next generations in so much mystery about the physical and spiritual worlds. Let’s educate them from the beginning about the way of the shaman.” We are already born with everything we need, we just need to make sure that as we grow up, we don’t forget who we are.
Joseph Rael, whose Tiwa name is Tsluu-teh-koh-ay (Beautiful Painted Arrow), is a visionary healer and artist. He brings together in his person Southern Ute (through his Mother) and Picuris Pueblo (through his Father) traditions and is a citizen of the Southern Ute Tribe and the United States of America. He is the author of many books, including Sound: Native Teachings & Visionary Art, Being & Vibration: Entering the New World, Ceremonies of the Living Spirit, and with David Kopacz, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and holds a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. He has worked for HUD, the All Indian Pueblo Council, and the Indian Health Service, using Native American traditions and holistic health care to help those suffering from addiction. In 1983 he had a formative vision of Sound Peace Chambers and has overseen the construction of over 65 chambers on four continents, which led to him being recognized by the United Nations for his work for world peace.
David R. Kopacz, MD works as a psychiatrist at the Seattle Veterans Affairs primary care clinic and he is an education champion with the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation, where he teaches Whole Health to VA staff across the USA. He is board certified in psychiatry and holistic & integrative medicine and is an assistant professor at the University of Washington. He has worked in many different settings and places, including holistic private practice, community mental health, and as clinical director of Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. David is the author of Rehumanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine and with Joseph Rael, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.
In Becoming Who You Are, David Kopacz & Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), a Tiwa elder, have presented a series of marvelous stories for teenagers and young adults about how to become a human being. This is timely wisdom from Native America, and Joseph’s past, for an age in which the guidance is confusing and truth is optional. The stories help readers sort through the possibilities for who they will become, while learning about and valuing culture & diversity. They describe Joseph’s lessons learned from boarding school, World War II, Pueblo Ceremonies, life on the reservation, and the process of creating sound chambers on guidance from spirits. I heartily recommend it for readers of all ages. We all need the wisdom that David & Joseph offer us.
―Lewis Mehl-Madrona MD, PhD
Psychiatry Residency Training Director, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center
Executive Director, Coyote Institute
Associate Professor of Family Medicine, University of New England
Author, Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Narrative Medicine, and Healing the Mind through the Power of Story
“Knowing who you are is a lifelong journey, a journey that is both old and it is new.”
Becoming Who You Are is a remarkable narrative that does not fall into prescribed categories—sharing Native American insights in an engaging and charming manner, always speaking to never down to kids as the rightful heirs to our planet. Joseph Rael and David Kopacz are healers and carriers of timeless wisdom working tirelessly for the betterment of life. They convey the becoming of being in lucid text combining autobiography, literature, ecology, spirituality, travelogue, history, magic and wisdom illuminated with beautiful art. Grounded, with shining optimism, this book meanders purposefully like a pure river sourced from a perennial spring of wisdom and will surely motivate kids to fall in love with the earth and—their own selves. In our ravaged age, the book reminds us of interconnectedness and that all that we need is—here—sacred and real—listen!
―Usha Akella MSt
Co-founder of Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poets’ Collective
Poet and Author, “I Thought a Thought,” Ek An English Musical on the life of Shirdi Sai Baba, The Way of the Storm: An English Musical on the life of Meera Bai, I Will Not Bear You Sons, The Waiting, and A Face that Does Not Bear the Footprints of the World
This story of two very different men with common visions, may serve as a guide for all who seek to continually learn about themselves through the lenses of their own history and the cultures of those around us.
―Shuyun David Lo MD
Psychiatrist, University of California Santa Cruz Student Health Center
Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life and Lessons for Children by Joseph E. Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz MD is a book that shows us there are other important ways to teach that can speak to us all. Through storytelling, Beautiful Painted Arrow lays out many of life’s core values. We learn that the Tiwa word for God is Wah-Mah-Chi, which is also everything, and is the core to the love of learning which is the secret to being human. This lovely book is written for children, but the authors freely admit that it was written for those in the middle between the two worlds of childhood and adulthood, so it really applies to us all.
―Bradford Felker MD
Psychiatrist, Seattle VA
Professor University of Washington
Captain United States Navy Reserve
As I read Becoming Who You Are, I envisioned myself sitting at the feet of an elder, asking him, “Tell me the story of your life―share your wisdom with me so that I may live it and one day share it with others.” Coming from years and years of Joseph’s sage wisdom and insights, this book is a beautiful invitation to not only learn, but also create your own story—through art, music, writing, reading—or however the spirit moves you.
Author, The Forgotten Mourners: Sibling Survivors of Suicide, What’s Real, Mama?, What’s Brave, Mama?, and coming soon, What’s Wrong With My Family? Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home
The inspiring story and wise words of the elder, Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), speak to the heart of the child within all of us. His life’s journey and teachings give us hope for a better world, one where we live in peace and harmony with our fellow humans and the natural world.
—TWIN SISTERS, Jane Lister Reis & Margie Lister Muenzer
Co-authors of the children’s books, Si’ahl and the Council of Animals: A Story of Our Changing Climate for Children and Their Parents; Si’ahl & Friends Coloring and Activity Book; and Margie’s Nature’s Gifts: A Poetry Coloring Book.