Grownup Navajo

the Kinaalda through a modern lens

Languages of New Lands

How do I prepare? How will I begin? How do I start?

Each of these questions has been racing through my mind each day since I committed to expanding Grownup Navajo full-time. Having moved from the Sonoran desert to the high Puebla desert I am slowing planting roots. Having never made a home outside of Arizona, I am beginning to understand how daunting the “all-possibility” mode of a journey can be.

In a recent conversation with Dennis Worden of NextGen Native, I shared how optimistic I am to one day speak the languages of these lands I find myself in now. What I shared on the podcast is how I do not mean the actual languages of the Native people who live here but the languages of the land. In leaving my beloved Sonoran Desert and O’odham Bikéyáh (O’odham Lands) , I understood more fully just how much the land of the desert made me who I am today. Living there I had conversations with sunsets, realized how mountains were actually purple and learned of the powerful impact of welcoming the sunrise each day. These lessons composed an entire language of the place in which I spent over 11 years.

I find myself in a new place observing. Watching the way the sun casts shadows on the hills around me, trying to recall from memory, after the sun sets, the profile of the beautiful mountains circling me, finding most often, how in my mind, they are blurry because we don’t know one another yet. Even things as simple as understanding a place with a tangible season, I am learning how to bring a sweater or jacket with me as I venture out the door.

I am also watching myself. Understanding how my body is struggling trying to find the light in the morning as my home is new to me. How happy I am to have creative brainstorms any time I choose since I do not have a structured schedule. I am simultaneously realizing how I long for a structured schedule because the openness of the each day can at times distract or intimidate me.

This journey is filled with unlearning and learning lessons and languages. How does one begin to speak new languages? Linguists today share that immersion is key. If you want to speak fluently, you need to surround yourself with the language you want to share. I am confident my act of throwing myself into the deep end of this adventure will result in my being able to speak the sacredness of this place.

While the newness of the exploration is daunting, I am continuously encouraged by the voice of my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother) in my head saying, “Don’t talk about it, just do it.” While I continuously have more questions than answers, right now I also know my observing, listening, questioning is all a part of me doing. While I may not know the language of these lands, I know I am capable of the growth in understanding. One learns language, yes through immersion but also through speaking. I want my actions to be pronounced so I will listen and then speak. I will act in an effort to communicate my heart’s work, understanding I will rise to the occasion of speaking the language this beautifully powerful place will teach me.

Sacred Journeys

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The Grownup Navajo community has continued to connect and power our community to new levels. Through multiple events and publishing of more and more vlogs, I have met more of you. Inspired by your energy I am starting a new adventure, read more about it HERE. In celebration of this new change, I am hosting a special event.

We are gathering in celebration of the journeys in sacredness we travel. Each one of us journeys on various paths each day. These movements are filled with connection and opportunities to reach, grow and thrive. In these mindset I invite you to join Grownup Navajo, DiRTYOGA and Tony Duncan for a unique event of poetry, flow yoga & flute music. 

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Saturday, January 28, 2017, take part in a special yoga session aimed at sharing the power of sacredness through creative flow. Grownup Navajo will share her poetry to the tune of award-winning musician, Tony Duncan’s flute, while the owners of DiRTYOGA will lead a session of rejuvenating flow.

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10-11:15am                     Flow Yoga + Flute + Poetry

11:15am – 12pm             Social 

Uptown Farmers Market – Phoenix, AZ

This session is FREE WITH DONATION of five non-perishable items. All donations will be collected and given to St. Mary’s Food Bank.

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Appreciating the Diné New Year & Seasons Change

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Ghąąjį’ bee nínáánááhai (It is the new year again with the mid-season)!

To mark the spirit of the season in the Diné (Navajo) calendar Grownup Navajo is hosting an inaugural event in appreciation of this time of year, TONIGHT, October 27, 2016.

We are holding a gathering to appreciate the Diné New Year and the seasons change. There will be a K’é (kinship) mixer, celebration, blessing and action.

I am so grateful for the generosity of our host venue, K’é and owner Pam Slim and her family who have been great supporters of Grownup Navajo. I am giddy at the thought of everyone sharing in kinship in their beautiful space.image

This month, Grownup Navajo also celebrates its fourth blogiversary, so we’ll have door prizes to share the love light! I am sending my gratitude to Beyond Buckskin Boutique, Rezonate Art, OXDX Clothing, First Nations artists Aura Last for their contributions of door prizes for both the in-person event and online contest happening now.

 

Also included in the festivities is a select number of Native creatives, sharing their work Nanibaa Beck of Notabove Jewelry will be sharing a showcase of her work along with pieces newly created! Kelvin Long the owner of Yeego Coffee will also be sharing delicious gowééh (coffee).

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As I have been sharing, Grownup Navajo has truly become a community and hosting this event will make that connection tangible. I am so eager to meet more of you and look forward to the fun we will have as we gather in – Ghąąjį’ baa ahxééh hwiindzin/appreciating the new year and seasons change!

 

 

 

 

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Event Details

October 27, 2016

6:30-8:30pm

K’é – 125 West Main Street

In Downtown Mesa, AZ

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Grace, Guts & Power

Growing up as the oldest grandchild and daughter in my family, I was keenly fond of praise. I relished in moments when my parents and grandparents would give me a compliment. I loved their feedback, whether it was about a speech I had written or how I did in the school play, I reveled in the feeling of their outward exclamations.

There were two things my grandparents would say however, that I wanted to hear most. If my late Nalí hastiin (paternal granddad) was ever impressed by something so much so that he said, “you have guts.” That was gold to me. I remember a couple times when I played in basketball games and he said, “That took guts, good job.” In college I ran for a pageant and came in as runner-up, I was crushed. When I told him on the phone I didn’t win, he sighed, clicked his tongue and said, “That took guts Jac, I am proud of you.”

Once my late Nalí Asdzaan (maternal grandmother), after my dad had given a great talk at the orientation for teachers shared, “Your dad really spoke with power.” She shook her fist as she closed her eyes as though it gave her strength just remembering him earlier in the day and the words he shared. I dreamed of her one day talking about me in that way.

The two of them, as I have written here many times, were my guideposts. Their compliments, teachings and stories drove me to strive. I wanted so much not solely to please them but I was so inspired by the way they lived their lives that I believed if I could follow their teachings, there would be hope for me to make similar impressions in the world.

 

I write this post still in disbelief at the remarkable night I had performing in celebration of OXDX Clothing’s Fall Release. I performed two poems, “Dear Girl-Made-of-Honey” and “Seeds of Resilience” which was written as a special collaboration with OXDX Clothing Founder, Jared Yazzie. I have given many public talks, I teach as well so public speaking is something I am comfortable with. However, if you measured my nerves on Saturday morning, I would have been noticeably anxious about the performance.

 

Performing my poetry was never my intention but standing on the stage and getting to share two poems which were foundational in my healing this year was such a privilege. I am honored to write this blog, thankful for the way it is received. I thought about my grandparents as I stood on the stage. I thought about how I never got to hear my Nalí asdzaan tell me I spoke with power. However, there were so many other compliments she shared with me while she was alive and I will carry those forward instead. I look at my life now, I think about how much I shook on the stage and realized, even in light of my fear, I had the guts to perform and I didn’t need any more compliments to reassure me…I could feel the power of the words reverberate in the room. Words given to me by the grace of Diyin Diné’é (Holy People) to share. I am so grateful for what this blog and these teachings…the same ones given to me by my late Nalís, have come to mean to people. It truly is beautiful to see that Grownup Navajo is not solely a blog. It now has a community of people surrounding it who work to “speak sacredness fluently” in their lives. That is power and it takes guts to commit to that value especially in a society that does not like difference. There are always threats to cultural learning, many created by a history of oppression in this country towards our people but also ones that we choose to let block us. It is those hurdles we must dismantle, they are the true challenge to furthering our knowledge base. When we choose to stop keeping ourselves from seeking more knowledge then we can truly harness our full power, utilize all our medicine to heal each other and show ourselves just what our guts are made of.

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This vlog shares the teaching of “ahééh jinízin”. Ahééh jinízin is the instructive ideology of being appreciative, living in thankfulness. Gratitude has been proven to help build resiliency in people. When we are thankful, it allows us to adapt to situations more fluidly, it strengthens our medicine.

In the spirit of this teaching I would like to say ahé’hee (thank you) to my family for their love and support and to my partner Warren, for his help with the GN booth, tech support in recording the performances and for offering a reserve of strength.

Seeds of Resilience

Growing up, my late Nalí Hastiin would continuously share the quote, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” He would recite it often to my siblings and I. Whether we had lost a game, received a poor grade or even were frustrated with something at school. He’d share these words as a way to continually remind us we had the power to change the circumstances.

I carry a notebook with me and this quote is one I return to often. It is one that helped drive the start of Grownup Navajo. I started this blog as a way to explore my Navajo teachings in light of both my Nalís (paternal grandparents) having passed away. Grownup Navajo began as way for me to challenge myself in the realization that if I wanted to learn more about my culture and language, then I needed to push myself to act not waiting for teachers to come to me but reach out looking for people to learn from.

This attitude of learning has truly become the foundation of my resiliency. In an effort to “speak sacredness fluently” in my life, I work to not simply accept my current level of cultural knowledge as something that is static but instead choose to cultivate sacredness through a dynamic and evolving way of searching for more clarity. In doing so, I reclaim my power in being able to facilitate my modern traditional education.

It is this journey of building my cultural resiliency that has brought kindred spirits into my life. From relationships of love and friendship, I am fortunate to have people brought to me by the Diyin Diné’é (Holy People) to aid me in this journey to speak sacredness fluently. It is in this effort that I was asked to collaborate with Native fashion designer Jared Yazzie, founder of OXDX Clothing. By clan, Jared and I are related and I call him my “brother awesome” because he truly is positive and simply, awesome. From having his work featured in National exhibitions to mainstream publications, I hold great admiration for his work and who he is a Diné hastiin (Navajo man). Over the course of knowing each other, we’ve held many meetups to talk about ideas and at one of these Jared asked me if I would be interested in writing a poem to celebrate the launch of his 2016 Fall Release – “Save What We Have Left”. I eagerly agreed and dove into this project guided solely by his hope to have the uplifting message potentially include the title of the collection.

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The OXDX crew (L-R): Founder/Owner, Jared Yazzie, Assistant, Shaina Yazzie & Hannah Manuelito – Make-up Artist.

It has been an honor to work with Jared on this project. From coffee dates to being a part of his creative retreat to shoot the promo video for the collection, I have enjoyed working with Jared and his assistant Shaina Yazzie.  OXDX Clothing and Grownup Navajo have many things in common but the biggest link is our unwavering pride in being Navajo. The poem “Seeds of Resilience” celebrates the power of Navajo and other Indigenous peoples. It touts the generosity of our people as the most incredible quality to our existence.

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With other OXDX models & managing crew, making magic during the video shoot.

OXDX Clothing will be hosting a Fall Release event on September 17 in Chandler, AZ. The event will include music, an OXDX fashion show (naturally) and a special performance by me. This will be the first time I have performed my work in public. We will also be unveiling a special collaboration t-shirt at the event as it has always been my hope for Grownup Navajo to have an apparel line.

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I am nervous but incredibly thrilled to share this piece of my creativity with Grownup Navajo followers and beyond. I hope what relatives see is an example of the possibilities of growth that exist when our energy is not used up defending the knowledge we don’t possess but rather accept, for our own benefit, where we are in our cultural learning journey. In doing so I hope we can challenge ourselves to act each day in small ways to become fluent in our people’s knowledge. This can mean different things – learning clans we don’t know we have, using greetings of appreciation in our language, eating more traditional foods. It is my belief that for us to continue to build and cultivate our resiliency, we need to understand, “if it is to be…”it is up to us. We are who are ancestors prayed for – we are meant for this earth, for this time and I hope this poem in a small way can kindle the flames, both big and small that fuel the desire to learn more so we can continue to prepare ourselves to be the cultural carriers for the next generations.

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It is with a humble heart that I share with you this beautiful video of this poem, “Seeds of Resilience”. Produced and edited by Paper Rocket Productions a Native-owned film company it celebrates the OXDX Clothing brand.

Let us challenge ourselves to harvest seeds of love & resilience for the next generations.

Tsiiyéeł Powered Compliments

 

In an effort to live my teachings out, to speak sacredness fluently this Tsiiyéeł Tuesday I have learned a new phrase in Diné Bizaad (Navajo language). It is a phrase I hope people can use the compliment the beautiful image of a Diné person who has made their tsiiyéeł, a traditional Navajo bun.

“Nítsiiyéeł nizhónígo iinla!”

 

This phrase means “You made a beautiful tsiiyéeł.” I hope you enjoy giving this compliment to men and women who are wearing their hair in such a way. I think this helps foster positivity and support through connection to each other.

 

 

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Speak Sacredness Fluently

There are days when I hit snooze before the sun changes from the white dawn to blue sky, long before my feet even hit the floor in my home. There are evenings when I am just so grateful the pain, frustration of the day is gone, that I am happy to not look back.

But then there are mornings when I run to the east, pray to the sun before it shines over the summit. There are points on my travels home after having made an offering to our sacred mountain that I feel I am living out the sacredness I was taught. These moments of synchronicity in sacredness are the ones I chase and strive to hold and achieve.

In a recent conversation with a close friend preparing for ceremony, I was inspired, challenged, to think about my life as a language – a conversation of sacredness. Watching my friend prepare for ceremony reminded me of ways I was taught to prepare for practices of sacredness. Preparation begins with a choice. A choice to speak sacredness fluently. Sacredness is finding gratitude in every moment, greeting our brothers and sister with terms of kinship, sacredness is putting others – our community before ourselves. Sacredness is choosing to heal, choosing the light when it seems easier to cower in the darkness.

I have been meditating on this challenge of speaking sacredness fluently. Wondering how can I lead in sacredness? How can I love in sacredness? How can I live a life full of sacredness like my ancestors and elders have? Some of this will mean me practicing more of my language, striving to seek more knowledge of plant medicines. But what this means most is to live in gentle humility. Understanding I am connected. Connected to other bilá ashląądii (five-fingered people). Living in sacredness is not living in perfection, it is actually the opposite of perfection. Speaking sacredness fluently in life means I am always becoming. I am always able to do more for my family and community. Speaking sacredness fluently will be a new model I begin to use to challenge myself to rise with active hope aimed at serving those around me.

As I write this, I am grateful for all the moments leading me to this understanding of self and grateful I get to share it with beautiful brilliant souls all seeking the same truth – to speak sacredness into existence by living it out day after day on the corn pollen path.

 

Adventures in Grownup Vlog-land

 

From reflecting on my time with women as a kind of worship to sharing my favorite random acts of kindness, I have been soaking up tremendous amounts of positive vibrations from friends and followers of Grownup Navajo. Each of these moments have had a lasting effect on me and I have been having fun creating vlogs (video blogs) and uploading them to YouTube as a way to share them.

 

 

In the past month, I have held space with creative women and even created a fun hair tutorial for a new series I am doing on Instagram and Facebook – Tsiiyéeł Tuesdays. I hope to inspire followers to share their pictures of themselves wearing their hair in the traditional style of our people. As I explain in the video, the tsiiyeeł is the way Navajos are meant to care for our hair, it is how we respect the power of the thoughts found in these precious strands of our lives.

 

 

In this post, I want to share these videos with you and encourage you to subscribe to the Grownup Navajo YouTube channel, if you haven’t already.

 

Returning…to Myself

The month of June has been full. Brimming with love, time with family, adventures in new lands but also returns. Numerous things this month have come back to me and I returned to many places too. From a gratitude journal I had lost to the power of my body being restored dealing with ailments it’s been facing. I traveled back to places that have taught me much about myself in times before. Family members returned for visits. Love returned – in many ways, as if to show me all the ways I have grown.

There is a beautiful quote I recently fell in love with by poet Yrsa Daley-Ward, “And sometimes you meet yourself back where you started, but stronger.” I love this phrase and feel it resonate as the message of my month. I feel the medicine of these returns collectively showing me how much I have grown. It is a blessing to write of these returns for all that they are, gifts. Reminders to me of how much can be gained when we choose to be authentic, risk and trust our strength in order to better ourselves.

When we think of all the ways we come back to a place, a moment, a person, we are often met with comfort. Noting some sort of familiarity with this “place”. The gift in getting to return is the opportunity to continue to explore the place with new perspective, see things you haven’t seen before, make new connections, spend more time in gratitude for the lessons learned in the space, moment or person.

I often think of the return of my people from Hweełdí (the Place of Suffering) in southern New Mexico during the Long Walk. I think about what it must have been like when they walked home after their imprisonment. How beautiful every rock formation was when the “first” glimpse was taken. I imagine the swelling of their hearts knowing there were people who were not making the journey with them. I think of how incredible it must have felt to know that everything that was trying to break you; that tried to extinguish the light of your soul did not succeed. The joy that was felt in that moment must have been what challenged them to not rest complacently in the comfort of return but gave reason to rise.

What a gift a return can be. To get another opportunity to look at something you’ve cared for and feel it with your being. What a gift it is to return to a place that shaped your perspective and feel its hold take you. What a blessing it is to hold the person you love knowing you can grow within reach of each other.

The return of my people to Diné Bikeyáh (Navajoland) is paramount. Though this happened over 140 years ago, I can still feel its power. I am grateful for the ways the carrying of the story of my people has taught me the beauty of returning to something, someone you love. How they taught me not to be lulled into contentedness by being back where you have been but instead to challenge yourself to look for ways to hold onto to this sacred feeling of being back “home” but knowing you are stronger than before and therefore must strive and reach for new practices. What a glorious way to challenge your heart. To know it is elastic and able to grow within your new shape. So tonight, I am resting in the comfort of my wholeness, returning to myself, a beautiful asdzaan Diné (Navajo lady) who is made, formed by a constant cycle of returning beginnings.

Grateful Memories and Other Expressions

Expressions of gratitude have long been part of my life. This morning I went to breakfast with my dad. He is always wonderful company as we have conversations about current events to catching up on life’s happenings. This morning as we were talking I began to reminisce about a memory I had with my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother).

Over my dresser hangs a special letter I sent her when I was in college.  In it I shared how appreciative I was for having her in my life. I was so moved at having just experienced my sister’s Kinaaldá that the need to send a letter to tell her how I saw her role in my life was necessary. I keep this letter visible as it was the beginning of cultivating gratitude in my life.

 I get to see this letter every morning when I wake up. I am reminded of my connection to her but it also is a reminder to think about what I am grateful for before I even greet the world. The ability to express gratitude is a critical part of building resiliency. When we see we are connected beings we are able to see that not only are we not alone but there is so much we can learn from one another. I made this vlog to share this story and in it I read from the letter I mention. I hope you take time to watch but more importantly, I hope you decide to create your own message of gratitude to someone you love. This is type of change we need in the world – one that values responsibility to each other.

Visit our new VIDEOS page here to see all of the videos so far. Of course, don’t forget to follow our YouTube channel as everything gets posted there first.