Native American culture & teachings through a modern lens

Month: January, 2014

Enduring Love Through Loss

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I am blessed my first “real job” out of college was also my dream job. Starting it years ago, I had no idea I would be here this long and while every January work-anniversary is marked with, “has it really been this long?!” it is also a month in which I ache and miss my Granddad the most.

My Granddad was with me when I received my job offer. It was the two of us who decided it was a good fit for me and I would take it. I was staying with him and my late Nalí Asdzaan at the time as I had a temporary job in the community they lived. While she would go to work we would talk about life. This was already a difficult period as I was coping with the sudden loss of my soul sister Audrey who was killed suddenly in a car crash the month before.

Audrey and I had met the summer before in such a cinematic way in Washington D.C., I was assured we would be friends forever. Looking at it now, I suppose we are, just not in the way we planned. My Granddad helped me deal with her being gone. Little did I know by mid-February, they both would meet. It’s been nearly eight years since we lost him to cancer. While the battle was long and hard fought, my starting my job is always tangled with my losing him and me “growing up”.

The two events shaped me permanently. My Granddad and Audrey were both two people who lived life with such bravery and chutzpah. My Granddad taught me so many lessons but of everything, he instilled in me a sense of responsibility to my people, family and my heart. In the past year, I have renewed this commitment to myself by choosing my heart above all. Though the journey hasn’t been easy, I have decided to live my life the way he did with an allegiance to Ké’ and love. He is my north star just as my late Nalí Asdzaan is my east. They are my guide posts who assure me soul mates, kindred spirits exist.

I realize I am the best parts of the people around me. We are all made of light and brought together through a desire to create, to leave a mark. Of the many conversations we had prior to starting my job one thing rang through our conversations, my Granddad’s hope for me to have a life I loved. As I write this, to him, I hope he sees my zest for life and how much I am grateful for him. And I can honestly say, this life of mine, is better than we both dreamed possible. As my cousin Aaron assured me, our grandparents are as close as I want them to be. So I look ahead with the promise of a journey which will continue to challenge me to grow with both of them at my side.

Yá’at’eeh Yas Niłt’ees!

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Yá’at’eeh Yas Niłt’ees!

 January customarily begins with a refreshing vibe, the holidays are over and a new year begins with an attitude tuned to the possibility of a clean slate. In Diné Bizaad (Navajo language), January or Yas Niłt’ees means the “time of melting snow”.

One of my favorite months because it seems to correlate with the feeling of January – a big exhale after the season of busyness which preceded it. When you live on the reservation though snow melting can be a headache as the ratio of dirt road outnumbers paved ones and mud-bogging is a daily hurdle. Of course, among the beautiful plateaus and land formations, January in Diné Bikeyáh (Navajoland) is a beautiful time in the cold winter air, the coming and going of moisture and the promise of renewal it will bring in the spring. As you refocus this month, may you find inspiration or encouragement in some of this month’s shares.

SUPPORT. In the recent newsletter of Native Health, a local Phoenix non-profit, the organization announced it was building a community garden within the Steele Indian School Park. I am excited to see the organization grow this community effort and create a place which champions healthy eating. With diabetes being prevalent among American Indian people, turning to healthy eating is imperative to lower risk of the disease for all community members. Visit Native Health’s website to learn how to get involved.

NOMINATE. In April, I was awarded the Arizona Humanities Council’s Rising Star Award. I was most impressed to see an organization create an avenue for recognizing the work of young people making a difference in the humanities community. Arizona is filled with many people who work their passions to create impact so I am honored to be an inaugural recipient of the award. I am especially delighted to help spread the mission of AHC as they begin to accept nominations this year. Learn more about how to nominate a community member HERE.

GO NATIVE. Beyond Buckskin is launching a weeklong campaign beginning tomorrow, January 13th. The style challenge created by BB founder Jessica Metcalfe is meant to reclaim the term “go Native” which has longtime been used in a negative fashion to suggest American Indian cultures are less than others. To take part, wear something Native made – clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. – everyday this week. Share your “outfit of the day” photos on your favorite social media accounts, not forgetting to use the #GoNATIVE so more people are encouraged to create a stylish look. Read Jessica’s blog post which shares more about this week long movement.

VISIT. A new website was shared with me this week shined a light on a group of Navajo women who have a blog called Blue Bird Pinups. These group of ladies rock 1950s/60s fashion while hosting community events which help veterans and even take part in fashion shows of Native designers. I continuously share American Indian people don’t exist in a vacuum, the Blue Bird Pinups are evidence of this as their style is a blend of retro fashion, rockabilly and their Navajo culture. Follow their blog here.