Native American culture & teachings through a modern lens

Náádąą Rising & Other Reminders from the Cornfield

When I started my new adventure, I had no idea how much “new” I would be surrounded by. From finding a new coffee shop to hang out in to searching for a favorite new eatery to get carry-out from, life has been full of “firsts”. I’ve have also been seeking the answer to a new question – what songs do I sing to help the roots I am planting in this community be the healthiest?

 
I remember planting with my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother) when I was little. I love this memory of ours. From the feel of placing the jewel-toned corn kernels in the moist earth to the heat of the summer day, our entire time together was incredibly fun. I have been thinking of her consistently since I started to build my life in New Mexico. This memory came to be me recently as I have been reflecting about the kind of life I have planted and am cultivating. I remember her sharing songs as we planted. Offerings to the corn we hoped would grow in our field.

 
In my new home, days have been filled with exploration. I’ve been searching for my place within this community while also pushing myself to being open to people who cross my path. Being open provokes vulnerability which can be daunting. But there is treasure to be found in yourself and your surroundings when you crack open to (or from) a new experience. I recently shared a wonderful dinner with new friends and I was struck with pure giddiness as I felt the promise of a place being carved out for me here in these new lands.

 
As I have been seeking opportunities for Grownup Navajo to grow, I’ve longed for the strong sister bonds calling to me from across the desert. Answering prayers, I have connected to other motivating female Native entrepreneurs who have showed me a new kind of sisterhood. One formed and tested in the fire of trailblazing. They’ve cheered me on and reassured me of the normalcy of the journey I’ve traveled so far in launching my business.

 
In the corn field, my Nalí adszaan would move with measured intention. Creating the holes in the earth for the seeds with deliberate care. We would move row by row, being conscious of our thoughts and energy as we offered the seeds to the earth. Thinking about this day and the current point on my journey, I feel there are songs I need to learn and ones I somehow already know the melody. These “songs” I carry with me are ones of love, compassion and gentleness. I forget too easily, two lessons of the cornfield: 1) if I want corn to grow I have to get my hands dirty and work the earth and 2) corn takes time to grow. Much like children we must offer our praise and gratitude for the path that has unfolded. It is necessary to be thankful, even for the uncertain path.

 
I am grateful for the way the answers to the questions my heart asks arrive in my heart simultaneously quelling the anxiousness in my mind. Whether in the form of encouraging words from a fierce entrepreneur or an inspiring conversation with new friends, we are provided connections to the tools we need to continue to flourish. My life – each of our lives – have been prayed into existence and nurtured with intention, just like the corn that has grown in our fields. Corn which has grown for generations, blessed with songs whose power whisper reminders of our purpose. Our destiny is to grow and learn like the sacred náádąą (corn) we use for our prayers in the morning and ceremonies throughout our lives. Let’s hold this truth close, so we never doubt the direction we are going because it is innate in us to grow, rising bravely, like stalks of náádąą in a beautiful field.

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Creative Rezilience & Community

The path is created by walking it.
I hear my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother) in my ear everyday saying, “you know what to do.” This message is now coupled with the reassurance of my parents, who remind me to trust my strength.

Opportunities have manifested from invitations to empowering events, messages from followers and friends.

This kind of faith in self, creativity & community has guided the journey of Grownup Navajo and carried us to our latest project. In a conversation earlier this year with the Executive Director of Rezilience Indigenous Arts Experience, Warren Montoya, I casually shared my desire to create a large scale puzzle incorporating my poetry with Diné bizaad (Navajo language). Without missing a beat, Warren invited Grownup Navajo to be a Program Partner at the 2nd Annual RezArtX festival.

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I immediately agreed and began thinking about how to construct it. A quick realization was the impact powerful images would have on the piece. Having worked with and followed the art of Onyota’a:ka artist Monique Aura Bedard from British Columbia, I reached out to her hopeful she’d be open to the collaboration. With great excitement she agreed. Together we flushed out what this puzzle could look like and decided we wanted it to include both of our languages and concepts of respect for our earth mother.
In collaboration and sisterhood, we created a large-scale, 3D mural puzzle incorporating language and poetry. The installation, “Nahasdzaan Níhimá: From My Mother I Learned All I Know” will be approximately 8 feet long and 4.5 feet high and will include 24, 16-inch cardboard, cubed, puzzle pieces. The puzzle will encourage visitors of RezArtX to experience language, art and poetry in an dynamic hands-on way.

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The concept of the puzzle is inspired by the ways in which we learn from the imminent matriarch in our lives Nahasdzaan Níhimá (Mother Earth) and the dził (mountains). We will launch this project at RezArtX our goal is to continue this project sharing more images, poems and phrases that our community can engage with and create.
As Grownup Navajo continues to grow and expand our focus of enciting community action through creative movement, art & culture, I am encouraged by the openness and power of K’é (kinship). How beautiful it is to be guided by the energy of people willing to trust and whole-heartedly collaborate. This project would not have been possible without the faith, encouragement & help of others. It is not often someone generously offers space for your creative play and it is rare for a sister you have never met in-person to be so giving of her own craft. I am incredibly thankful to both RezArtX and sister Aura, for their kindness in supporting this vision and cannot wait to see the public experience Aura and I’s project this Sunday, April 30 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ahé’hee!

 

For more information in attending Rezilience visit www.rezartx.com. For those interested in supporting this project please e-mail me at grownupnavajo@gmail.comIMG_0017

 

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.