Thursday, June 27, 2013

Conversations with a Princess

         Now that the dust has settled for our family, I think we can finally all grasp the momentous life changing events that occurred during the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow, in Albuquerque N.M. this past April.  My sister has always aspired to be a role model and ambassador for our tribe, the Navajo Nation, however I think being crowned Miss Indian World for 2013-2014 surpassed even her most wildest dreams.  From a young age she has always been placed in the spotlight to shine and to participate in the varies tribal competitions that displayed individual tribal integrity, cultural awareness and knowledge, preservation of our way of life, and public speaking.  I can't tell you if it was my parents dream or their belief in her that spurred her forward, because I can remember her being 3 or 4 years old and carrying around a small microphone and radio singing to herself.  Singing has always been a passion and a gift to her.  Over the years I can remember participating in many family events in support of her role as our chapter royalty or promoting her music.  
        Two years ago I had the pleasure of completing my Masters degree in Nurse Midwifery, but she also received her Bachelors degree in Native American Studies and Women's Studies. I can tell you my parents were proud to have two of their children graduate from the University together. At the time she had just been crowned Miss Indian UNM. An additional blessing that year was my younger brother Leonard getting his Associates degree and heading to UNM to work towards completing his Bachelors degree in Psychology. 
          Sufis to say, my parents have always been strong supporters of us continuing on with our education and not stopping with a high school education.  The majority of our extended family worked at coal mines all their lives and I think they wanted us, the next generation to go beyond that.  When any of us needed words of encouragement, prayers, and family support they always made it a point to come together to set up a family sweat where we could pray and talk out our problems together.  With each accomplishment, they would set up a peyote meeting to give thanks to and to ask for help for our next leg of the journey.  I whole heartedly believe that my accomplishments and my sisters accomplishments are from our families support and always through our prayer ceremonies.  
           My sister first announced that she was going to run for Miss Indian World a couple months prior to the competition in April.  She said, "this is my last chance," because in May she would be 25 years old.  What surprised me and why I was so supportive of her, was that this was the first time she had whole heartily put herself out there to do her best.  She was very motivated and with that, I saw a side of her that I haven't seen before.  I saw her commitment and determination. When the night came that they would announce who would be the next Miss Indian World, I was just as nervous for her as my parents were.  When they announced that the winner was from the Navajo Nation.  My mother and I both had tears in our eyes as we rushed down to the main arena to congratulate her. It was an amazing moment to share.
          A couple of months have passed sense that night and I was finally able to sit and have lunch with her.  I asked her about the places she has been able to go.  I think winning the title was an amazing accomplishment for her, but mostly it seems like she is learning a lot from the places she is able to travel to.  She has been able to visit varies reservation schools, programs that support teens and trying to find ways to prevent suicide in their communities, as well as a school for kids who come from homeless families in Albuquerque.  She has expressed an interest in law, which I think this experience is exposing her to all the socioeconomic disparities in our Native communities. Although, I see her being an advocate for children in one way or another.   When she travels to these places she brings her drum and wooden flute to accompany her voice, which I think is a form of medicine she will always be able to share with those around her.
          Obviously I'm a proud sister, but mostly I think it is amazing to have the ability to travel around your reservation and surrounding reservations to learn about the community and to bring joy to the young faces who look forward to your visit.  I think our young women need a hero to aspire to.  I think my sisters personal journey was one only she could walk and one only she could summon the courage and strength to be her best self for her life time goal.  This alone speaks volumes about personal perseverance and determination. That inner glow that she now has reminds me of my choice to return to school and my personal perseverance to achieve my goals.  It's the glow I was waiting to see in her and I tell her, "now what are you going to do with it?"  You now have the ability to highlight the places that you are going, perhaps they need donations to keep providing the services they are providing, shed some light on their struggle, because sometimes the places that need the most help don't get it because nobody knows their story, use your beautiful voice to help them tell their story.   We all have a story to tell..... 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Story

      I have thought many times how I would tell my story.  I would start to write it down, only to stop in fear of seeing it in print.  But mostly, I would stop writing it down for fear of speaking my truth and not wanting to hurt those dear to my heart in telling it.  I think it takes courage for one to tell their story.  Every now and then I get a feeling inside of me, my subconscious urging me to put pen to paper, but my inner plea's go on def ears, because deep down it is my fear that keeps me from going there.  However, as of lately that inner voice is getting stronger....speak your truth...don't hold back...don't be afraid...keep going...keep going.

      It's no secret that I have been in a state of contemplation and exhaustion, at which I feel has been rooted in a feeling of defeat for our people.  However, my body, mind, and spirit desire liberation.  It is this desire to heal and move forward by recreating the tools necessary to once again be liberated.  It is through my work as a midwife that I find inspiration and the realization that the power to change our future is within our own grasp, but the tools to do so are not.  I feel consumed in my efforts to create a path to do so.  I worry my strong desires and courageous efforts will mean nothing and that all I have sacrificed will have been for..what?

      I tell my story not for empathy or to shame those who have contributed to it, but more as a need to be understood, humanized, and to no longer be an invisible piece of which is how our indigenous histories are viewed to this day to be...invisible. As I sit in silence contemplating my reality, this quote strikes a cord in me.

"We must and will have women leaders among us.  Native women are going to raise the roof and decry the dirty house which patriarchy and racism have built on our backs"
-Lee Maracle-

      As we move forward with our birth center work, nothing is more of a reality check then to see and feel the wall we are up against.  It is disheartening to see mainstream medical systems appropriate knowledge from disenfranchised communities, then to use it in a manner that further marginalizes these communities for their own financial gain. This does not sit well with me.
      I am honored to stand with my midwife sisters as we toe the line in representing our marginalized communities, cultures, multi-cultural perspectives and world views.  We each have our stories to tell and our own healing paths to walk.  Believe it or not we each carry within ourselves scars of historical trauma that is being healed as we process each obstacle life presents to us.  The work that we have done thus far has been built on our backs, it has been drawn from what little resources we have and we are painfully aware that our savings grace is not someone else coming to save us, but rather we must do the work to save ourselves. 
     I realize my silence does nothing to help our efforts and only in speaking up about our struggles do we begin to humanize our stories.  

        A woman chooses a path following the old laws, set in todays world to free her people
Our life
Our children
Our future