I Wake In Gratitude

 

My eyes are soaked in the beauty, sorrow, resiliency, history and power of Dinétah. Take the time to get to know what my eyes see and you will see that each day I wake in gratitude,

My heart is molded with the love, attention, strength, wisdom, patience and tenderness of my ancestors. Take the time to get to know what my heart feels and you will feel that each day I wake in gratitude.

The swirls in my fingertips and in my toes bind me to my place, to Dinétah. Take the time to get to know my connection to the land and you will know that each day I wake in gratitude.

I was home this weekend. I was in the place of my ancestors, my elders, my grandparents, my parents, my brothers and sisters. I was in the one place that will always recognize me.

Each step on my run this weekend made me more grateful for forgiveness, trust, kindness, truth, peace, joy, love and strengthened my connection/respect to the land.

I wake in gratitude,
-J

Shiprock Marathon & Half Marathon – 2014 – my hometown, my place. I finished in 2:15 yéégó!

The people of the Navajo Nation Welcome You - Shiprock Marathon & Half Marathon

The people of the Navajo Nation Welcome You – Shiprock Marathon & Half Marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tse'Bit'ai (Rock with wings)

Tse’Bit’ai (Rock with wings)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posing with my medal

Posing with my medal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cousins

Cousins

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-race stretch

Pre-race stretch

 

My post race binge. Trying to decide between burgers at Shiprock's Chat & Chew

My post race binge. Trying to decide between burgers at Shiprock’s Chat & Chew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Solidarity In Gratitude Elsipogtog First Nation

This video is meant to be a source of support for the Mi’kmaq people of Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada as they resist the illegal occupation of their land and contamination/theft of their natural resources. The drawings and expressions of gratitude by my second grade students evolved from weeks of discussions and lessons that revolved around the natural environment, land, water, Indigenous struggles, issues in our communities and around the world that demonstrate a need for justice. My hope is that the ability to act and recognize the dignity of every human being and the land/water is with my 7yr old second graders for their entire lives. May they forever have compassion and be passionate for this beautiful land (which just does not represent land alone but a way of life, a language, a way of being, a people) and those who are willing to sacrifice their freedom and life defending it.

Solidarity in gratitude,

-J

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

This video features the song ‘They Say’ (featuring Wab Kinew) by Leonard Sumner who graciously gave me permission to use it for this purpose.

We Stand With Elsipogtog via Indigenous Nationhood Movement 

The often ignored facts about Elsipogtog by Chelsea Vowel via Toronto Star

After court loss, Elsipogtog braces for SWN’s return by Jorge Barrera via APTN National News

Crisis In Elsipogtog via Submedia tv 

Elsipogtog anti-fracking struggle: Where to go from here? via Warrior Publications

Stories as Weapons of Resurgence & a 2nd Grade Classrooms Act of Solidarity & Support for Elsipogtog First Nation

Our youth must always be free, discussing and exchanging ideas concerned with what is happening throughout the entire world.” – Che Guevara

My second grade students cannot tell you stories about the disorienting, frightening, and utterly devastating aftermath of bombs being dropped in their neighborhoods. They cannot tell you about the sudden disappearance or massacre of entire families. But they can tell you story after story about the sound of a gun being fired in the middle of the night. They can tell you what happens when a bullet is shot through your window and lodges itself in the wall. My second grade students can tell you about the fear they have of being caught in gang crossfire when playing in their neighborhood. They can tell you about the time their dad was sent back to Mexico. They can tell you why they have to live with grandma while their mom or dad works to get clean from drugs. They can tell you how to hang your food in plastic bags on ropes to keep it away from mice and cockroaches. They can tell you about the times they had to run a power cord from the neighbor’s house into their house because they had no electricity.

Every day twenty-one students come to my class and each seven-year-old life is filled with truly powerful stories, heartbreakingly sad stories, and laugh out loud, hilarious stories. Some of their stories may be common and occur in other parts of the world with some variation.

Dad and mom pack up the kids. They want a better life for their children. They move to a new country or to the city. They leave their extended family behind. They struggle to learn English. Dad has to work more than one job so the family can afford a place to live and food. The kids are told that the way to succeed is to learn English and get good grades in school. Mom and dad do all they can to provide a better future for their children encouraging them to assimilate, to be American even in the face of the oppressive and dehumanizing laws of the Western Empire. They do not ever return to their place, their village or their clan. Their human spirits are broken, reshaped, and their ability to question and think for themselves is reduced generation after generation until all memories and dreams no longer exist, wiping away their true identity.

As an Indigenous educator how do I begin to keep the fires of genuine optimism, kindness and what is pure in children lit and safe from the force of imperialism? How do I fuel the fire so the ability to think, create, heal, empower, connect and act is fierce and burns hot?  I don’t want to feed my students the same doctrine I consumed; it only made me uninformed, unimaginative, accepting of the Empire and a consumer of what I was told to consume – dominant ideologies. How do I help my students cling to their stories and their storytellers so that one day they too have the foundation to take a stand, to question and to not just demand the change of the system but destroy the system?

Indigenous grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers and sisters organize to protect the land and water in Canada and the United States and across the globe everyday. They have attended teach-ins and lectures, organized and attended rallies and events. They have made multiple posts to Facebook and Tweeted the heck out of Twitter with news of actions, and injustices, in hopes of educating others, bringing global awareness to the struggle of Indigenous Nations and to build solidarity. They are living life as activist. They are activist in their own way. They are living, breathing, transforming, educating, and standing everyday acts of resurgence. They are on the front lines exposed to tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, police batons, police K-9’s, racist trolls, hate, and vile contempt.

I have sat feeling helpless as I’ve watched the struggle at Elsipogtog First Nation unfold. I felt helpless because I was so close yet so far away as grandmothers and grandfathers protested the theft of Diné water and later as Navajo communities organized & continue to organize to save sacred sites. I felt helpless while a Cherokee man’s biological daughter was stolen from him. I’ve felt helpless as Native brothers and sisters stood their ground against white supremacist in North Dakota.

Multiple events in the daily lives of my Indigenous brothers and sisters and I did nothing to show my solidarity. I failed to stand with them. I failed to take ACTION. I am angry. I feel a mix of immense rage and an overwhelming sense of pride as I see the grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, women, men, children willing to sacrifice their lives for their land, water, and ways of being because I know as a Diné woman I need to be making those same sacrifices. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and quit making excuses. I need to get off my a$$ and put to good use the skills and opportunities I have and ACT, as a Diné woman should, with dignity, honor, strength and wisdom.

As an Indigenous woman, mother and educator I am in a unique position to fuel the fire of resurgence for generations to come. Some of the ways I am trying to serve my students is by expecting them to not be so complacent and unconditionally accepting of the conditions of their own existence. We are constantly talking about the importance of knowing yourself, where you come from and what stories your place holds for you. I share with them stories about the importance of protecting the natural world and the importance of assuming more responsibility in the classroom, in their families and in their communities. I share stories with them. I integrate stories of major issues such as poverty, human rights, and the environment across the curriculum. It helps that my students are asking questions befitting an adult perspective of what is presently occurring in the news, politically, socially, economically and environmentally. I know I have the intellectual capacity to explain to my students with complete honesty the current state of affairs in terms they can understand.

One such story I shared was that of the Mi’kmaq warriors of Elsipogtog and their current stand against destruction of their homeland. The discussion has been ongoing for several weeks, as I have kept up with current affairs through Warrior Publications consistent blog post on the resistance of the Elsipogtog anti-fracking struggle.

What moved me to act with my students was a piece I read written by Dr. Taiaiake Alfred titled – What Does the Land Mean to Us? and the quote he used at the beginning of the piece –

A Warrior is the one who can use words so that everyone knows they are part of the same family. A Warrior says what is in the people’s hearts, talks about what the land means to them, brings them together to fight for it. – Bighorse, Diné

I read Dr. Alfred’s words and wanted to know what connections my students have to the land. We had already spent several weeks discussing struggles occurring for land and water- Belo Monte Dam, Defending the Rivers of the Amazon , Umatilla, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Tavaputs Plateau, Elsipogtog Frack Off via MsNativeWarrior, Navajo Nation & struggle with Uranium Mining, etc.

So after the discussions we used a Circle Map (Thinking Maps) to brainstorm ideas on – What the land means to us. I asked each student the question and they had to respond in a complete sentence what the land meant to them and record one word onto the circle map. We went around the room as each student responded, explained their reasoning and recorded their word. The next several days we discussed the ways in which people are standing to protect the land and water and actions that we could take. We discussed what it means to stand in solidarity and we discussed the sacrifices that people are making to protect the land and water. I then asked each of my students to draw what the land means to them, write about it and also send words of gratitude to those standing to protect land and water.

As an Indigenous woman, mother, sister, auntie and educator I am at the frontlines fighting for the survival of real stories. Everyday I look down the barrel of the Empires compassion killing, dream killing, hope killing and love killing educational system that advocates and implements imperial policies. I want my second grade students to know that they can help shape the future- and that there is no action too small to show solidarity and stand against corporatist and governments that oppress those at the margins. As an Indigenous woman, mother and educator I want to arm my students with the ability to take constructive action. I want them to be armed with the knowledge that there are other ways of knowing. I want them to know that their words and their stories are powerful weapons of resurgence and are very much apart of who they are. I want them to know there is no time for feeling helpless or sorry for yourself. We have to act.

What the Land Means to Me

What the Land Means to Me

Take a look at my students’ drawings and words of thanks to Elsipogtog First Nation here ->  WhatTheLandMeansToMe_My2ndGradeClass

Student Work

Student Work

Sample2

Student Work

Scholarship worthy of your time and read:

Preparing teachers of young children to be social justice-oriented educators by Celia Oyler

Indigenizing the academy: Insurgent education and the roles of Indigenous intellectuals by Jeff Corntassel

Contesting the curriculum in the schooling of indigenous children in Australia and the USA: from Eurocentrism to culturally powerful pedagogies by Anne Hickling-Hudson & Robert Ahlquist

Early Childhood Eduction Programs For Indigenous  Children In Canada, Australia and New Zealand: An historical review by Larry Prochner

Indigenous Struggle for Transformation of Education and Schooling by Graham Hingangaroa Smith

Indigenous Knowledge and Pedagogy in First Nations Education: A Literature Review with Recommendations

Excuse me: who are the first peoples of Canada? A historical analysis of Aboriginal education in Canada then and now by Erica Neegan

Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native Ways of Knowing by Ray Barnhardt

Understanding the Earth Systems of Malawi: Ecological Sustainability, Culture, and Place-Based Education by George E. Glasson, Jeffrey A. Frykholm, Ndalapa A. Mhango, & Absalom D. Phiri

A Study on the Role of Native Culture in the Teaching Experiences of American Indian Educational Professionals by

Power and Place: Indian Education in America by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Daniel R. Wildcat

Power and Place: Indian Education in America

Power and Place: Indian Education in America

With love and deep respect,

-J

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

Writing without fear. Writing with love…

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

“Everyday Acts of Kindness” has been a constant topic of discussion in my second grade classroom since the start of the year. My class cubs are an extraordinarily amazing group of human beings. I’m in awe of the amount of cultural capital/forms of knowledge they bring to each discussion at such young ages. I could listen to them all day. Building on  “Everyday Acts of Kindness” we began a discussion about – Needs and Wants.

To introduce the concept we read the book, A Chair for My Mother. This is a heartwarming story about a family & the values of saving and working together towards a common goal after all their belongings are burned in a fire. To build on the theme of community & giving the author illustrates how friends and neighbors bring furniture to the new apartment. However, noticeably missing is a television, x-box, etc. As a class we discuss how the girl, who along with her waitress mother, save coins in a big jar in hopes that they can someday buy a big, new, comfortable chair for their new apartment — the kind of chair her mother deserves after being on her feet all day in the Blue Tile Diner. Into the jar also goes the money Grandma saves when she gets a bargain at the market.

It’s a good story that builds on our discussions of “Everyday Acts of Kindness” and “Giving”. After our discussion, I drew two large circle maps (Thinking Maps – used to brainstorm all of our thoughts about the concept of “Needs” and “Wants”). In the center of the circle map we wrote the topic we wanted to brainstorm. Some questions we wanted to answer were – What can we not live without? What are things we need to live? What does your heart need? What does your body need? If you can have anything in the world what would you want? We are still building on our thoughts and will add to the circle maps tomorrow. Tonight as part of their homework they need to ask their family – What are the families needs? They also have to come up with some ideas about what their community may need and what our earth needs? The families needs, communities needs, earth’s needs will be written into the circle map using a different white board marker color in order to aid in our ability to classify the needs. Throughout the week we will add more to our maps as we prepare to organize our thoughts and write a paper on “Needs” and “Wants” and what we each have the power to do in making our world a kinder place.

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their "Needs" & "Wants"

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their “Needs” & “Wants”

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

There have been moments in my life that have been extremely challenging and I have struggled. I’m not perfect, however with each challenge (I now view these challenges as pathways) I have discovered the power gratitude can have in my life – it all began with realizing I can not control circumstances, events or anyone BUT myself. With each pathway I’ve clung to cultivating an attitude of gratitude and have expected myself to extend that further into my everyday actions and thoughts. So now that my student’s actions are springing from a desire to be kind and show kindness to themselves and others I want them to realize that they are not too young and no act of kindness is too small to help their families, communities, and planet. As we discussed other ways we can/could show kindness one of my students had a wonderful idea to share their stories with others “so it can help them if they are having a sad day.” Another said “maybe I can write a funny story to cheer them up,” another said “I can write a letter and tell them why they are important.” I said, “YES, YES, YES!!!”  They made me cry. I was deeply moved to witness their hearts in action.  So we decided as a class to write letters to whomever needs cheering up, to whomever just needs to hear a funny story, or to whomever needs someone to tell them they are important.

This is where we need your HELP. My students need people to write letters to. They are ready to write letters to anyone who request one. I hope, no, I pray that I can get responses to this blog requesting a letter from one of my second grade students. So I need at least 21 request (I have 21 – 2nd graders). They are excited and looking forward to putting their hearts into each letter and are hopeful it will make someone smile. My class cubs mean the world to me. I want them to always be filled with questions. I want them to always question. I want them to be able to put things into perspective. I want them to be able think critically and not settle for the status quo. So, pplleeaassee…help me be of service to them.

If you would like to request a letter from one of my students please tell us a little about yourself and share with us your story and need. We would like to mail you a response. If you are not comfortable with sharing you address I understand, I can share my email address if you prefer.

Help my second grade students realize that their HEARTS, their WORDS, their TIME and ACTS OF KINDNESS can bring peace and love to their life and to the receiver’s life as well.

With love and deep respect,

-Joyce Ann

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

We are valuable…thinking of Native communities on World AIDS DAY

I took time today to research a Native organization which is active in raising the awareness and addressing the HIV/AIDS issues that impact our  Native communities. On this day, World AIDS day, observed on December 1, every year I dedicate this post to the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC) and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn the facts. My hope is that if I or you can understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today in our Native communities – we can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of our loved ones, and ensure that everyone living with HIV on our reservations, in our communities is treated FAIRLY, and with RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING and LOVE. In addition, realize that these Native organizations need support ALL year round.

The National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC) offers a variety of programs to help promote education about HIV/AIDS, support prevention efforts, and help foster healthy attitudes about sexuality and sexual health in the Native community.

A Way to Wellness: Locating and Understanding Native-Specific HIV Data

National Native American AIDS Prevention Center Surveillance Highlights, 2011

Keeping Our Hearts from Touching the Ground: HIV/AIDS in American Indian and Alaska Native women

Native Women Public Service Announcement – Know Your Status – Early Detection of Sexually Transmitted Diseases – Get Tested

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations”
– The Great Law of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy –

Commitment to Action for 7th-Generation Awareness & Education: HIV/AIDS Prevention Project

CA7AE: HAPP’s mission is to work collaboratively with communities to increase effective HIV/AIDS prevention, and encourage and support early detection through testing.

Navajo AIDS Network

Established in 1990, the Navajo AIDS Network, Inc.(NAN). served as a volunteer organization, consisting of very dedicated Navajos who foresaw the potential danger of HIV in the Navajo Nation and surrounding communities. NAN provides unique, culturally appropriate and carefully constructed approaches to HIV prevention services and continues to be at the forefront of HIV care for HIV positive Native and non-Native people in and around the Navajo Nation.

Health, Education, and Human Services Committee receives report on recent HIV trends on the Navajo Nation Diné people encouraged to learn more about HIV and get tested

Understanding HIV and other STDs on the Navajo Nation 

Navajo Nation HIV Prevention is on Facebook

I Was Born Between the Four Sacred Mountains of the Navajo Nation…

I was born between the four sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation. When I give thanks, I am forever grateful for being born Diné. There is no one on this earth that can take that from me. Like my ancestors, like my grandmothers before me I will die a Navajo woman. They will RECOGNIZE me and for that I am FOREVER thankful. The earth between the four sacred mountains is my life. It is where I get my strength and ability to live. From a young age I was taught to respect the land and care for it, always. I was taught to live by our Navajo ways and those Navajo ways are higher than any other law. The Navajo way of being for me has always been and is the natural way of being, a natural law. As I get older I better understand the environmental impacts of development on my homeland, and the health impacts on/in my body. With this understanding and knowledge I have come to realize it is my responsibility as a Navajo woman to engage and protect my place, my homeland and my family. As a Navajo woman I am responsible for not only my children but my entire family, my clan, my community, the land, the water, and our ways of being. As an act of resurgence I am learning of the struggles being fought on the ground by Navajos (daily) to reclaim, regenerate our relationships with the land and with each other. I am positioning myself to be better acquainted with the knowledge and needs of my community.  I have begun to make the critical reconnections  to intimately know the needs of my community and of the land and water. I am taking the steps needed to stay tied to my family, my clan, my community so tha I am present, truly present.  So that I am on the land, on Dinétah until the end of my life.  So lest we forget these Navajo struggles & sacrifices (There are many more. I will update this post as time permits):

Addressing Uranium Contamination on the Navajo Nation (Photo Courtesy of http://www.epa.gov/region09/superfund/navajo-nation/contaminated-water.html )

Addressing Uranium Contamination on the Navajo Nation (Photo Courtesy of http://www.epa.gov/region09/superfund/navajo-nation/contaminated-water.html )

Studying the effects of Uranium on the Navajo People - Photo courtesy of Four Corners Free Press http://fourcornersfreepress.com/?p=978

Studying the effects of Uranium on the Navajo People – Photo courtesy of Four Corners Free Press – http://fourcornersfreepress.com/?p=978

URANIUM MINING AND CONTAMINATION OF OUR HOMELANDS

There are Navajo families that continue to lack piped water and must haul their own water from other sources, most of which are unregulated wells. Many of the water sources have been significantly compromised by chemical, bacteriological and uranium contamination. The contamination of our water sources has been an issue for decades. There have been unprecedented instances of death, cancer, birth defects, and other health related problems due to decades of hap hazard mining (Addressing Uranium Contamination http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/mmd/marp/Documents/MK023ER_20081212_Marquez_NNELC-Acoma-Comments-AttachmentE-UExposureSummary.pdf  also see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222290/ ) Even after the mining boom of 1948 the Navajo people live on as Indigenous people of Dinétah. We continue live by the stories told by our ancestors. We continue to obey the signs shown to us by the land and stories given to us by the land. Navajo like many other Indigenous people have a legacy of resistance. We continue to survive attempts at annihilation and just as the Niłchʼi Diyin  (holy wind) we are a people that is ALIVE and we will prevail even after the celebrations of the colonial government.

Snowbowl pipeline desecration.

Snowbowl pipeline desecration. Photo courtesy of www.indigenousaction.org

San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks

DESECRATION OF SACRED SITES

As Navajo people our relationship to land is intimately reflected in the countless stories and majestic landscape of Dinétah. The land itself can summarize our long and rich experience. It is wholly capable of expressing a viewpoint, emphasizing relationable (family & community) cohesion and offers wisdom. The colonial mindset of some of our very own tribal leaders and that of the colonial government is one which continues to attempt to dismember the land from the Navajo people. Their hope is that our seperation from our homeland will result in a breakdown of spiritual values and Navajo ways of being. However, despite political, social, economic and environmental catastrophes the land and our ways of being continue to survive.

Tsoodził (Mt. Taylor) is facing threat of uranium mining by companies such as Roca Honda Resources.

Dook’o’oosłííd (San Francisco Peaks)
 is being desecrated by Arizona Snowbowl’s expansion and treated
sewage snowmaking.

Dibé Ntsaa (Mount Hesperus)
 is threatened by Wildcat Mine which is planning to mine gold, silver, and tellurium.

Dził ná’oodiłii (Huerfano Mesa)
 faces oil and gas drilling including fracking.

Ch’óol’í’í (Governador Knob)
 faces oil and gas drilling including fracking.

Dinétah
: Holy Lands, place of Diné emergence into this world and where, today, multitudes of oil and gas wells extract fossil fuels from the land.

Dził yíjiin (Black Mesa)
 has been desecrated by Peabody since 1960s. Wells and springs have run dry due to mining related pumping of the N Aquifer.

Ch’óóshgai (Chuska Mountains)
 survived more than a century of unsustainable forestry practices, and near deforestation that resulted in the disappearing of springs, medicinal herbs and erosion. It is still in need
of reforestation.

Tsé’naa Na’ní’áhí (Rainbow Bridge )
 Prayer offering sites have been covered by the waters of Lake Powell.

Bidaa (Grand Canyon Confluence)
 is threatened by the Grand Canyon Escalade which plans on building a large scale resort where the Little Colorado & Colorado
rivers meet.
The Colorado River and San Juan River have faced toxic contamination and over use.

(Navajo names of sacred sites and the way in which they are being threatened courtesy of Indigenous Action Media – http://www.indigenousaction.org/nnact/ )

HWÉÉLDI (THE NAVAJO LONG WALK)

Hwééldi (Navajo Long Walk) - Navajo concentration camp called Bosque Redondo 1863-1868

Hwééldi (Navajo Long Walk) – Navajo concentration camp called Bosque Redondo 1863-1868

Hwééldi (Navajo Long Walk) - Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner)

Hwééldi (Navajo Long Walk) – Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner)

Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee provides accounts of the ruthlessness, greed and murderous policies of the United States at Bosque Redondo.

During the autumn, Navahos who had escaped from the Bosque Redondo began returning to their homeland with frightening accounts of what was happening to the people there. It was a wretched land, they said. The soldiers prodded them with bayonets and herded them into adobe-walled compounds where the soldier chiefs were always counting them and putting numbers down in little books. The soldier chiefs promised them clothing and blankets and better food, but their promises were never kept. All the cottonwood and mesquite had been cut down, so that only roots were left for firewood. To shelter themselves from rain and sun they had to dig holes in the sandy ground, and cover and line them with mats of woven grass. They lived like prairie dogs in burrows. With a few tools the soldiers gave them they broke the soil of the Pecos bottomlands and planted grain, but floods and droughts and insects killed the crops, and now everyone was on half-rations. Crowded together as they were, disease had begun to take a toll of the weaker ones. It was a bad place, and although escape was difficult and dangerous under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, many were risking their lives to get away.

And no advocate of Manifest Destiny ever phrased his support of that philosophy more unctuously than he: “The exodus of this whole people from the land of their fathers is not only an interesting but a touching sight. They have fought us gallantly for years on years; they have defended their mountains and their stupendous canyons with a heroism which any people might be proud to emulate; but when, at length, they found it was their destiny, too, as it had been that of their brethren, tribe after tribe, away back toward the rising of the sun, to give way to the insatiable progress of our race, they threw down their arms, and, as brave men entitled to our admiration and respect, have come to us with confidence in our magnanimity, and feeling that we are too powerful and too just a people to repay that confidence with meanness or neglect—feeling that having sacrificed to us their beautiful country, their homes, the associations of their lives, the scenes rendered classic in their traditions, we will not dole out to them a miser’s pittance in return for what they know to be and what we know to be a princely realm.”

When the Bosque’s grain crops failed again in the autumn of 1865, the Army issued the Navahos meal, flour, and bacon which had been condemned as unfit for soldiers to eat. Deaths began to rise again, and so did the number of attempted escapes.

Writing and healing…

Love…hope…love….hope

Peace…joy…peace…joy…

Grief…pain…grief…pain

Dark…light…dark…light

Life…Death…Life…Death

New Beginnings…

Shiawéé in Seattle a few days before she was shot & killed.

Shiawéé (my baby) in Seattle a few days before she was shot & killed. -RIP- Nicole Westbrook

Forever shiawéé

Forever shiawéé -RIP- Nicole Westbrook

Have you ever watched someone you love slowly slip away from your life?

I walked into your room, walked right next to your side, grabbed your hand, leaned over and whispered “Aunty is here, Baby Girl. Aunty is here,” and I gently kissed your forehead. Your hands were so soft and so warm. My lips lingered on your forehead because in that moment you gave me peace and hope. Yes, you…you gave me peace and hope. Seeing you, seeing you fighting for your life gave me hope that you were going to recover and be okay. All I wanted, all we wanted was for you to be okay. I kissed you and I looked at you and your eyes were open fluttering as if trying to tell me something. There was so much rapid eye movement and then there were tears. The nurse told me all the eye movement was due to your brain injury but to this day I know you knew I was there. Shiawéé you knew I was there and you knew mom was coming. I called your mom as I stood next to you. I put the phone to your ear and your heart rate shot up. Your eyes moved even faster as if you were searching, fighting your way back and then the tears streamed out.

Witnessing life slowly slip away from this world is really hard to explain to someone who has not lived it. The phone call at 4am on April 22, 2012 plays over and over in my head as loud and ever present as the life support machine in the hospital room. One is a sound of despair and crying in bitter grief. The other is a meditative pulse, slow and predictable, a humming of breath that resonates in the body through a comforting yet disquieting sound scape.

When someone slips away from your life, slips away with death you are jolted onto a road that will take so many twist and turns, ups and downs, that you feel like your are on the worst roller coaster of your life and the ride never ends. There is nothing you can do to make sense of the moment someone you love slips farther and farther into a world not meant for you at that time.

Wednesday morning when I arrived at the hospital I immediately went to your room and when I walked into your room and saw the doctor, mom and everybody there was no question that your time with us was coming to an end. There was no struggle. Your eyes no longer flickered. They kept you completely covered to keep you warm. The machines did all the breathing. The doctor checked your eyes one last time and made the call. We were all there and we sat with you until the end. None of us had ever witnessed death firsthand (except Aunty Charlene). We all tried to will you back to life, but it was over. Once the struggle ended, you looked so peaceful. Being there when you died was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also one of the most profound experiences of my life. No matter how sad, I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be with you, shiawéé and loving you as you left this world.  You died in peace to meet dy’ in’…the creator. The Diné way is not to hang on after you are gone. They say if we hang on your spirit may attach to a place, something or someone so we are not to bind you to this earth with our grief.  We must wash up, take táádidíín (corn pollen) and go on with life.  I love you so much, Baby Girl.

Writing and healing with the knowledge that new stories are waiting to be written. Recovering, rebuilding, loving and living with peace and a grateful heart.

Náá’ahideeltsééh, – Aunty