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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Brave. Be Strong. Be Happy. Be Free. Be You. Be About Now.

I had the first of three races in seven days yesterday. That 10k was the most challenging yet of all the races I’ve run lately. As I was traversing through the lush, rolling hills on the vineyards dirt roads (some sections with loose dirt) and trails I couldn’t help but think about how priceless being yourself is. There are times in my life I failed majorly to listen to my inner voice, and allowed the opinions and perspectives of others to guide my thoughts and actions. More than ever I am grateful to have had those experiences. Each one has made me realize the past is not today, it will never be. I am not perfect (I’ve never claimed to be). I have made cowardly, shameful, hurtful, purely selfish choices. I am here, now, and I am not those mistakes. I am not my struggles.

Being yourself is worth it. I love being busy loving those people who love me and allowing that love to invade my heart and mind. I am truly grateful for the tender, patient way I am loved by the people in my life. They have loved me even when I felt I wasn’t very loveable.

I love who I am. I love the balance and peace being honest, truthful and fearless has given me. I love where I come from. I love the way I think. I love the way I trust. I love the way I love. I love the now. I know who I am. *BIG smile*

With love, gratitude, joy and deep respect,

-J

Shoe check - these babies have got to get me through another 10k & Half-Marathon back to back next weekend.

Shoe check – these babies have to get me through another 10k & Half-Marathon back to back next weekend.

 

Fueled by the power, love, joy & kindness of a peaceful heart.

Fueled by the power, love, joy & kindness of a peaceful heart.

 

Run Through the Vineyards - April 26, 2014 (preparing to run not cheer)

Run Through the Vineyards – April 26, 2014 (preparing to run not cheer)

Three Words, Eight Letters

Grief is a solitary journey. No one but you knows how great the hurt is. No one but you can know the gaping hole left in your life when someone you know has died. And no one but you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song. It is the nature of love and death to touch every person in a totally unique way  -Unknown

Nicole's hand and mine

The last time I ever held & felt the warmth of your hands.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018110441_westbrook01m.html

We talk. Marsha, mom, grandma, Camiel, Hannah and I, we all talk. We talk about you. We cry. We laugh. But most of the time it is our own private journey with grief. With grief? Yes…with grief. It, grief is its own being. It comes when you least expect it. It comes completely uninvited. At first, it dragged me everywhere. I had lost all control to it. It was completely unrelenting. With a tight grasp it began to suck away the energy, the will, the love, the trust and the ability to live in each new day. Its pain was sharp and ever-present.

Even after all that, grief, did not kill me. It always left just enough light, enough life and strength to live each day. Grief has always left enough for me to find balance and open my eyes. Then one day, something strange happened. I was okay. I felt strong. I felt clear, alive, open, and at peace. I discovered grief was not trying to kill me, it is resilience. Grief has made me realize how resilient I can be. On this two-year anniversary of your death I am astounded by my resilence. I’ve learned I can live, love, give, trust and be vulnerable again.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not honor you. You are in my thoughts. You are in my smiles. You are in my laughter. You are in the warm touch of my hands. You are in the softness of my lips on a tender cheek. You are in the deep, tight embrace of each hug. You are in every whisper that contains those profoundly tender three words, eight letters…I Love You.

– Always Your Auntie

 

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Full of smiles, love, peace, & joy – April 23, 2014

 

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Going for a run – April 14, 2014 (Three races in seven days)

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

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