I was born on a snowy night 33 years ago after my mother drove herself to the hospital on the Navajo Nation. She was in labor with me and there was no one else to drive her so she drove herself. I was born into a family that was very loving and kind, but also stoic, strong and determined, if not harsh with words at times. All in all, I am grateful to have a wonderful family who collectively had a hand in raising me and teaching me the important things in life, especially the Navajo culture. I had a wonderful life growing up on the Navajo Nation with my paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. During the summers, I herded my grandparent’s sheep with my twin cousins who would come from over the hill where they lived. We would then head off to the east to herd sheep until dusk fell over the blue skies and the red earth and green sage. We played in the canyon that was a few miles to the east. My cousins and I would play in the muddy stream while the sheep and goats grazed on the green fuzz in a distant.
When I was a little girl, my paternal grandfather would carry me on his back and sing and talk to me about wind, trees, plants, earth, or he would just sing to me. I really miss him. He was so kind and loving to me, and my world was just that much more beautiful. He passed onto the spirit world when I was around 11 years of age, and he passed from cancer caused by his time mining uranium. He had such a positive effect on my life that I carry his love with me to this day.
My paternal grandmother was and still is a very kind woman. She was a very strict and disciplined woman who ran a tight ship. She was not one to apologize for her words, which were at times seemingly harsh, but she always meant well. I really love her and I appreciate all her love and support throughout the years. She is still very much alive and well. On the other hand, my maternal grandmother passed on a month or so ago. It was a sudden departure which I was not ready for, but she was ready to join the spirit world. She was a feisty little woman who was harsh with her words, too, but she always meant well. The Navajo women in my life have had harsh upbringings during times that were tumultuous with varying societal opinions about how Native American people should live or even exist in the Westernized and predominately white world. My grandparents and their elders were exposed and almost always forced into assimilation through such atrocious methods as military style boarding schools where their mouths were washed with soap if they chose to speak their native language. Some were shipped off to schools in California, New Mexico or Pennsylvania, and some never came home but were rather successfully assimilated into white society. People such as my grandmothers and grandfathers had some schooling but did not really finish or refused to continue. Their home life was not easy as they lived off the land, and if they went to town, gathered wood or building supplies, they used a horse and a wagon. In the later years, they would have to borrow someone’s vehicle, which was not always easy. They lived hard lives and I am the product of their hardship and love. I am a Navajo woman.