Zuni Pueblo's Challenges Impact Zuni Youth's Perspective On The Tribe's Future
by Alecka Seowtewa, Dawn of Nations Today

Growing up in Zuni I never realized how much I’d miss it once I was gone and living in the dorms on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, a city that never sleeps. The constant sounds of roaring sports cars, the never ending sirens from cop cars and ambulances, helicopters hovering over the city and the loud voices of people arguing over nothing invade my mind and living space. This is not home. Zuni is home, home sweet home. There seems to be a set quiet time for everyone in the Pueblo of Zuni. A night in Zuni puts my mind at ease and brings me serenity … until recently.

I’m proud to be of a culture where we have traditions, traditions that have been around since who knows when. Although some of the traditions that our ancestors passed to us have been lost and forgotten, the older generation is struggling to keep the rest alive. It is getting harder, I realized, to enforce the rules of certain traditions with me and younger generations because we’ve been exposed to things outside of our home. Now this is not to say that we’re entirely morphing into urban people, but we are slowly incorporating non-native ways into our lifestyles. Ultimately, it’s affecting the way we feel about our culture. It seems as if the unity of our people is falling apart. By falling apart I mean we’re drifting away from our culture, losing all respect for what has made us what we are.

It’s a shame to see people of my age and older people I know, drunk and staggering around disrespecting our religious leaders and dancers during religious ceremonies. This is not how I was taught to act, and it was shocking and heart-dropping to see it happening right in front of me. It seems that more and more people are catching on to the “trend” of going to religious ceremonies intoxicated. Ignoring the values they were originally taught from birth. This is what I was talking about. Outside influences are affecting our culture. I don’t know if there is a solution to the problem I see going on. I fear that there isn’t. So as long as the liquor stores are open, we, the Zuni people have to be worried about how this will impact the future.

Here’s the truth: It’s hard to accept change, especially in Zuni. No wonder it’s been the same for so many years. Now, I see how the outside influences Zuni people to do what they do, I wonder if it could possibly influence the government to do the same. The only successful changes that I’ve seen have been a skate park and a restaurant. As I see it, if more beneficial businesses were introduced to Zuni, there would be a lot more job opportunities for everyone and this would lessen the need to leave Zuni. I know of a lot of people who leave just to find a decent paying job, which eventually leads to them moving away from Zuni. If it continues like this, our community might be in danger of being abandoned. Maybe it's time for a change.

The trip to the Southern Ute reservation made by The Dawn of Nations Today students made me realize just how successful a community could be if people are unified and willing to work together. Sure it takes a lot of dedication and time to see something successful happen in a place where things aren’t going as they should but it can be done. I want to preserve the land I call home, to feel serenity when all is calm and at peace, so when I hear the sirens and the hovering helicopters I just close my eyes and thank God for giving me Zuni, a place I can escape to, a place I belong to.


What makes me Diné?
by Brent Bluehouse, Dawn of Nations Today

UNM Students See Their Self Identity As More Than Just A Box To Check On The U.S. Census

Dawn of Nations Today student reporters Brent Bluehouse and Eldon Brown, asked students at the University of New Mexico about their perspectives on identity and how they define themselves. Freja Mitchell is a graduate student major in art studio; Zalyndria Crosby is a sophomore an undecided major; Maria DeJesus Ardon is a freshman major in nursing; and Monica Etcitty Dorame is a library information specialist at Zimmerman Library at UNM.

Diné or Navajo? I was born on the Navajo Nation and raised with a strong sense of worth, culture, and place. For me, on some level, the words Navajo and Diné represent the same thing, simply a people.

On other levels, these words offer diverse meanings, as a disparaging title, a reference to thievery, an Athabascan decent, a wealthy history, and even field planters. Some believe that the word Navajo was derived from the Spanish, who spelled it “Nabaju.” In this meaning, the people are known as great planted fields people. It also takes on another meaning, though -- thieves. In Diné history, we have been known to raid others, taking what we wanted, and sometimes what we needed.

Webster's Dictionary looks at the etymology of the word Navajo, and dates it back to 1780. It is of Spanish origin, according to the dictionary, but also “probably” rooted in the Tewa language.

What about the meaning of the word Diné? Instead of dealing only with book knowledge, I decided to use living knowledge and ask my uncle, James Bluehouse, who is a practicing Diné Medicine Man from Ganado, Arizona. I believe his status lends him credibility and honor as it pertains to referencing the Diné people and our history.

My uncle first mentioned the common definition as that of being “the people.” Then he started into the creation story of the Diné. “There are a number of factors, songs, and stories that have to be included if you want a true meaning to the word Diné. You also have to look at yourself and incorporate your clans, your values, and where harmony lives in your life,” he told me.

So much information must be sifted through to define a single word. This is discussed in the book by Paul G. Zolbrod from 1984 titled Diné Bahane’ as well as another book called The Book of the Navajo by Raymond Friday Locke published in 1976.

With these words, do we use those definitions that are given to us by other people that perpetuate another culture’s description of us, or do we define ourselves with our own language to grant such words their meaning?

In speaking to non-Navajo people who are not accustomed to the word Diné, when I introduce myself, I have to use the word Navajo, which holds little personal meaning for me. I sometimes even feel obligated to launch into a brief history of my people. I guess at one time or another we're all called upon to educate others and to also be educated. The word Diné tells of a people's story and gives value, even more so, a belonging, an identity. I will now promote a living pulse by boycotting the word Navajo, for I am Diné!


A Student Plays The Race Cards
by Shaun Loretto Griswold, Dawn of Nations Today

Race in America is complex, like a casino floor. Since the election of America's first black president, Barack Obama, the stakes have been raised. It's unclear who will take the house and leave the floor richer than before, or who will go bust.

Let's look at some of the gamblers.

Bill Clinton and Eminem are playing slot machines. They can flow between different racial identities because they grew up poor and play jazz and hip hop. Their luck in the draw and determination provided them a prominent presence in Black culture, which supports the opinion that people can move past racial stereotypes.

Then there are the poker players who use race for personal gain. They manipulate both insecurities and strengths. Some are brazen, like the all-or-nothing type who seeks to win by any means necessary. This includes supporters of the new immigration law in Arizona or the founder of the All White Basketball League. The master poker player can bluff anyone and leave with the full pot. Some have called out Derek Mathews, organizer for the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, on his bluff.

I recently wrote a story for the Daily Lobo about the Gathering. Online commentators have chided Mathews for exploiting a Native event. One even compared him to the U.S. Calvary. See the article and the comments from readers to decide for yourself if this is a productive discourse, or just the rumblings from people upset they missed the bluff.

Many people recognize the odds and view race as a set of social constructions that is secondary to the complexity of culture. They play the cards they are dealt. Like a blackjack hand, they combine reds and blacks, low clubs and high aces, to get the best outcome. President Obama plays blackjack. I do too.
My parents, two people from different backgrounds, came together during the New World Order.

I was born in 1987 at Gallup, NM. My mother, a high school overachiever and ace of clubs, gave birth to me shortly after graduation. My father, a jack of spades, was the Gallup High School Casanova who swept her off her feet. She was raised on the Zuni reservation. He grew up in the Chihuahuita barrio, on the south side of the railroad tracks in Gallup. The area where he grew up was named after the Chihuahua state in northern Mexico where most of the community immigrated from, including my grandmother. She married a first generation French American, named Carlos Sanchez, my grandfather.

It gets more confusing.

My mother, who has a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood from three different Pueblo tribes, left my father and married an Anglo man named Griswold. He adopted me. Although they later divorced, I still have the Griswold name. As a result, when my name is read aloud, people think I'm white. If I don't tell anyone my last name they think I'm Mexican.
While some people talk about defining people by the content of their character, America continues to define people by the color of their skin. We are far removed from a post-racial society, because people must have the will to know when to quit. Unfortunately, most prefer to leave their table and go to another game.

What are you playing?

DISCLAIMER: Derek Mathews' wife is related to the author through marriage.

Dawn of Nations Today Volumn 5; Issue 1; May 2010, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dawn of Nations Today is a special edition published by the Native American Studies Department, University College, University of New Mexico
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