VIEWPOINTS

Native American Women Warriors Color Guard Honors Service
by Tina Trujillo, Dawn of Nations Today

As Native Americans, we are very proud people especially of our Armed Forces and Veterans, although some people might disagree about women in the military. In my family, my sister Cindy Darrington is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. She is based in Denver, Colo. She was 20 years old when she decided to join the Army. When she told me that she was leaving for training camp, I was happy for her that she has decided to join the Army and I was also sad because I was going to miss her.

She has been in the service for more than 15 years with a rank of staff sergeant and plans to retire from the service in 6 years. When I asked her why she joined she stated “to get out of a small town and do something different.” The town we lived in was Farmington located in the Four Corners area. My older sister, Caroline, had referred her to a recruiting officer. While writing this article, I came to understand why my mom has pictures of Cindy in her uniform, other Armed Forces memorabilia on the wall and why she is active in honoring of veterans by participating in events such as veteran’s dinners and parades. This past year, she won first place in the Veteran’s parade and was very happy. She also proudly displays the American flag on holidays such as Flag Day and Veteran’s Day.

It brings tears of joy to me because I have never really thought of my sister in this perspective as a Native woman in the military, and it makes me very proud of what she has accomplished and achieved. Cindy has fought in the Iraq War to defend our country and our people. I have noticed how my sister is changing every time she returns home; I see how she is growing more responsible and mature. Cindy is a role model to her niece and nephews and she encourages them to be responsible and make the right choice in life. The more time I spend with Cindy, the more respect I have for her, and the closer I feel to her. 

My sister is also a jingle dancer and dances at powwows. She and her friends, other women in the service, formed a color guard that they first named the Army Women’s Iraqi Freedom Veterans, but over time their group was renamed to Native American Women Warriors. Their mission is to give honor and include all Native American women in the armed services. They are all veterans of the Iraq War and they serve as a color guard for powwows.  There are four members, including: my sister, Staff Sergeant Cindy Darrington, Dine Nation; Sergeant First Class Toni Eaglefeathers, Northern Cheyenne Nation; Sergeant First Class (Retired) Mitchelene Bigman, Crow Nation; Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Julia Kelly, Crow Nation.

They travel through out the Indian Country to powwows. They have traveled to New York City to participant in the 91st Annual NYC Veterans Day parade of 2010. They were given the honor of presenting the colors as part of the “Band of Pride Tribute” in Time Square while wearing their  traditional regalia. They were one of the color guards for the 2011 Denver March Powwow. My mother and I traveled to Denver, CO to watch them march in the grand entry of the powwow.

We were very proud  of my sister. I noticed my mom crying. I asked her why, and she stated, “I am just very proud of your sister. This makes my heart glad.” In this moment, I realized that these women are giving their lives to protect us from any turmoil, and that is what makes them women warriors. I miss my sister, and I pray for her safety daily. But I know that she is following her path.

 

The Accidental Education of Juan J. Lopez
by Juan J. Lopez, Dawn of Nations Today

Attending the University of New Mexico as a full-time student was never a part of any of my plans. I had a career, or so I thought, in the manufactured housing industry. In 2004, my former industry had a financial meltdown similar to the national depression we are currently experiencing. Dealerships were closing up and down the strip; it became apparent it was time for me to move on. Segue to 2007, after many miss-starts I decided to go to Central New Mexico Community College and take real estate classes.

I was nervous about my decision for multiple reasons. I wondered whether I was smart enough to take college level classes, at that time I had not been in a classroom situation for over 18 years. I was also anxious as to how I would fit in, in an environment that is set-up for 18 year-olds, would it be weird? It turned out I was a good student as I earned Associates degrees in Business Administration and Financial Services, graduated with honors, and was a member of the Honor Society. After graduation, I worked in real estate for six months and quickly found that this was not the industry for me.

In late 2009, after attending a college fair I applied for admission to the UNM. The admission process was quite lengthy due to my slogging through the process on my own; I did not find out I had been accepted until one month before the start date of the new term. This was just one of the trials and tribulations I navigated through during the transfer process, here is another. Due to my being unaware of how things worked at UNM, there were missed opportunities, such as not getting the transfer scholarship because I missed the application deadline. Thinking that once I was registered for school the scholarship would be automatically applied to my financial aid package, I thought wrong.

Hindsight being what it is, there are things I would definitely have done differently. One might be led to think that after Forrest Gumping my way through my first year at UNM I would have a negative attitude towards finishing my education, I do not; rather, I am now determined to finish what I started. After all, I overcame my self-inflicted wounds and I feel I deserve to earn my degree without getting in my own way.

 

New Mexico Lottery Scholarship Not To Be Taken For Granted
by Ryan Lasiloo, Dawn of Nations Today

The New Mexico House of Representatives proposed Bill 92, during the recent legislative session, which would have allowed students in the state to attend a tribal college and receive a lottery scholarship. The bill unanimously passed the New Mexico House on Feb. 22, and then went to the Senate for consideration. However, Bill 92 died in a Senate committee. 

Bill 92 would have been a great opportunity for students, such as me, to live closer to home and attend a tribal college.  Lottery scholarships could have been awarded to students to attend Diné College, the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and Navajo Technical College. In order to qualify for a lottery scholarship New Mexico high school students must enroll full time in a public college or university in the state the semester after their graduation, and maintain a 2.5 point grade point average to receive the scholarship.

In order to keep this scholarship is easy from my experience, but I don’t take it for granted. Many freshmen students tested during their first semester and fail to meet even the simple requirements of the scholarship. One year I had to attend a short college course during my winter break to meet the requirements, and I kept the scholarship.

Not many freshmen students understand that every penny counts, so any scholarship can go a long way.  My advice is to stay on top your school work and make an effort to get good grades. This all gives you a better chance on keeping your scholarships and not having to take out student loans, which you have to eventually pay back.

I find myself in a situation now where I have to apply for student loans just to pay off my tuition. During your first year of college I recommend living in the dorms to get the experience of dorm life and to make new friends who are from different places. Native Americans who go to college have a great opportunity to start a new chapter in our lives, build a strong educational foundation so later in life we all can become the leaders of tomorrow.

 

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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