Mobility of Navajo People (Guest Post #15)

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This is #15 in a series of guest posts written by Jianping (Corey) Yang. You can read an introduction to these posts and to the author HERE.

By mobility, I mean in either a geographic or social sense, as in many circumstances they were interrelated. From what I have communicated with Navajo people, I believe many of them have the chance to move beyond the place in which they are raised. I once asked a naive question about where Navajo people lived in the country. The answer was that Navajo people were everywhere.

At one party in a Navajo house, I met a guy who had the experience of living in New York state. His experience was quite interesting and unique. The reason why he went to New York was that he ran away from home when he was a teenager. I regret not to have asked why he ran away. He ended up going to high school there. He told me that he once drove from New York to the south with his friends. I do not know what kind of work he does now. His case, however, shows that there can be different reasons to leave their familiar places and people.

Another person used to have a job in Albuquerque. He had the training and the certificate for the job. He received high school education, but probably did not go to college. He had held that job for a long time. Only this year did he lose his job, probably because of the general economic downturn. I did not have a chance to ask how important that job was to him. Anyway, there are more opportunities in Albuquerque than in the Lybrook area.

I talked with a woman who was a teacher in a nearby town. She received both undergraduate and graduate education. Her case is not common in that most people do not have higher education. The school where she works is not far from her home. From what we communicated, I suppose she did not want to be away from her home. I have no idea how strong Navajo people attach to their home place in the wider culture. The people I have talked to, however, seem to show strong connection with their homes.

Another kind of mobility is related to marriage. According to Jill and from my communication with Navajo people, Navajo marriage is exogamous, by which I mean they accept a person from a different ethnic and cultural background. So when this happens, relocation might follow. However, this might lead to the change or loss of traditional culture.  [Note from Jill: in our experience, marriage by Navajo with “outsiders” almost always means the couple remains near family in Navajoland rather than the couple moving elsewhere.]

It is interesting to know people have some opportunities of moving in this relatively isolated land. I would like to raise this general question: what factors affect people’s decision-making when facing a choice of moving? Economic issues must be a factor, but I would like to stress the  social and cultural ones; although to have a more in-depth understanding would need further exploration.

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Anna’s Crying (Guest Post #5)

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This is the fifth in a series of Guest Posts shared by Jianping (Corey) Yang. You can read the introduction to these posts HERE.

I always wonder how life in rural New Mexico affects the growth of Anna, this ten-year-old girl. To me, at her age, life should be all about being carefree and joyful. From an adult’s angle, I think Anna is as innocent and happy as other ten-year-olds. However, I noticed her cries occasionally.

(Anna crying when she can’t keep a stray puppy…)

Kids may not always be as self-disciplined as much as parents expect, and Anna is no exception. Sometimes when Jill scolded her for not following her schedule or fulfilling her duty, I could hear Anna weeping. Her weeping came and went quickly. At her age, crying might be the only way for self-protection. It might also be a means for negotiating with her parents.

One time, I heard someone knocking my door. It was Anna. She wanted me to go with her – cycling, exploring, or things like that. I said I was busy with something, and I could be free in half an hour. I returned to my laptop, almost forgetting my ‘promise’. About half an hour later, my door was knocked hard again. Anna said in a semi-trembling voice that it had already been half an hour. I told her that I hadn’t completed my task and so couldn’t join her, so maybe next time. A little later, when I had resumed what was left over, I heard that Anna cried very loud at a distance. But she probably would not know that I heard about that. I felt somewhat guilty for not keeping my promise and I didn’t remember children tend to take things seriously. She needed someone to communicate with in this rural area where it is not very often to see people around. I let her down.

Once there was a fair in a nearby town, which was supposed to be fun for kids. When we arrived there, only empty booths and a few people were seen. We had no choice but to go back. I knew Anna had looked forward to it since she looked so excited before going. When Randy explained on the way back that we could do nothing, Anna burst into tears and said, “I was just wanting to see…” I know in this rural area, there are not many amenities and events that people can enjoy conveniently. I could tell that it was indeed disappointing.

I like Anna’s straightforward way of emotional expression. Her cries remind me that childhood is innocent but can be lonely. I keep asking this question for myself, “what are the gains and losses of growing up?” Tonight, I will make a cup of coffee for myself and contemplate this question.

Little Stories from Big Writers

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Since January I have tutored a group of 2nd and 3rd grade students twice weekly in math and reading. We have fun together, writing stories, taking turns reading out loud, and playing a variety of math games. I’m not sure who looks forward to our time more…me or them? I am proud to report that all three of them made gains in both subjects based on test scores. I’m hoping that we will continue to spend regular time together next school year.

little guys

My “Little Guys” writing group

At the end of the year, I gathered the best of our writings into a short book, complete with photos and a few drawings. It was interesting to see how much their writing improved in just a few short months!

I would love to share the book with any of you who are interested. Just leave me a comment (on facebook or here on the blog) or email me. I will happily send you a pdf copy of this simple, fun little book!

 

“Blended Zine”

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This past winter both Peter and Cherisse wrote amazing poems. I helped them submit the poems to “Blended Zine,” a magazine “for teens by teens,” published by Farmington Public Library. Out of over 200 submissions of poetry, photographs, and art work, both of them had their poems accepted for publication in the latest issue of the magazine.

published poets

Proud Published Poets from Lybrook School

The library hosted a Release Party at the beginning of May, to celebrate the achievement of all of the students whose work was included in the magazine. Food was catered for the occasion. During the program, each student’s work was shown on the big screen as they were called forward and presented with a hot-off-the-presses copy of the magazine.

peter

Recognizing Peter

Peter couldn’t attend the celebration, but he and his poem were recognized during the program. A copy of his poem is at the end of this post.

cherisse

Cherisse’s Proud Family attended the release party

It was stressful for Cherisse’s family to attend an unfamiliar event in an unfamiliar setting, but how could they not celebrate her success with her? Here she is with (left to right) Audrey (cousin), Dorisha (big sister), Cherisse, Doris (mother), Dorothy (grandmother), Tom (grandfather), and Chester (father). A copy of Cherisse’s poem, celebrating her family roots, can be read is this earlier BLOG POST.

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Group Photo of published writers and artists

Congratulations to all of the teens who were included in the latest issue of Blended Zine!

We are especially proud of “our” two students. Good work Cherisse and Peter! We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

Peter’s poem is as follows:

let it all go forever

by Peter Brown

I will never find

all I left behind

the lost memory of my past

that faded away so fast

The time I was gone

was a little too long

It made me forget

It made me regret

the time I messed up

ran out of luck

and took off in the rain

left you alone in the rain

you handled all the agony

dealt with the misery

put your life back together

let it all go forever

A Rolling Party…

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We recently learned more about why so many of our Navajo friends have repeat DUIs. It has somewhat baffled us as to why Navajo who live way back on dirt roads where police never drive would choose to get in a vehicle and go for a drive rather than just staying at home to drink in relative “safety.”

party locationOne of my woman friends told me the story of her now-sober husband’s wild partying days. He had a favorite sports car that was his pride and joy. Whenever he got his hands on money, he would jump in his car, head to the nearest carryout to get some beer, and get the party rolling.

Turns out the drinking is often a moving party—someone drives to a buddy’s home and pounds on the door until the buddy comes out and gets in the car. They wander merrily along, drinking and getting silly, as they drive from home to home, packing the car full of friends who are happy to add to the stash of beer and join in the partying.

Ahhh…no wonder there are so many DUIs…the drinking more often occurs in the setting of a vehicle than it does in an anglo-style-party-at-home. This pattern also makes it much more difficult for Navajo who wish to quit drinking. They can’t merely choose to stay away from the party when the party will eventually end up at their door with friends pounding insistently and demanding that all the usual participants need to come along for the ride.

As I have said before, officers from the various police departments are reluctant to get off the main highway and drive on the dirt roads. It might seem logical that the rolling drinking parties would just drive around on the network of back roads. However, to stock up on more alcohol, they usually need to get on the highway to get to a carryout that sells more beer. That, of course, involves drunk driving on the very roads patrolled by the police.

In addition, in the midst of drunken “good ideas,” someone often decides they should drive all the way to town to recruit some buddy who is visiting friends there. With no sober mind to raise objections, the moving party is soon headed at high speed down the highway toward town. And this is when the party often turns tragic—either ending in jail time, felony DUI, or even death.

One more piece in a perplexing puzzle…

Casinos and Religion Don’t Mix

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There are a number of casinos within a few hours of here. These provide jobs to some people we know. Unfortunately, as often happens, these casinos seem to hinder more than help the people around us who are jobless and live in poverty. Far too often, we hear about money set aside for clothes or special food for the children being squandered in the casinos.

Our pastor at church occasionally reminds the congregation that we need to be trusting GOD to provide for us, not wasting money on lottery tickets or at the casino, hoping for a windfall that will provide for needs and wants.

We heard a funny story showing why religion and casinos don’t mix: there is a Navajo fellow whose job it is to repair the slot machines whenever they break down. A few of the machines weren’t working right. He ended up taking them apart to figure out the problem. Once the machines were opened up, he discovered a strange sludge gumming up the moving parts. As he started cleaning out the machine, he realized the sludge was a mixture of oil and corn pollen.

Apparently, Christians who had been playing the slots had been anointing the machine with holy oil, asking God’s favor. And, Navajo following their traditional beliefs had been anointing the same machines with corn pollen, asking their gods to give them favor at the machines.

Perhaps the Casinos should put up a big sign at the entrance: religious people go home and trust your own God(s) to provide for you!! In this case it would save both the casinos and the gamblers money!

Bus Adventures

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A Navajo friend of ours is living in Albuquerque, working hard to finish a degree in Early Childhood Education. Because she hasn’t been able to take care of her elderly mother, take a full load of classes, and work a job, “Sharon” had to quit her job. This meant she eventually quit making payments on her car and had to sell it.

bus oneSharon told me the story of her bus adventures. After giving up her car, she realized that the college is too far from their apartment for her to walk to class. For a few days she was in a panic. She might be able to get an occasional ride from a classmate, but that wouldn’t work every day.

Then she remembered seeing city busses occasionally driving down the major road a few blocks from where she lives. One day, she gathered her courage and some money and walked to a bus stop.

Sharon had never ridden the busses before. She had no idea where the routes ran. She knew there were bus stops on the college campus, but she didn’t know if those were on the same route as the busses running near her home.

Sharon spent the day riding busses, trying to figure out where they ran, working hard to guess when and where to get off to switch to another bus. Eventually she figured out what busses to take to get between home and college. Over the next few days, she learned by trial and error when each bus got to the bus stops she needed.

bus twoSharon explained this process to me in a very matter-of-fact way. She was rightfully proud of how much work she had done to solve her transportation problem.

I didn’t have the heart to ask her why she hadn’t gone on-line to figure out the bus routes. I didn’t mention that she could probably have picked up bus route brochures at her college. I simply congratulated her on her perseverance and her courage in taking a bus adventure!

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