If By Any Other Name

Today is the day that decides whether or not the  younger generation of Diné have a voice in the direction of our Navajo Nation government. The issue at hand being whether or not Chris Deschene’s fluency, or lack thereof, in the Navajo language should prevent him from running for the office of President.

I am astounded yet not surprised at the tactics some have chosen to try and prevent Mr. Deschene from becoming President.

For one thing, fluency is a vague term when it comes to the navajo language. There are a lot of us who are part of a generation that was raised by parents who attended boarding schools. They were encouraged to speak English only and often punished for speaking their native language. My mother speaks Navajo quite well but there are times when she struggles for a word or right phrase. She nonetheless has a good grasp of the language.

When many of those boarding school children grew up and became parents themselves, they chose to raise their children speaking English thinking that their children would fare better in the world. As parents, we try to do what we think is right for our children. While many of us weren’t raised speaking Navajo that doesn’t mean we weren’t exposed to the culture and beliefs of our people. As we’ve gotten older we realize the importance of holding on to the traditions and are trying to pass that along to our children.

I am offended when I hear our people attacking their own as not being “indian” enough. I’ve seen comments under pictures of Mr. Deschene and his wife, calling her a “white” woman. To those people who question someone’s “indian-ness”, how far are you willing to go to prove your “Native?” Are you going to start walking everywhere, wearing only moccasins and a breechcloth? Give up that house and go back to a hogan that you built with your own hands? Herd your sheep, gather up grasses…eat the bugs when they are in season? Forget hauling your water with your chiddy…. you need to move to a closer water source….get your longhouse set up..be ready for a harder life.

I didn’t think so.

Our elders knew that in some ways we had to adapt or we would cease to be. Unfortunately, some of the qualities that we have adopted in our modern culture don’t fall in line with our traditional beliefs, especially when it comes to the way our Navajo Nation government works (I use that term lightly). The words greed and corruption come up time and time again when listening to people speak or comment on the government. These very same people who are accusing Chris of not being “Navajo” enough are using tactics that are anglo in origin.

I say lets be fair and let the people speak for themselves.  Let’s not muffle their voices and take away their right to vote for the candidate they want to vote for.