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"What is the greatest contribution Native culture can give as a gift to the global community"
~ Triston Black
WINDS Applicant 2021

" Kinyaa’áanii nishłį́. Tó’dích’íi’nii báshíshchíín. Bit’ahnii dashicheii. Tł’ízí’łání dashinálí. Triston Black yiníshyé. Tséhílíí’déé’ naashá. Tséninájihídi shighan dóó áadi kééhasht’í. Tsé’awé’di shiyaa hoo’a’. Navajo Preparatory Schooldi ííníshta’ nít’ee’. Tséhílíidi wódahgo Diné bi’ólta’ bidziilgo bił haz’á áadi ííníshta’ nít’ee’. K’ad Ashdla’diin nitsaago hadahwiisdzoh Hoozdoh bee wójíigo biwódahgo ólta’ bidziilgo bił haz’á áadi ííníshta’. Indigenous Education baa ííníshta’. (This is my introduction in our Navajo language and how I identify with my extended relatives far and wide.) 

When you cross paths with an elder, he or she might ask you these questions: Haash yinílyé? Háádéésh nanná? Or hash adoone’é nílí? Which means, who are you? Where are you from? Or what are your clans? In this essay, I will talk about my educational and personal journey as I would respond to that elder. I view myself as a cornstalk, as an infant I was a seed planted in the ground and nourished by my mother. As I sprout in-between the soil and the air, I knew I had a place in my family and a purpose to fulfill. For me to talk to my elders about who I am, I must recognize where I come from, and my family who set the foundation for me to grow and develop. Navajo heritage supported my growth and development at a young age and to where I am now, as well as where I am headed in life. 

Our Indigenous Knowledge Systems and ways-of-life are culturally-grounded solutions for future generations. This global pandemic shifted our language, halted our ceremonial gatherings, and isolated our people from one another. Yet, it was our songs, prayers, oral traditions, and culture that was one of many factors that continue to lead us out of hardship. My culture has taken me along ways, and has put me on a path for future generations to remember their Native culture, language, behaviors, and mindsets. 

I communicate with my traditional ways of living, ceremonial practice, and elder wisdom when I am not in the classroom. I still feel I am learning when I am not in school but gaining knowledge in a sacred way. Cultural learning at home during the pandemic has open my eyes about what is around me. Being respectful and working with the people, natural elements, animals, plants, and other life forms. It is within my clan I self-identify with the land, clan linage, and clan responsibility. As a Ni’hookáá Diyin Dine’é Bila’ Ashdla’ii, being it is a collective responsibility to be stewards of the earth as five fingered beings on Ni’ Asdzáán, Mother Earth. Traditional knowledge has shaped my journey to be humble, blessed, and fortunate. Not only is it an honor to learn such teachings, but it’s a responsibility. Paving a path for future generations and allow space for open-minded dialogue. My ultimate goal in life is living to the teaching of Sa’a̜h Naaghai Bik’eh Hózhóón, meaning to live a long and happy life. I see this in my grandparents, and I know I want to reach that goal in my life journey. Yet, I am still considered a child in life I still have a long journey ahead and I expect to go through life with purpose, integrity, and a traditional mindset. 

Our Indigenous culture is a hidden gem waiting to be welcomed and waiting for others to teach. Our culture welcomes young people, learners, and people with open arms, just like our elders who we have not seen for so long. They get happy when you greet them, say hello, or give them a hug. That is the same feeling our culture gives us and to the world. Our Indigenous culture does not turn people away, but reminds us where home is and it will always be here to love and nurture us. That is the greatest contribution our Indigenous cultures give to the people and world. We cannot let others take that away from our family, friends, and tribal people. We have to protect it, practice it, and preserve what we all cherish. In Navajo we say, Hazaad dóó hwe’ó’ool’iił dzidísingo náás dzinoosééł dooleeł, which means: your language and culture value you as a learner. That is the warmth of our Indigenous cultures.