Location: Tsaile, AZ, United States
- Issues Areas:
- Native/Indigenous In Empowerment, Cultural Preservation, & Tribal Sovereignty
Campus: Dine College - Tsaile, AZ
Fellowship Class Year: 2007
Blueprint: Dine Reservation Language Fair
Fellows hosted a language fair for six Dine Reservation elementary schools to inspire pride and ownership over the Navajo language in young Native-American students.
Featured Fellow Spotlight
What do you stand for?
Equality. I strongly believe that, as the Declaration of Independence states, each individual and every citizen must be granted equal rights. However, in today’s society sometimes certain rights do not extend to all individuals. I stand to protect the notion that everyone is equal and must be granted equal rights and opportunities even though that is not necessarily the case in society today.
I also stand for Native American advocacy. My biggest aim right now is expressing our sovereignty and helping others understand what it means to our people and how we can work with the government to better our society.
What inspired you to apply for the YP4 Fellowship?
When I first started at Dine College I was told that I had a voice and that I was in a position to effect change. So I ran for student government, the Associated Students of Dine College, and was elected president. I was nominated for the YP4 Fellowship by one of our advisors here who expressed to me that a lot of my beliefs not only applied to our tribe here but were really relevant on a national level. I realized that the progressive movement could provide the support and encouragement that I needed to effect social change. It was great to have not only the support and encouragement but also the security of an organization like Young People For. It’s so great to know that there are people out there that will support you and the work that do.
What have you been involved with since the YP4 Summit?
I became the president of the Associated Students of Dine College, our student government. Using this position as a starting point I became involved with a lot of other organizations such as the Greener Campus and Save the Peak. Save the Peak was dealing with a major issue—there was a mountain here in Arizona that was sacred to various tribes in our area and it was slated to be demolished in the interest of establishing a ski resort on the property. We joined forces with them to protest this action.
I am also starting the first progressive student union here on campus. Many students here believe in and want to work toward change for the betterment of our people. The progressive student union will serve as an organization that will provide support to these students on a local level. The progressive student union will serve to target ailments in our society.
What have been your major struggles and your major successes?
The major obstacle I encountered initially was getting people to listen. Here, especially on our reservation, people tend to look the other way when individuals are outspoken and working to actively promote change. We held a language fair to promote the Navajo language at a time when Arizona was trying to make English the official language. A lot of people were ready and willing to accept English as the dominant language. We had to work to get people to understand that the Navajo language is our language and should be regarded as equally important as English.
Another struggle is getting people to understand what progressive means. Often when I say “progressive,” people look at me like, “Wow, what kind of freaky cult are you in?” It takes a little bit of explaining but once people get it they are much more welcoming to the term “progressive.”
My major success has been the reactivation of our student government, the Associated Students of Dine College. It had been inactive for three or four years and this year the school gave us a $200,000 budget to work with. Using these funds we were able to make certain changes; we built a playground for the students who have children, bought new washing machines and dryers to replace the old run down ones… We looked at every aspect of our school, culturally, socially, capitally, to see where we could affect the most change. We made renovations to our recreational facilities, the gym courtyard, and not only on the main campus but our branch sites as well. We showed that with enough voice and leadership things can really change.
Who or what inspires you to do the work you do?
Recently I have been feeling stressed and burnt out. Whenever I feel this way I contemplate why I do what I do and I think of this: I believe our society can be great. I believe we can all coexist no matter what our different beliefs, our objections to each other are. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the majority or minority, Democrat or Republican, one initiative can make the difference. There are so many people out there who just need a little motivation and inspiration to make their lives better. With the student government we do the work to better the lives of students and also to bring new students to our college.
What have you learned from your work so far?
I say this to my congress all the time: “If we work together we can accomplish anything, whatever we set our minds to; anything is possible if we work together. It takes compromise, understanding, sympathy, empathy and if we truly work together we can achieve anything.” My major goal is to — within the next year — get the student body at Dine to realize that we must come together in order to make change.
Is there anything else you’d like to address?
Let’s end with this. My coworker says this to me all the time: “No excuses, let’s get it done because you know we can do it.”