My tribe is originally from the four-corners region of the Southwest in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. The Dine' people still reside in those states; we are the largest reservation in North America.
While living off of the reservation, I have had to continuously refocus on my cultural traditions. It is easy to become sidetracked and stray off on your own beliefs because you’re exposed to so many other things. It's really hard to practice your traditions because there are no resources to house and benefit your practice. Although there are real obstacles, I have to adapt to the environment I live in while staying grounded in my cultural traditions.
I am proud to be unique and have my own traditional practices that hold powerful spiritual significance. Being able to perform these ceremonies means a lot to me, because you learn from them and they help you to stay focused. These ceremonies have special ties to my people and it's important as a Native person to continue these traditional practices. Navajos are unique because we have our own language, which has helped our country in wars, and it also helps us to communicate with our elders and holy people. Being Native means being strong in this Nation, we have to work twice as hard in academics, sports, politics and government and this separates us from the majority of the people. As a Native, I'm also looking forward to helping the Dine' Community to flourish and persevere.
Living off of the reservation, I have become an ambassador for the Dine' community, so-to-speak. Usually I'm one of the few Natives non-natives have met, so I have to educate them as to what tribe I'm from, or where my tribe lives. It's really hard to tell non-natives that I'm a regular person too. They all perceive us to be the Indian on TV (like in John Wayne movies), or they are surprised to see one of us off the reservation in school. I usually have to be aware and keep in mind the stereotypes that non-natives have of us, and keep my distance from that.
I really try to present myself as a regular person first, just a person like any other. I really don't try to put myself out there to say, 'Hey look at me, I am Native'. I'm more humble and I feel more comfortable being a part of the general community. But deep inside, I know I am more unique than the rest of the Nation. I have the knowledge to tell non-natives about my people, my culture, my religious practices, my language, and the history of my people. Knowing myself as a Dine' Native is more important than my appearance. My culture is my identity, my image as a Native person. l