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Speaking Truth To Power for a Real Native Free Press

My Great-Aunt Nancy Bighorse

I posted this today on Facebook and Twitter:

Thank you to everyone for your support. It's scary--speaking truth to power--but it is the only path that I can do. I'm...
Posted by Jacqueline Keeler on Monday, April 11, 2016

And it's true. It is scary. But I am a Kinyaa'aanii and this is what we do. Kinyaa'aanii is my Navajo clan and the name means Towering House People. It is said by some to be the original clan of our people. We were created from the heart of Changing Woman (Asdzáá nádleehé) and are often called the "leadership clan." Many a time my shimá sání (my maternal grandmother from whom I get my clan) would boldly lead the charge in her community--demanding safe drinking water and schools. Her voice was strong and forthright in chapter house meetings. Coming from a matrilineal culture where women owned the land and animals (these things passed down matrilineally through the clan) there was no sense of "knowing her place" as an inferior sex. Certainly, there was a collaborative spirit to the work that needed to be done (and stories like the one about the separation of men and women emphasize how important it is that we work together) but this did not mean Diné women were nothing less than direct in how they addressed the needs of their community and fearless about speaking out. We are a people who do not live cheek by jowl with one another and so our people, basically a ranching people, were not as constrained towards each other as those who lived in village situations. There is an independence in the land and a self-confidence that comes from being the one who raises the sheep and owns them, too.  I've been told that to get a divorce all a woman had to do was put her husband's saddle outside the hogan door. He didn't own the horse--she did. He didn't own the children, they were of her clan. He did own his jewelry and his saddle, though.

Take some time and view these Youtube videos (Bitter Water Clip 3, Bitter Water Clip 4--love this one and Bitter Water Clip 7) of traditional Navajo women who resisted Relocation from their herds and their way of life. You will see women who are far more outspoken and self-possessed (and yes, proud) than perhaps white women of their generation were. These are the women who made me who I am: Ákót'éego diné asdzáán nishłį́.

Jacqueline Keeler
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