Has Diné Blessing Way faded?

April 11, 2013

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R ecently I was confronted with many questions about Diné traditional cultural changes within the last 20 years. This particular question stands out in my mind: "Is Diné Blessing Way fading away or has faded away?"

I was confronted with this question too, about 30 years ago, when I started learning the Diné Blessing Way ceremony. In fact, this was one of the reasons why I committed myself in learning the Diné Blessing Way. So it will never fade or disappear from our land amidst our Diné sacred mountains.

Now, this question re-appeared in my lifetime.

I believe the Diné Blessing Way ceremony will continue and will remain with Diné people throughout future generations. The reason why I say this is, one, because I have conducted many Blessing Way ceremonies throughout our Diné land. I have met many people and I have seen changes of people's lives after they had this ceremony. And I have witnessed the urgency of individuals to overcome many problems, get healed and their harmony restored in their lives.

Second, so many young people that I have spoken to about traditional elements, majority of them are knowledgeable of their clan system and show a lot of respect toward their cultural activities. These same young people will uphold and our future protectors of our Diné culture.

Third, even many technical changes are now current on our land: cell phones, iPods, etc. I see our Diné people bounded together in maintaining our traditional culture by having Blessing Way ceremonies, and having other traditional ceremonies in their homes.

And lastly, the important information that I like to share is this: the Diné Blessing Way songs, prayers and blessing belongs to givers of life. These living elements are where life begins, and it has its own sacred spiritual and universal laws that govern them and the living. The Diné Blessing Way remains under this sacred spiritual guidance. I come to know that this is why my Diné people gives honor and respect to Diné Blessing Way of life.

We were placed between our sacred mountains as special Diné people with Blessing Way. I believe this root will remain in our way of life, in our hearts, blood, and in our sense of respect where we will never lose Diné Blessing Way and our Diné culture.

Richard Anderson Sr.
Borrego Pass, N.M.


TCRHCC receives funding for elder home

As the associate executive officer of Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation I would like to address two recent letters written to the Navajo Times referencing nursing home or long term care for our elders.

I have been an employee at Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation for 10 years.

I, like many other Navajo professionals, have moved to the Navajo Nation to spend more time with my aging parents, as well as a mindset to bring my education and experience of health care to serve my people.

I arrived in May 2003 at Tuba City, to begin my duties as a registered nurse case manager, only to discover that there were no services for elders on the Navajo Nation - specifically, skilled nursing (nursing home) or home health. These are two essential pieces to a comprehensive spectrum of quality care for a vulnerable patient group - our elders.

To make a long story short, Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation and past board of director members have kept this on their agendas, despite no funding or priorities for elder care from IHS or the federal government.

We, TCRHCC, are happy to finally have received the attention of Navajo Housing Authority. NHA has helped to fund, on the Western Agency, a start-up for a 70-90 bed nursing home on the TCRHCC campus.

This will not fund our entire nursing home but will allow us to bring architects and engineers to plan and build expanded support services to move toward phase I in our journey, to establish a complete elder care service for the Western Agency.

Many, many thanks to the Navajo Housing Authority for supporting our mission to improve the quality of life for our elders on the Navajo Nation.

Lynette June Bonar
Tuba City, Ariz.



A 'mixing together' of religions

I was deeply distressed by the following statement, which appeared on the front page under the Day of Prayer heading of the March 21 issue of the Navajo Times.

Prayer Day is actually three days of prayer, bringing together the NAC, Navajo traditional ceremony and the Christian belief.

This statement is nothing more than syncretism, a Greek term which means, "mixing together." I believe that belief systems should never be mixed.

A haphazard mixing is merely trying to make man's unfounded belief statements equal with that of God-authored statements, which can be read by anyone in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible.

My Christian beliefs are firmly founded on statements found in the Bible, the word of God. Parts of the Bible, which were authored by Moses, are almost 4,000 years old. In Genesis 12:1 we read: "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you'…12:4…So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, "I believe in the words 'The Lord had said…"

My father (soon to be 92) was trained during the 1930s as a medicine man by two well-known medicine men who were uncles. The two medicine men were together when they shared the followed statement with a 16-year trainee: "Young man, there is something which will come from the south. It is called 'azee dishhiii' (meaning medicine which is despicable). Do not get involved with it. The day will come when our people will say, "It is the traditional way which has always been ours."

That prophecy has been fulfilled: a cactus button called peyote has appeared from the south and now it is widely accepted as traditional and is rapidly diluting the traditional way of life by syncretism.

I personally witnessed this happening at Bellemont, Ariz., when my uncle Raymond Nakai ran for the chairmanship of the Navajo Tribal Council in 1960. In the same way, I was approached by the peyote leadership when I ran as a candidate for the Dineh Nation presidency in 1990. I was told the peyote people vote as a block. Raymond Nakai was elected to two terms as a result of the peyote block vote. I saw history in the making so I know what I am talking about.

Finally, a letter appearing in the same issue equated "walking the corn pollen path" with Sa'ah Naaghee Bik'eh Hozhoo. That is pure syncretism: Equating the traditional name for "One Who Walks Around Old Age Sovereign Peace Maker" – The Creator God – with the corn pollen path. That is pure blasphemy.

Tacheeni Scott
Flagstaff, Ariz.


Words from Diné in Afghanistan

I am an American soldier in the United States Army and am currently deployed in Afghanistan. I want to say to all my friends and relatives "Ya'ah'teeh".

Dinetah is a beautiful land and I tell everyone about it. I love telling my fellow soldiers about the reservation and they express interest in the Navajo people. I dispel beliefs that are embedded by popular culture and by the Internet. I tell them about the beauty of Canyon De Chelly, Window Rock, the Chuska Mountains, Crystal, N.M., and the Grand Canyon. I also tell them about my father's family land in Dilkon, Ariz. The feelings I get when I pray and the enjoyment of just being with family.

I also sigh and tell them about the plague affecting my people resulting from years of tearing up the soil. The coal mining on the Navajo Reservation, the dirty deals my people were forced to swallow, the uranium spill by Church Rock, and the loss of water resulting from the Mohave Generating Plant. They ask me why?

I tell them one word: Greed. The former Navajo Chairman and Code Talker Peter MacDonald asked, "The Navajo Nation has made millionaires all over the world, but where are the Navajo millionaires?"

Dinetah is our home. This is the land our Creator has given us, let the Biligaanas have their sacred land in Jerusalem. The Navajo people need to take care of what was given to us. Our elders always said a Navajo never digs things up because there will be a cause and effect.

The yellow ore (uranium) dug up riddles our land and emits dangerous levels of radiation causing cancer and other defects. The land between Blackhat, N.M., will never be the same again due to strip mining. The mining in Black Mesa has drained the underground aquifers and will take thousands of years to repair. Fossil fuel is not the answer; there is no long-term sustainability in it. The mining companies dug almost 40 years and now where are they?

They have left nothing but stripped mined lands, empty promises, worn bodies, and pathetic pension that people had to fight 10 years for.

We can make a change on the reservation and impact Navajo peoples lives through education and options. Green energy and self-sustainability is possible if we work together. There once was a time when the Navajo people planted corn, melons, squash, pumpkins, etc., and they had apricot trees and peach trees by the thousands and depended on no one.

There was a time when there was no diabetes or a high number of cancer cases. All this is possible if people open their hearts to understanding, respect and hozho. This all starts with compassion and a sense of community. I urge all people to communicate and speak to each other humanly, to attend meetings, ask questions, and most of all, to learn and keep learning. Take care of each other and say only good things to each other.

Sean Alvin Begaye
Afghanistan
(Hometown: Fort Defiance and Dilkon, Ariz.)

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