‘Not a short life’

Diné activist packed a lot of living into 23 years

TSAILE, Ariz.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Former Diné College cross-country coach Shaun Martin (right), and his former runner look through a montage of Dallas Peterman’s photos Monday night in Tsaile, Arizona.

Dallas River Peterman was the Navajo Jack Kerouac, taking on the road and seeing the country.

With an infectious smile, Peterman would hold out his sign with the name of his destination written on it, and have his thumb out hoping to be picked up. He would hitchhike anywhere and everywhere, whether it be to California to help the state out with their drought by taking reservation water to pour into one of its rivers; to Las Vegas to meet up with the love of his life; to get home after he was finished firefighting with the Navajo Scouts or to see his daughter Blu Peterman.

It was hitchhiking that also cut short his 23-year-old life on March 1 when he was accidently hit by a semi-truck in California. On Monday, his friends, family, coaches, teammates, and classmates gathered at Diné College in Tsaile did not dwell on his accident. What they spoke of and celebrated was Peterman’s life, and his smile, and the many unforgettable moments he shared with everyone.

Diné College had a profound meaning not just to Peterman, but also to his family. Diné College is where Peterman’s parents, Anthony and Winnie Peterman, met and it is where they found out they would be having Dallas.

“This is where I met the love of my life,” said Anthony. “I took my girlfriend out on a date … We made our way home here, it was snowing … My truck started spinning out … We hit the snow bank … I took her to the clinic to get checked out … that’s when we found out Dallas would be coming into this world. That was the happiest day of my life, when I had a son coming.”

While attending Diné College, Dallas was an active student, not one to shy away from new experiences and meeting new people. His roommate, Darrell Yazzie Jr., said it was Dallas who had helped him come out of his own shell, just by watching how Dallas interacted with people and how goofy his new roommate was.

“Dallas was an inspiration to my life,” said Yazzie. “I met Dallas when I first started at Diné College … It was my first time at a dormitory. He came into the room … and he kept talking and I was like, ‘This guy talks forever.’ … Then he introduced himself to the rest of the dormitory … I thought that was odd.”

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About Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com.