Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘Navajo Mountain life’: Greymountain family shares memories, lifestyle

‘Navajo Mountain life’: Greymountain family shares memories, lifestyle

NAATSIS’ÁÁN, Ariz. – Carl Greymountain Jr., 14, pulled up to a local well to fill an empty tote tank in the back of his family’s old Dodge Ram Laramie SLT.

His sisters, Nikita and Adrien, 8, hopped out of the truck and helped with a hose. Their brother, Martinez, other siblings, and a niece pulled up in a newer Dodge Ram 2300.

“We’re the Greymountain family,” said Nikita, who, along with Martinez, cares for their siblings. Nikita and Martinez are the eldest of the Greymountain children.

Nikita and Martinez work in the Phoenix area and near the Mexico-United States border, respectively. They travel home to Naatsis’áán every two to three weeks to be with their siblings.

“We come home to our brothers and sisters,” Nikita said. “We’re surprised at how much they (younger siblings) know, too. We come from a family of twelve.”

Filling the tote tank

Nikita and Martinez Greymountain grew up here, and they started driving when they were younger than Carl. They call it the Navajo Mountain life. Children drive before they’re 10. It’s normal.

“But when we turned 18, we left,” Martinez said of him and Nikita. “She went to Phoenix and went to school.”

“He went closer to Mexico,” Nikita said.

“I’m about 30 minutes away from Mexico,” Martinez said. “I work on the U.S. side.”

Because Nikita’s and Martinez’s parents had to work to provide for the family, the elder two cared for the younger children.

“My mom and dad, all they did was work, and we took care of the kids,” Nikita explained.

Carl held a hose as water filled the tote tank, which smelled like dibé. Nikita and Martinez reminisced about their childhood when their mother would wake them up before sunrise to go after the sheep.

“Man, not only that,” Martinez said. “Our shoes would be covered with sheep manure.”

“We went to school smelling like sheep,” Nikita said. “You wash your clothes so many times––that sheep smell is still there.

“And that smell’s hard to get off,” Martinez added.

“But we told ourselves we’re gonna make everything happen for our brothers and sisters,” Nikita said. “Every time we come home, we are there for them.

When Braxton, one of their younger brothers, recently graduated from school, Nikita and Martinez shouted and cheered for him.

“We were just so proud of him because we didn’t have that,” Nikita said. “It’s nice to see them graduate.”

“One thing I didn’t do is bring an airhorn,” Martinez said.

Nikita added, “This is our Navajo Mountain life.”

‘Rez life’

The Naatsis’áán life can be challenging because it’s over an hour away from amenities, services, interactions, gasoline, and employment opportunities. But it’s away from the fast-paced and bustling city life where a food market might be only across the street, said Nikita.

“Like here, we have to go to Page to get food,” she said. “But my brother, Martinez, sends money home to the kids. He’ll say, ‘Here’s money for water, for food, (gasoline) for the ATVs.’

“But when we come home, we’re just happy,” she added. “We enjoy being home. I think our parents did really good raising us. They showed us hard work and how to be independent.”

Nikita and Martinez say they are now teaching their younger siblings and nieces those things.

“This is our rez life,” Nikita added. “And we’re so proud of it.”


About The Author

Krista Allen

Krista Allen is editor of the Navajo Times.

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