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Top 10 ‘bread-and-butter’ stories

WINDOW ROCK

In previous years, the Navajo Times has had a top 10 list of “Best Features.” This year, I asked to curate a list of “Best of C Section.”

I did this intentionally to highlight the stories that maybe you missed, as this section isn’t the meat and bones of the paper also known as politics and sports.

This section is the bread and butter of the paper. The part of the paper where your sister who makes necklaces for fun gets featured, where your nephew shows off his science fair project and your grandmother gets to tell the stories behind all her beautiful jewelry.

The list isn’t ranked but is organized by the month of publication.

January

Navajo Times | Courtesy photo
Jacob Lee went from living in an RV and walking dogs for a little bit of gas money to working at Microsoft. He is a graduate of Ramah High School and Eastern New Mexico University.

To start us off strong is a cute little story I did on Jacob Lee called “Libraries saved my life.”

Lee sold his belongings, bought an outdated RV and drove from the Southwest to Seattle, where he now resides. He had just graduated college and didn’t really know what he wanted to do. All Lee knew was that he wanted to live in Seattle.

So he moved there with no money, no job lined up and no apartment waiting. He walked dogs to make money for food and gas. Eventually, he landed a job at Microsoft. All thanks to public libraries that provided him with a space to apply for jobs.

February

Cindy Yurth did a great story about a Bigfoot conference. Franklin Vigil and his son Dory have been investigating both Bigfoot and UFO sightings on the Jicarilla Apache reservation for eight years, and have come to the conclusion the two are closely related.

Sightings of huge, dark forms in the sky that move at incredible speeds seem to occur in the same place and around the same time as sightings of tall, furry, apelike beings.

They’ve even noticed a triangular pattern, with sightings concentrated in the north, southeast and southwest portions of the reservation.

Dory Vigil has a theory: The yetis, although they definitely stand out here on earth, are way less conspicuous than the other kinds of aliens that tend to be spotted on the rez, which Franklin described as reptile-like.

During this same month Rima Krist profiled a flutist, Jonah Littlesunday, who grew up in Gray Mountain, Arizona. His grandmother, Bessie Singer, used to listen to cassette tapes of world-renowned flutist R. Carlos Nakai while she did her weaving.

At 10 years old, Littlesunday would go to the nearby trading post where they allowed him to play with the flutes in the store. By the time he was 14, he had saved up enough money to buy his own.

Navajo Times|Rima Krisst

Jonah and Pauline Littlesunday enjoy a moment of music and the wind together in Flagstaff with snow-capped Dook’o’ooslííd in the background.

Littlesunday’s story went from devastation – at one point his family was homeless – to tenacity and resilience. He finished a national tour as a flutist this past year — including Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, where the third original copy of the Treaty of 1868 turned up — and competed on “America’s Got Talent” in 2015.

Also in February was a gem of a story about the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act by Colleen Keane.

It included the story of Ambrose Ashley, who vividly remembers the night more than six decades ago when he and his seven brothers ages 2 to 11 years old were placed in foster homes.

Their father had recently died and they were living in a partitioned-off shed in Tsé Bonito, New Mexico, with their mom.

His mom, having a hard time taking care of them on her own, didn’t come home some nights — like this one.

“We were scared, confused and crying for her,” he said, recalling how the children were abruptly awoken by strangers who told them they had to get up and go with them.

The older brothers were taken to a home on the south side of Gallup. A foster home on the north side of town awaited Ashley and his four younger brothers.

By 1978, one-third of the Alaska Native/American Indian child population had been removed from their homes and tribes and placed in non-Native foster and adoptive families, group homes and institutions.

Responding to an outcry from tribal communities across the country to bring the children home, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978.

May

Krista Allen wrote about an elder, Julia Wesley, who attended an Easter song and dance.

Special to the Times | Krista Allen

Marge Lane, driver and events coordinator for LeChee Senior Center, dances with Julia Wesley, 93, originally from Hard Rock, Ariz., during Tonalea Senior Center’s Easter Song and Dance on April 18.

Wesley enjoys dressing up for song and dance. In the article she talks about her beautiful purple outfit and the stories behind her turquoise jewelry.

Attending song-and-dances today is no longer about competing, said Wesley — it’s about feeling good, dressing up, and feeling young again.

“This one I got from Gallup two, three years ago,” Wesley said as she showed off her turquoise and silver jewelry. “My bracelet, my granddaughter who works in Texas, she bought it for me when she was working at Dilkon Health Center. She’s in the medical field.”

She continued happily, “This one I bought 30 years ago at the flea market in Tuba City. And my moccasins, I made myself 30 to 40 years ago. I’ve been wearing them for a long time. I have an older pair that I wore for quite a while. Because they were worn, I made these new ones.”

Wesley said she still makes her own clothing and can still use a sewing machine. She is currently working on a skirt that is almost complete.

June

This is one of my biggest journalism accomplishments to date. During Pride month, I created an entire Pride section.

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Sister Navi Ho performs at the 2019 Diné Pride celebration last Saturday in Window Rock.

I talked with Alray Nelson about Dine Pride, the largest Indigenous Pride event in the entire country. The theme last year was “Sacredness Before Stonewall” and it went into traditional teachings on people who are Two-Spirit.

I profiled a makeup artist, Terrell Benally, who identifies as gay. He talked about what it means to be a makeup artist and how he wants to use his platform to talk about issues facing Native communities including missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The final story was on the lovely Snow Otero who is your Miss Southwest Two-Spirit. She represents all the Two-Spirit people in southern California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and some parts of Texas and Mexico.

Otero really wanted to run for Miss Indian New Mexico but the board and past titleholders put it to a vote. They voted against her and their rulebook now states that only women who were assigned female at birth could run.

August

Cindy Yurth had been talking for a few weeks about doing a profile on the new salon in Mutton Alley, Tionne’s Salon.

Navajo Times | Cindy Yurth
Tionne Tomae cuts Tina George’s hair. The salon is at the far end of “Mutton Alley” at the Ch’ihootso Indian Market Place.

Tionne Tomae has such an amazing story that highlights the strength and perseverance of women.

The Cornfields, Arizona, native’s star was on the rise in the mid-aughts when we reported on her new line of clothing, Glascy, which she started with her then-fiancé, and their accompanying modeling agency.

Glascy had been her first new start after a budding singing career hit the skids when her manager forced her to sing through a bad case of pneumonia, permanently damaging her vocal chords.

For a while, Tomae thought she had it all: her own clothing line, a handsome fiancé, a family home in a beautiful red rock cove in Cornfields.

Then it all came crashing down. Again.

“I discovered my fiancé had gotten married to someone else,” she said.

That would be crushing enough for most women, but then he rubbed salt into the wound.

“He wanted me to give up half of my half of the business to his wife,” she recounted. “I said, ‘I don’t roll that way. You can have it all.’”

It was a satisfyingly dramatic exit, but Tomae had no idea what she was going to do next. Then her father died, and she got really sick, and ended up gaining back most of the weight she had painstakingly lost when she had started Glascy.

In desperation, she picked up her old cosmetology license and started cutting hair.

Now, she owns her own salon.

November

Ruth Kawano married into a Japanese family and in this piece talked about the first trip she ever made to Japan with her husband Kenji Kawano.

Ruth talked about the anxiety she felt about meeting Kenji’s family and the guilt she had because Kenji hadn’t gone back home in seven years.

Ultimately, his family was accepting and welcoming. Over the past two decades, Ruth has made multiple trips to Japan.

She talks about what business practices the Navajo people could adopt from Japanese businesses and what she loves about the country.

Her firsthand experience makes this piece truly special.

December

Arlyssa Becenti wrote an article about the drag show that happened at the Navajo Nation Museum to raise money for scholarships. While this wasn’t the first drag show on our rez, it was the first at the museum.

Navajo Times | Arlyssa Becenti
Paige Smith performs during the Diné Pride drag show benefit at the Navajo Nation Museum last weekend.

Paige Smith slowly sashayed out to the stage, lip-synching to the Weather Girls’ “Dear Santa (Bring me a Man this Christmas).” She wore a large black frilly outfit embellished with ornaments and, removing this frock, revealed her glittery, body-hugging dress.

She was the third performer behind the Blackout Group ABQ and Chanel Ticey during Saturday night’s Diné Pride Red and Turquoise Drag Show held at the Navajo Nation Museum. The show was the first time that Smith’s mom and sister saw her perform.

This is definitely a fun piece to read and gives a glimpse into the world of drag.

This concludes the “Best of C” list. I hope this inspires you all to read more stories from C-Section, where you can find the heart and light of the paper.


About The Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah

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