I was born in this beautiful state

All my life I’ve known Arizona as my home. I was born in this beautiful state and I believe, after my old age, I will become one with the earth in Arizona. I grew up in the uppermost northern corner of Arizona on the Navajo Indian reservation. It is in this remote land I learned how to become a scholar, a woman, and a warrior. 

The town I lived in is called Round Rock, or “Tse Nikani,” hole in the rock. With its population of 1,000 residents, there was no epidemic pollution or violence. The air was clean; the waters of the lake were blue and pure from any trash or other toxins. Until I was four, I lived with my older brother and grandparents in a traditional Navajo home called a hoogan nimazi. In this tiny, round home, there was no electricity or running water. In this remote environment, I learned the sacred stories, songs, and prayers. My parents allowed my grandmother and grandfather to raise us, to teach us the Navajo life. I became a scholar of the traditional ways, ways in which I would teach my grandchildren and my great-great grandchildren, ensuring that the culture would survive. 

Our small home is located in a valley surrounded by astonishing beauty and incredible views. To the east rose the Chuska Mountains. To the south lies the Chinle valley. To the west, the two monumental rocks for which our town is named, stood and intimated all others. In addition, to the north, were the remarkable mesas, splattered with apple reds and bright oranges. In all my travels, I still believe that this is the most astonishing view a person could ever see.

When I was born, my grandmother cut off my umbilical cord and buried it in the dirt, announcing my arrival and introducing me to Mother Earth. I became one with the land and took my first steps on the red sand, imprinting my soul forever to the land.

When I was eleven, I became a woman. There was a womanhood ceremony, or Kinaalda, performed for me. For four days and four nights, my entire family gathered, singing and praying for me, welcoming me into womanhood and ensuring that I understood the significance of our land and culture. It is here, on this land, which I made my Navajo puberty cake; buried in the earth over night and cooking from the flames of an open fire. It is in this way that I let Mother Earth know that I became a woman like her, and that I will one day be returned to her.

My childhood and the structure in which I grew up made me strong, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We would haul gallons of water from the water hole to our home every few days. I would chop wood every morning in order to keep our home warm and to cook. In the early morning, I would awaken and pray to the sacred Gods in the east, offering white corn pollen. After my morning prayers, I would run for miles in the mesas and valleys. When the day came to an end, I would pray to the sacred Gods in the west, in the sunset, offering yellow corn pollen and thanking them for another blessed day that has passed. The sunsets were always magnificent. As the sun lowered behind the rocks, the sky would become woven with deep purples, blood reds, and bright oranges. Soon, the sun would be completely gone and we would become blanketed with the sacred stars above.

Upon graduating high school, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my brother and grandfather and enlist in the United States Army. I knew that I was ready for this challenge, for I had been a warrior all my life. I welcomed any obstacle that lay ahead of me. The land knew my name and would protect me from any danger. Moreover, that if I were to fall, I would be welcomed home and put back in the earth with my mother.

Today, after all my travels, years of sacrificing personal freedom, and defending this sacred nation, I return home to my grandparents, my parents, and my family. However, nothing compares to returning home to this sacred land. This is my home.

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