I believe in family and friends. I grew up in rural New Mexico on the Navajo Reservation. Everyone in my community grew up much like I did; we were raised with our elders speaking our native language at home and in public. Now, when I travel to visit people in my community something is missing. The sense of community is gone. People are not interested in the community.
I am guilty of being uninterested in my community. I am a horseshoer in my community. I really don’t care to involve myself with my clients’ daily routines. I show up, trim, shoe the horse that needs attention, pack my tools up and leave. I don’t care to hear about their latest achievements or struggles. The only time I really spend time with a client is when they speak to me in my native language of Navajo.
I learned Navajo from my mother, Maria. My mother didn’t sit down with me and instruct on sentence structure, pronunciation of our language; she had a more shotgun approach: she yelled, I figured it out. Because I learned how to speak my native language from my mother I really speak like a woman, which confuses a lot of native speakers who listen to me. I often address my uncles much like a young girl would address an uncle with the Navajo word “ya’zhi’” instead of “ada’’i’.” My uncles call me stupid and laugh, but I don’t care, I really don’t live for their approval. I worry about the future when many of our fluent speakers die of old age. My grandmother is 96 and never learned how to speak English. My grandmother is the meanest woman I know, my mother being a close second, but they made me who I am today.
I constantly have unhappy clients who yell and scream at me because their horse was perfect before I trimmed their horse’s hooves, but I just smile because they don’t have the sting of mother’s wisdom and words. Recently, I spent the holidays with my childhood friends, which made me sad. A few of my friends who have children shared with me their struggles. One of their struggles was their children having speech delay problems. This really alarmed me and caused me to bring it up with others in my community. But many knew of a child with a delayed speech problem; however, they were uninterested or busy with their own problems to care about what the children in community were experiencing. I asked my mother if there were any delayed speech problem with me or my cousins when we were children. She said we never had trouble with delayed speech problems, but I don’t know, maybe we did but no one cared.
Personally, I believe the delayed speech problems are due to the loss of our language. Currently no one speaks proper Navajo or proper English in our community. When I was growing up it was strictly Navajo at home and English in school. Today, children are in “immersion” studies, which I think slows down learning. Losing something like language that shapes your life must be like growing old, all the information is fresh in your mind, but slowly becomes inactive. This is why I believe in family and friends, they are the only people who carry on our grandparents’ wisdom and words.