The Power of Elder Native Women

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By Kentaro HerderAunt Effie

Imbalance is a lack of balance or state of disequilibrium.  Native American women have come to terms with the term imbalance over the years due to historical trauma that leads to health disparities, alcoholism, and domestic violence.  With genuine hearts, Native American women are able to lead their household in ameliorating the emotional and physical detriments that infect the Native American people.  However, they had to come to realization first.  As soon as imbalance became prevalent, Native American women made it their duty to restore Hozhó (Hozhó means balance and harmony in Navajo) in their people’s way of life.

When the western civilization annihilated the cultures, traditions, and way of life of the Native American people, their negative influences began to matriculate.  These negative influences lead to families torn apart by alcoholism and domestic violence.  It is horrific to hear what were once unheard cries of Native American women who once endured domestic violence and it is heartbreaking to see the lives of those who never made it out alive.  I have become aware because I know my mom is a survivor.  With that said, I look up to the women of my people for their heart and here are two stories I hold in my memory.

Kentelli! Tii! (Kentaro! Let’s go!)” Shimásaní (my maternal grandmother) would yell walking out of the trailer.  “I’m coming!”  I was so excited because I knew it was that time again.  It was the day to make a trip and get commodity food in Tuba City.  I always thought commodity was the best.  I loved the spinach, applesauce, and what is known as government cheese but to me, that was not the highlight of the trip.  It was to see shimásaní cute and happy wheeling the cart as she put food into it.  I remember observing all the other elderly women and they all had one thing in common, happiness.  To me, their smiles were priceless.

Another experience was with an elderly lady that I helped carry her bags of flour to her vehicle.  I remember her name, Helen.  I made it to the vehicle and placed the flour in the back of her pick-up truck.  Helen was struggling to get into her vehicle.  I grabbed a crate in the back of her pick-up truck and placed it on the ground.  I picked of her wrinkled fragile hands and held her purple velvet skirt.  I said, “Ahehéé (Thank you)!”  Helen replied with, “Ahehéé shiyazhi (Thank you, my son), keep up what you’re doing in school,” in a soft sweet voice.  I walked back to the event with an uplifted spirit.

In this spirit, I have realized my relationship with Native American women is only getting stronger.  I learned from the mistakes from the successes my mother has accomplished.  With these two stories, I am able to exhibit the radiation of both happiness and love.  With as much detail these two stories embody, shows how memorable and how influencing these elderly women are.  With how I handled the situations in both stories, it displays the respect I have for them.

After many encounters with elderly women, I realized that they are deeply venerated on Dinétah (the land of our people).  As they are leaders of the household, they paved the roads we now walk on.  They are able to offer their experiences, morals, culture, and traditional values.  We were the dough.  They were the hands molding us into the best people we could be.  I understood them and they understood me.  They inspire me to become a better man for the family I will one day need to provide for.  Wow, it is the power of older women.

Ahé’héé Shimá doo Shimásani.   Thank you mom and grandmother.