Back in March of this year I joined Gen7, a group for Native and Non-Native youth to come together, learn about Native cultures, help their communities, and grow as people. When I joined I had little to no idea of what lie ahead or the people I would meet. Despite this I was hopeful. Hopeful that I would meet new people, experience once in a lifetime opportunity, become more in touch with my Choctaw heritage, and learn lifelong lessons. Little did I know I would get this and so much more within just five days of being with the Gen7 group in Monument Valley.
On June 6th I woke up at 4 AM and began a ten-hour drive, with ten people I’d never met, to the Navajo Nation. The ride was awkward and uncomfortable, yet strangely exciting. When we arrived, I participated in my first ever circle, where I learned 16 new names that I will never forget. Although, it wasn't until the second day my life began to change forever. On that day I and the rest of the Youth Ambassadors listened to a Navajo woman, named Belinda Eriacho, tell us the history of her people as well as teach us to focus on the solution, not the problem. Her wise words will forever hold a place in my heart, along with the trip we took later that day to take a tour of Monument Valley. As we climbed up the rocks, rolled down the sand dunes, and got a clearer view into the Navajo culture I began to connect with the other youth ambassadors.
Over the next few days, I would have many more adventures and lessons, but most importantly I would get to know everyone’s stories. As time progressed our morning and evening circles would get longer and people opened up more. In these circles I learned bits and pieces of everyone’s trauma and was able to bring my wall down. I figured if they allowed me to see the true them I could let them see me too.
By the time I began my journey home on June 10th the Gen7 group had become my family. They had taught me to be present and vulnerable. Additionally, they made me want to make my Choctaw culture a larger part of my life. In the end, I am thankful beyond words for this experience.
The world we live in exchanges time for money. Every second is a heartbeat; an inhale; an exhale. If you could afford just a moment of your life- would you?
As I walk this road of my ancestors I stop and listen. As I look for a familiar sound in an unfamiliar place,straying away from resistance and fear of the unknown, I hear every step I make and am reminded of my substance and existence.
The bushes sway, breathe with me. As I walk by they greet me with every rustle in the wind.
Suddenly I hear jingles in the quivering leaves bringing me back to my familiar peace.
The wrath of my grandmother's shawl dancing in the wind brushes my hair across my face. I cannot see their presence but I can feel their love embrace my shoulder. If I listen closer I could hear the prayers of a million different languages looking for an answer already within.
As I walk down this unfamiliar road I am reminded I never walk alone.
If you could afford just a moment of your life to listen, would you?
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