Navajo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      The elderly medicine man spoke to me as he pulled out arrowheads and corn pollen from his small bag. I met his gaze and my mother told him I didn’t speak or understand Navajo. As she explained this, he placed the arrowheads toward the east, and she asked if she could say the prayers for me. He nodded and looked at me, realizing the prognostication of his parents: one day, Navajo would not know their language. It was evident. I was proof.

In fact, I could speak a bit of Navajo, though I could not carry on a conversation. There had been a time when I spoke my native tongue. I remember vividly walking toward a green trailer every day during elementary school for Navajo language class, where no one was allowed to speak English. I learned to count to a hundred, recite the days and months, and introduce myself.

As I grew older, though, my journey to the green trailer was no longer required and I did not speak Navajo at school or at home. Only in public or with relatives did I hear my mother speak Navajo. Therefore, I was left on the fringes of my language and was consumed by English from sunrise to sunset.

I knew I was an example of our disappearing language, but what the medicine man did not know was that my culture is the blood that travels through my heart, and without my culture I am nobody. If I wanted to learn my language, I had to do it.

When I looked across the living room at my mom, she was dozing off during the prayer. I tried to wake her many times, but her sleep was deep. Here, in my grandma’s home, I had an opportunity to speak my language. I began to pray beside the medicine man for my future. Starting with a low whisper, I was unsure if I was repeating the words correctly, but after 30 minutes my voice drowned out the sleepy noise in the room. That night, I felt confident in my ability to speak my language. Today, I speak it more often and am learning from my family and friends. I’m learning about my culture, and am very proud of that.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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beautifulspirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 26, 2012 at 9:04 am
So many languages are dying---the world started off speaking over 7,000 and now we're down to a measly few hundred. Reading this made me wonder my own native tongue. I'm sure many will be able to relate to this, especially kids who have parents born or came from a different land.
 
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