Indigenous Heritage Month
Hello ISD Community:
My home state is Arizona, a state with twenty-two different indigenous populations. To the northeast part of the state lies the Navajo Nation. It straddles the four corners, the place where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico meet. The Navajo also identify as Diné, and here is an elder and historian explaining the meaning of Diné.
In previous celebrations of Indigenous American month, I examined the clash of indigenous cultures and European colonizers. And while this topic of conflict requires continuous examination, I want to purposely shift focus away from that topic, expressly to avoid reinforcing the stereotype of an oppressed people. The hard and endless work of decolonizing the mind and separating indigeneity from the single story of survivors of atrocity is necessary work. But what is also necessary work is sharing the vision of an indigenous culture that in the face of hardship, colonization, and systemic injustice, the cultures of Arizona still flourish. The ISD library houses a collection of indigenous writers who have done the battle and live to write the tale. One such indigenous writer is Rebecca Roanhorse. Her current titles include Trail of Lightning, and she just recently published Resistance Born (Star Wars): Journey to the Stars The Rise of Skywalker. Indigenous month can be a fun plunge into a science fiction world that overlaps with indigenous mythology. I encourage you to join the celebration of indigenous month.
Roanhorse’s novel, Trail of Lightning has many reviews and is quickly earning a respected spot in the Urban Fantasy genre. Roanhorse’s character, Maggie Hoskie, is identified as “an indigenous Mad Max”, “a Dinétah monster hunter”, a “prickly heroine”, and a character who “ekes out a living by taking on contracts as a monster bounty hunter”. Roanhorse sets her novel “in Dinétah, the nation of the Navajo people, in a near-future, post-apocalyptic world.” Sea levels have risen, wiping out the east coast, and the Navajo nation survives the great waters within a walled barrier created with indigenous magic. But an awakening has happened, and the old myths of ancient monsters have come to life and are wreaking havoc one the people within the barrier.
If your penchant for celebrating indigenous month includes mystery, fun action, scarily prophetic dystopian settings, and a protagonist with a smidge of darkness, Trail of Lightning will engage your developing knowledge of indigenous culture. It’s also a fun read. Come to the library and check out this book.
A Celebration With Oley Dibba-Wadda
The Jag Journal article would not be complete without recognizing last week’s visiting author, Oley Dibba-Wadda. Her book talk with the high school students was rather galvanizing. She immediately pushed them into an uncomfortable space by doing the very thing in her culture she is supposed to NOT do. She is supposed to keep her mouth closed about a family’s dirty linen. And she did not. She is supposed to keep her mouth closed about infidelity. She did not. She is supposed to… supposed to… supposed to… And she did not.
A palpable vibe lingered in the room while Oley spoke, with sudden outbursts of dismay, audible cringes, and some hand clapping. When a school invests in celebrating reading week, and brings an author to the campus, it produces two payoffs.
The Quick Payoff: The immediate interest students have in the author’s book. They come to the library looking for the book. They want to meet the author again, get her autograph, and talk about that rich cultural moment when they saw a reflection of themselves in the author’s work.
The Long Tail Payoff: The lifelong learner and reader. The belief that their own stories matter, and maybe they too can publish. This particular payoff, sometimes, is hidden from educators. Students move on with their lives. Those who write back to us and share their successes reveal that the visiting author investment was indeed worth it.
Oley Dibba-Wadda covered the process of publishing when she spoke to the ISD students. The students expressed shock when Oley told them that she wrote her book in three weeks. One girl next to me couldn’t contain herself: “Three weeks!? I’ve been working on my book for two years!” She shook her head in dejection at her lack of completion in comparison to Oley’s fast pace. But Oley consoled the audience with the realities of publishing. The manuscript had to go through several revisions and her editor had to push her emotional boundaries before the manuscript finally reached a state where the book could be published. Oley assured her audience that writing a book is not a three week process. For Oley, it was a process filled with tears. It was labor. The kind that required constant reexamination and the courage to go deep within and make herself fully vulnerable on the page.
Thank you, Oley Dibba-Wadda, for coming to ISD. What a pleasure to hear you speak, and to see that your work resonated not only with students but with the parent community as well. Parent's couldn't prevent themselves from participating in the conversation. Oley, your work is a metaphorical kicking the door open. Your memoir gives license to other women, the license to come out from behind the burdensome taboo that tells women to keep their mouths shut, to not speak so freely, and above all, bury the things that hurt us, and to just grin and bear it. None of the parents who came to hear you speak caved in to that taboo. They raised their hands. They shared their stories. And they wanted you, Oley, to hear them.
Thank you again, Oley, for coming to ISD.