Editor’s Note: This issue features a guest editorial from Gabby Begay, a WNMU Graduate student who also serves on the Board of Regents. In honor of Native American Month, she is writing a guest editorial for The Mustang, speaking about her life and experiences growing up half-Navajo.
“I grew up knowing it’s wrong to have more than you need. It means you’re not taking care of your people.” -Native American Navajo Proverb
I truly believe in this quote and have tried to live my life accordingly. My name is Gabby Begay and I am currently a grad student here at WNMU. I also serve as the Secretary/Treasurer for the WNMU Board of Regents. Governor Martinez appointed me in April of 2015. I am very humbled to be able to serve in the capacity as a regent. I am the first Navajo woman regent in the state of New Mexico. I have a long history and love for WNMU. My parents both attended school here and met. The rest is history, and 25 years later they are still going strong. My mom would frequently take me to class with her and I visited my grandmother often, as she worked in Miller Library. She retired this year with 42 years of dedication to WNMU. I can definitely say that we are a Mustang family and WNMU is near and dear to our hearts.
My mom is Hispanic and my father is Navajo, which makes me half Hispanic, and half Navajo. I am extremely fortunate that my parents did an incredible job exposing me to both cultures. My grandparents were also vital in teaching me about my culture. I grew up being able to see the traditions of both cultures. My Navajo culture is exceptionally unique because many ceremonies and traditions are dying out. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, I would like to share my experience with two ceremonies that I celebrated in my life. The first of these I had was the Laughing ceremony, which is when the baby has its first real laugh. The person who makes the baby laughs must throw a party, invite family and friends, and give out numerous treats. The baby is dressed in turquoise jewelry, and is part of the process of handing out gifts to the guests. This symbolizes that the child be a kind and generous person.
The other ceremony is called the Kinaalda, and is celebrated when a young lady enters womanhood. It spans over 4 days and really tests the young woman. You must run every day, 3 times a day, towards the East and each time further, which symbolizes how far the young woman will go in life. There are also other parts of ceremony that are crucial to the whole process but I will not mention because only certain people are invited to take part in these parts of the ceremony.
I have never really been offended with typical stereotypes of Native Americans. One thing that does bother me is being referred to as an “Indian.” We are NATIVE AMERICANS. I have always been exposed to my culture, but now as an adult I have come to truly appreciate it. I am currently taking a class in the history of Contemporary Native Americans, which has led me to appreciate it even more.
I want people to realize the impact that Native Americans have made in society. Native Americans have endured hardships and injustices but continue to persevere. They have laid the path and foundation for future Native Americans to not experience injustices and hardships. So, please take the time to cherish Native American culture and what we contribute to American society.