Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Little sister doing big things

I have one sibling. Alisha Murphy is my younger sister by a year. If you were to see us next to each other, you probably wouldn't say we're related. She's tall, thin and has a lot more hair than I do. I'm bigger and I can grow a set of fabulous nails that she can only dream about.


We were automatic best friends. Me and Lisha did everything together. She actually flew through some milestones a little faster than normal because she was always hanging around with me and doing the same things at the same time that I was. At a year younger, she learned to ride a bike without training wheels and the elementary school volleyball coach made an exception and allowed her on the team at the same time I started because we were inseparable.

In school I guess I was always the smart one who was student of the month every year and I joined the Gifted and Talented program as soon as I was old enough. My sister received her academic awards a little less often and joined the gifted program later than I did.

For college I went to Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M. and she went to New Mexico State University the next year in 2007. By 2008, I joined her at NMSU and graduated in 2010. She graduated in 2012. I became a journalist right out of college and she decided to go to get her masters in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. It's 1,170 miles from Las Cruces and 1,160 from our home in Crownpoint and it's a totally different place.

I know she gets homesick and it hurts me too. It was a horrible time for me to part with her at the airport and leave her in St. Louis. I had never been away from her for this long before. Even when we were at NMSU together we lived together and shared everything. My heart slowly broke that week she started packing.

She's been in St. Louis for a few months and is now in her second semester at Washington University. She hasn't gotten used to the big city yet, and says she hates it, but her grades are good and she's on track to graduating (hopefully) some time next year.

She's going farther than anyone else has in our family. We are all so proud of her and we know she can do it. I know she wants to do a lot of good things for our tribe when she's ready and I can't wait until she is.

Here's what she has to say about going to school in St. Louis:

"I matter, I belong here and I am doing this to help my tribe in the future."
Alisha Murphy: There are moments of immense pride and accomplishment where I find myself extremely grateful and proud of myself, not to mention thankful for the support and love from my family. During this time I always start off thinking of all the things Mom and Dad provided for us. I think about how much they, too, have overcome and I am so grateful to have their support. 

Then I start to think about how much I have learned and how much I grew up. Although our (yours and mine) experiences are completely different, it seems I'm still learning and following in your footsteps. You are still my role model. 

Then I start thinking of how much I want to make my family proud. 

And then I start missing home because I am physically disconnected from home. Being here in the big city is fun and there are a lot of things to do, but the feeling of unfamiliarity overwhelms the excitement of being out and about in St. Louis. This overwhelming feeling happens more often than not. 

For as long as I've been here (since August 2013), I've come to realize that being a grad student is easy because learning is fun. But being away from home is the hard part. At times I was afraid that this fear would prevent and interfere with my performance and participation in school, but it hasn't. 

Since we started school, when we were little, no matter what was going on, our parents made sure school was the most important thing. I can be homesick and tired and losing my mind but school and my school work get done no matter what. 

As for being one of the few Navajo/Native students here at Washington University in St. Louis, every day is different. For example today, I was the only person to answer questions about tribes. 

Coming here I did not realize I would be one of the sole representatives of the Navajo people and Native Americans, especially when discussing certain topics and social issues. I did not know I would be put in that position, but I am. So another important lesson I've learned and have accepted is that just as much as I am a student, I am also educating others, a responsibility that I am happy to do. It's sometimes frustrating but I do it. I have to tell myself every day that I matter, I belong here and I am doing this to help my tribe in the future.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2013

The year 2013 was a year of many changes for me. It also seemed like a boring year because I didn't really do anything noteworthy, I didn't travel and nothing life changing happened. I work, I go to the gym, I clean my apartment on the weekends and I go to sleep early. But here are some positive things I'd like to share.

Physically better

You probably haven't seen me but I am a big girl. I'm 5-foot, 8-inches tall and a lot of pounds overweight. That's pretty much how all of us Murphy women are; we're towering women with large frames.
I have been overweight all my life and I came to a point back in 2011 when I hit my biggest size. The largest sizes in the clothing stores were getting tight on me. I would get pains in my back if I bent down the wrong way. When I played volleyball I didn't feel comfortable moving around. When I was naked I didn't even want to see myself. 
I didn't want to live that way anymore because I wasn't comfortable. I decided to change and get healthier in 2012 and in 2013 is when I really noticed the changes.
I started out small and that's how I've been going all year. I hear it's good to go slow and steady instead of jumping on a crazy diet with powder shakes, deprivation and resulting disappointment. I've lost about 45 pounds just by eating healthier and exercising almost every day. From where I was — almost bursting out of the largest sizes in my closet — I have lost about three dress sizes. I'm more comfortable and I have more energy to do physical things. I have also built up a lot of muscle and it feels like I don't "jiggle" around anymore. I love to feel the muscles in my legs and shoulders and I'm pretty confident I could carry a small person to safety if I had to. 
Forty-five pounds is not that much when you look at those who have lost 100 pounds or 80 pounds. I don't look entirely different, but I do look thinner in my face and upper body. I had to sew in most of my clothes and throw some out because they're too big on me. Heck, the pants I'm wearing now are a little baggy. 
I feel good. My cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure are good. I've changed my diet to include more fresh vegetables and vegetarian meals. I eventually want to become a vegetarian some day. In 2013 I haven't been eating that much meat. A lot of the time I go vegetarian in addition to two meatless days out of the week. In 2014 I want to try to eliminate meat. 

Sobriety

I've been sober for more than a year! I don't plan on going out for New Years because: A. I don't have any friends and I live here by myself. B. It's a big drunken holiday and I don't drink and I don't want to be killed by a drunken driver (I have also never ever been intoxicated or out of the house for New Years celebrations. It's weird how that worked out even through the years when I was up to drinking.)
Being sober was hard at first because I'm this 20-something-year-old with loads of energy and freedom. Eventually I settled into the idea and the restriction I set for myself and accepted it fully. I don't like alcohol now and am turned off by the idea of going into a bar where it smells like drunk people. 'Drunk people smell' is an awful smell to me, even before I stopped drinking.
In my mind alcohol is a waste of money and a bunch of empty calories that I don't need. The drink has caused so many problems for so many people that I know, it's not even funny. I've seen it ruin lives and kill folks back at home on the reservation. If you haven't read a past blog post of mine about sobriety, I said that I am not going to be a stereotypical drunk Indian because I may be the only Indian that a non-Indian is ever going to see in their lifetime and I sure as hell don't want to be a drunk one. I also said it's hard to be Native and American.
*clink* Here's to another year of being sober!

Lessons in love

I went through some emotionally rough times in 2013. Plans didn't work out, things didn't go my way and the worst things that could've happen, actually happened (my own Murphy's Law). I don't need to delve into them because it'll make me sad all over again. 
Living in Las Cruces alone only made the emotional turmoil worse. Although I've lived here for over four years, I haven't been able to make good friends who I could rely on in times like these. This only pushed me closer to my family and they showed me what it's all about. I can talk to my mom, dad, sister and boyfriend about anything. They talked me through the bad times and the good times. When I was feeling blue or happy, I shared it with them and they made me feel so much better. It's even better when we see each other in person.
I believe I have grown closer to my boyfriend in 2013 too. He may be a good-timing man but I'm a good-hearted woman and that just works well together. I couldn't ask for anything else. We had adventures that showed the worst and best parts of each other and that made this whole thing we have that much more special.

Work

I believe I have gotten better at my job as a features writer. I have more confidence and have definitely taken on more responsibility and even got a well-deserved raise. I'm taking more of my own photos and making my own multimedia pieces to go along with the articles I write. I'm very proud of the pieces where I'm the writer, photographer and videographer. I see that as a gold star in my book because that means I know how to tell stories in more than one medium. Most reporters here don't do that. Heck, most journalists in the field don't do that.


I'm glad 2013 is over — in terms of the emotional ups and downs — because it only made me stronger. 
Next year looks promising and I can't wait to start planning things and fulfilling my New Years resolutions:
1. Stay sober
2. Eat about half as much meat as you did in 2013
3. Lose more weight and get healthier
4. Save about $2,000+ for something special
5. Take a well-deserved vacation
6. Do even better work at work (maybe buy yourself that ridiculously expensive camera you're been looking at)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tongues

As I'm writing this article for Native American Heritage Month about Native languages and preservation, I can't help but feel left out. I talked to five different Natives who speak five different languages and I can't say something for myself as a Navajo. 

"The language is slowing dying because the United States government wanted to kill it"

I grew up in an English-speaking household where the only fluent Navajo speaker in our little circle of cousins, aunties, uncles and my dad's parents is my grandpa, who is a reserved man who has to speak English to the rest of us because we only know English. 

I'm pretty good at speaking, reading and writing in English, it's my job after all. For me, learning another language is the most challenging thing I've ever attempted and failed at. I tried to learn Navajo in a 101 college course at the local Navajo tribal college. It was so foreign to me and with my slight lisp, half of the words were a challenge to physically pronounce. And maybe my teachers were really bad, but it was way too fast for me to comprehend anything. I dropped out of these classes by the second week. 

Then I tried to learn Spanish, German and Japanese and I failed miserably each time. I fulfilled my foreign language requirements for college with American Sign Language, which by now I have mostly forgotten.

Because I live in New Mexico, I probably know more Spanish words than Navajo words and that makes me feel sort of sad. Everyone says you must know your language because that's part of being Navajo, but I don't know my language. Sometimes fluent speakers and elders get mad at me when they find out that I don't speak Navajo. It's not just me, either, it's all the Navajos out out there who can't speak. They get mad at us like it's our fault, like we didn't want to learn Navajo.

The language is slowing dying because the United States government wanted to kill it and the Native American culture 150 to 200 years ago, during the kill-the-Indian-save-the-man era, racism and genocide is what any Indian policy was about back then. My great-grandparents and grandparents were forced to go to boarding schools where they were forbidden from speaking their language and beaten and abused if they did. By the time I came around, the Murphy family was already a mostly English-speaking family. And with no fluent speakers to learn from, it's impossible to learn a language that has been dubbed one of the hardest languages to learn.

I'm not a rare case. Many Native grandparents went through boarding schools and lost their language. Many parents, who may speak Navajo, also prefer to teach their children English because it's only in English that one can function in the current society. I've seen this, but I believe a person can be a lot smarter if they learn two languages.

So in a tribe you have a lot of nonspeakers, fluent speakers, speakers who can hold a decent conversation, listeners who only understand but can't speak, speakers who can't fully understand what's spoken to them and writers and readers who can't speak. I know it's like that at home

It is a sad fact that our language is disappearing, but I see good changes and strong strides to revitalize it. In my time in public school, there weren't any Navajo or culture classes. After I graduated from high school, they added Navajo to the curriculum.

"But I am Navajo because I can feel it. I feel different and I think differently. I came from the Mother Land and lived there my whole life and my heart is still in Crownpoint."

I got into a confrontation with a man who claimed he was from some southern New Mexico Apache tribe, a fake, unrecognized 'tribe' not related to the actual Apache tribes (I found out it was a loose-knit group of urban 'Natives' whose 'members' didn't belong to a particular tribe but they identified as 'Native,' he said). This guy went on and on about "you're not Native American unless you know your language, even if you don't have a tribal enrollment card and you don't exactly belong to a federally recognized tribe." Bogus. He asked me if I knew my language and I said no. He said, "Than you're not Navajo."

That made me furious. My voice started shaking out of anger because he totally dismissed my whole family and the fact that our blood line that can be traced to no where else but here. His words also made me feel bad because I have almost nothing to show for myself as a Navajo woman. I don't have an accent, I'm constantly mistaken for Mexican or white, I don't have the long hair and braids and I rarely wear any sort of Native jewelry or clothing (heck, I've never owned a Navajo dress or moccasins throughout my entire life — except when I was a baby).

But I am Navajo because I can feel it. I feel different and I think differently. I came from the Mother Land and lived there my whole life and my heart is still in Crownpoint. My skin is dark, my hair is black, my eyes are brown and my cheekbones are high in the sky. 

What I can do as a Navajo is spread awareness and education about my tribe and the Native American community because we are always misunderstood. I make it my business to know about current issues and news about the Native community. I have this blog. I want to make sure that everyone who gets to know me knows I'm Navajo and that they learn something from me.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Typical Hollywood Indian

I was so excited about "The Lone Ranger," weren't you? There was cousin Johnny, Comanches, horses and train explosions. The hype was almost too much to take as the due date drew near. I entered contests for free tickets and T-shirts, I kept up with all the Johnny Depp news and news about the film. I posted trailers on my Facebook page and retweeted anything Lone Range on Twitter.

It wasn't only me. I think the whole Native American community was excited about this because Johnny found a whole new respect for our people when he came out and said he's Native and was adopted into the Comanche tribe. It felt like, with his huge name, he would play Tonto as a real Indian and do justice to the Native Hollywood character. It's high time we had a huge Indian star play a huge Indian role. Johnny was it. This was it. Johnny was going to save our image with this huge summer blockbuster. It was supposed to be Tonto's movie. That's what I thought, and I think that's what a lot of us thought. Tribal leaders, including the Navajo Nation president, attended showings and the red carpet and endorsed the film. People all over the reservation were excited when the film crews came through town. 

The first scene, an Indian in a cage on a circus display, ruined everything. I knew I was wrong about the film right then and there. I was disappointed and I think we were all disappointed. Certainly, all my Native friends were disappointed. Why the hell did they have to put him in a cage?

It was stereotypical, the way Hollywood Indians always are. The main character wasn't Indian, and they never are. The tribe of Comanches were only victims to show how rotten the villain was. They didn't offer anything to the story or to the resolution of the plot. They just got massacred, as they always do. There was no justice, just a few scenes that made you feel sorry for them.

Tonto was way too similar to Captain Jack Sparrow because he had a silliness about him and he was an odd outcast. He also wasn't even part of the tribe, or at least the tribe cast him out and didn't want his help or involvement. His dialogue was also very stereotypical in that broken English, painted Hollywood Indian way.

I mean, there was no empowerment or kudos to the Comanches. The hype revolved around Johnny Depp and his character, but his character was disappointing and the film was really about and for the Lone Ranger.

I really enjoyed the film when I wasn't so disappointed in Tonto. I thought it had good action and it was a great homage to Lone Ranger.

I know it's not Johnny's fault. I still love him. He abides by writers and a script, none of which were really interested in seriously focusing on Native Americans or doing any justice to the Indian character

It seems like no one else really liked the film either. It only made $85 million the whole month of July and it cost $215 million to make. When I watched it on the day it came out, there were only 30 people in the theater. I believe "Fast and Furious 6" beat "The Lone Ranger" on the first weekend.

We're still wishing for a big powerful movie. "Avatar" got really close, but it took place on a different planet and they were blue and the hero, of course, was a white American male. I'm thinking about epic, hero films about Po'pay and the Pueblo Revolt (huge battle scenes and tales of betrayal, loyalty and add in a love story), chief Manuelito and the resistance against the Long Walk (huge battle scenes with lots of horses, tales of betrayal, honor and loyalty, and add in a love story) and Elouise Cobell against the U.S. Federal Government (dramatic courts and lawyers movie where I can see Ben Affleck playing the defending lawyer who looses in the end. And add in a love story or sex scene because, I guess, people need that to catch their attention). Ah, that will be the day. I swear Hollywood is running out of ideas. I have to write the next great film. And I will only do it for us; the right way.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Home

I come from one-horse town called Crownpoint, N.M. It's on the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation reservation. I love it. The population is about 3,000 and it has the best tasting water I have ever put to my lips. I recently went back for vacation and I wanted to share some photos with you.


This is Crownpoint from the south. I took a hike up to Teepee Rock and this is the view from there. We have clear, blue skies with some of the most jaw-dropping sunsets.

This is on the trail to Teepee Rock. It's about 3 miles and it's very beautiful and refreshing. You're never far away from the wilderness on the reservation. 

This is a shot towards the sunset. Those hills back there are where the "Howler" lives. The Howler is a creature, like Bigfoot, that has been making scary noises for everyone in Crownpoint to hear and fear.

Our rez dog, Zoey.


What did I tell you about those clear blue skies? This is the water tower by the high school.

This is the "stew stand" at night. It's an outdoor flea market - on the moon - where we get our fast food; mutton, stew and frybread.
See?
 This is during fair time.

And the fair means rodeo!

These are some rough-looking rez dogs in Crownpoint.

Sixty miles away is one of the most popular tourist sites, Chaco Canyon. It's a 10,000-year-old collection of preserved Anasazi ruins.

Inside one of the rooms.

Clear blue skies.

 Outside my house. When fire meets the sky.
The End.

Native reservations are more beautiful than you think they are. They are full of landmarks, significant to the public or to just to us. They're clean and rural and have real character.

I hope you liked my little photo tour of Crownpoint, N.M., my home.




Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Sober One


Today is my birthday! I’m in my mid-20s and ready to party! Woohoo!
First, we’ll have dinner and ...
Well, the weekend is coming up and it’s St. Patrick’s Day. So I’ll celebrate by going to dinner again, taking a hike somewhere, playing volleyball, watching a movie and ...
I don’t drink. 
I’ve been there and done that when I was in college and I left that behind me when I graduated. Bars and clubs lost their appeal very quickly. It was fun while it lasted, but then I saw how it’s really kind of useless and there’s really no need.

Why have a beer before you eat, you’re just adding more calories to your dinner?
Why have just one beer if you really can’t feel it.
Why pay $4 more dollars for a second beer and then end up paying $8 to $12 for drinks that you really don’t like?
Why pay all this money for drinks that don’t taste good? Often times, I don’t like the taste of alcohol, no mater how much sugar they put in it.
Why go to the bar, when you know you hate bars?
Why go to clubs when you know you loath clubs?
Why drink and then drive yourself home? Even if it is just one beer.

Sometime last year I decided to be sober. “Being sober” makes it sound like I was drunk for a few years, lost custody of my children, was abandoned by my family and was in jail for a while. No. I’m only 24 and I saw how alcohol can be damaging in many ways; my health, my wallet and to my culture. Not to mention, having alcohol in your system and acting a fool or killing someone would not be fun either. I wish so many people would realize that.

• My health. Lately I’ve become a calorie counter and a person who tries hard to watch what she eats. I’m trying to eat more vegetables, less breads and rice and trying to drink more water. I exercise regularly and am happy with the results I’m seeing. I have more energy and I just feel more healthy. Having alcohol, which is mostly 600+ calories per drink, just puts all that to waste. And with diabetes more common in Native Americans, I really don’t need that kind of sugar in my body because it can possibly lead to diabetes.
• My wallet. $4 for one beer?!?! No. I can drink Diet Coke all night with endless refills for $1.98. Something psychological happens to me where I feel really bad about spending more than $20 at a time (it comes from growing up on the rez in a really poor situation). I have to call my sister, my boyfriend and my mom and dad and get their opinion on if I should buy these shoes that are $40. I don’t need that kind of stress when I look at a receipt from a bar that says “you spent $30 on crappy drinks in a crappy setting and the feeling is totally over.” A couple of years ago, that always stressed me out and it bugged me all day until I finally had to tell myself, “f*ck it. I’m 21, let’s do it again next week.” Now, I’d rather spend my money in the movie theater, at the grocery store (I’m a foodie who loves to cook), on music, on clothes, on stuff for my apartment and at shows.
• My culture. I’m not another drunk Indian. There are statistics everywhere that prove Native Americans have a problem with alcohol. My family and community has been affected by alcohol in so many ways. Hell, there’s a liquor store just 15 miles from my hometown on the reservation where it’s illegal to have alcohol. Yet, there’s that single liquor store not 700 yards from the reservation border and no white people in site. Where does that liquor go? Right to the reservation where our roads are littered with beer boxes and vodka bottles. It’s sickening what it does to the whole community. I'm mad at alcohol because I’ve seen the utter hopelessness. And what does that say about my people when someone meets me for the first time and I’m drunk? What if they never see another Indian again? That’s just reaffirming the ugly stereotype that we’re redskins and drunks. Yes, "redskins" is a derogatory word.
I said it before: it’s hard to be Native and American. You have to be both, and for my Native side, I have to set a good example, otherwise, why bother calling myself Native and then trying to be proud of it? No, I’m not going to live the stereotype or be a statistic.

Also... regarding this weekend, St. Patrick’s Day. I bet the Irish think it’s offensive when we drink and get sh*tfaced on this day we’re supposed to be honoring this saint and their culture. It’s pretty much the only day we think about Ireland and Irish and when we associate it with drunk Irishmen and beer it’s not an accurate picture and it’s kind of offensive. I feel this way because I would not like people getting sh*tfaced on Native American Day and saying “we’re celebrating your culture, we’re getting drunk and wearing feathers.” I know the Irish and Natives have that stereotype and I imagine it hurts just as well.
It is hard to stay away from alcohol, especially at my age. I say “I’m sober” but not completely — I only drink during the rockabilly shows. This year I had one two weeks ago, two at the blues show a month ago. I really want to work on abstaining from it completely.

In closing: There’s so much socializing that goes on when there’s alcohol around and sometimes you feel like you’re missing out. Along the way I have lost friends. The kind of “friends” who only called on the weekends to go drinking. My dad, who has also been sober for almost a decade, has lost many friends too. One of my best friends has lost many friends when she stopped. My sister has fewer friends too. Funny how that happens.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#IdleNoMore


Like a lot of people, I had no idea what this “Idle No More” thing was. What is a Facebook page? An online petition? I had no idea what the fuss was from Canada. Then I found out it was a First Nations movement.
I read this helpful article — among others.
It spawned in Canada with the First Nations peoples. Basically the same old story unfolded: big government looking to break treaties and promises with indigenous people to hog the natural resources — fresh water in this case. First Nations said “No, we will be Idle No More, and we will stand up for our rights to protect Mother Earth.”
Canada Bill C-45 (remember that, it’s going in the history books. Native American history books at least. And you’ll be required to learn about it if you choose to take a Native history class in college — because no one is required to learn about Native history…). Basically it’s a bill that will give the Canadian government the right to break treaties and protections for many fresh bodies of water and give more control to the government over Native land, which is a violation of their Indian Act. First Nations claim to have had no say in any of this while politicians are going forth without consent or any input from the First Nations people, which C-45 will affect. Chief Teresa Spence (remember that name too) of the Attawapiskat First Nation took the lead here and demanded the politicians, particularly Prime Minister Stephen Harper, meet with First Nations to discuss Canada’s relationship with First Nations’ leaders, which seems to be a pretty poor and unfair relationship, if Canada is thinking of passing C-45.
Chief Spence started a hunger strike and that sparked Idle No More. It literally swept through social media in a flash, that’s where it’s energy and heart lies. First the indigenous people in North America and in Canada were holding protests, then it moved all the way down to my reservation in New Mexico. And by protest I mean flash mob round dances; a group dance to a round dance powwow song. It's definitely not some kind of Occupy movement and it's not violent. They are showy protests that get the public to look our way, to ask, “What are you doing? What’s this for?” And more importantly "What are we doing to the environment? How will our children live with our actions?" It’s definitely peaceful; lots of signs, dancers, drum music and it's fun. And it’s all caught on camera and uploaded to the web
Through social media, the world can’t be blind. They see the posts, the videos and the thousands of homemade signs and pictures from throughout the world. People in Australia are Idle No More, Germany is Idle No More, politicians are taking another look at what Canada is doing and taking a look at what they’re doing when it comes to indigenous peoples and Mother Earth — at least I hope that’s what politicians are doing. It’s a big publicity movement that has taken on so many issues.
Not only does Idle No More address the state of Mother Earth, it’s addressing the state of of all women. Being Idle No More is standing up for your rights as an indigenous person of earth and against the rape and mistreatment of all women. It's about protecting all mothers because without them, there would be no existence. I think it's also showing pride and support for your tribe and all Natives. 
Though it started with indigenous people, earth is everyone's responsibility and everyone can be Idle No More. Right now, it seems like it's a "Native thing," but it really involves everyone — it just started with us. I hope it becomes a global thing and something this whole nation catches on to.
In a smaller sense, it seems that all our tribes are suddenly connected through Idle No More. And since a lot of it is happening on social media I think a lot of people are getting into it, taking a virtual role and waiting for the next round dance to come to their town.

Be Idle No More. Join the movement, or at least see what’s going on all over the country and the world.
Idle No More” on Facebook
#IdleNoMore on Twitter 
Also search for Idle No More on Tumblr

Here are some videos: