Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dogs

There was a non-Native guy who started asking questions about the Native group of NMSU that was hosting a car wash. Group members gave him info and told him they were raising money for their annual American Indian Week.
He was familiar with the event and said he loved Tatonka Means’ comedy performance from last year. He especially loved the part about the “rez puppies or the rez dogs.”
“I travel a lot for work and sometimes I drive past the reservation,” he said. “We have been thinking of getting a dog. Where can I get a ‘rez dog?’”
“Just go to the rez and pick one up,” was someone’s response.
Group members were totally confused and tickled by this question and when I heard about this, I thought it was complete comedy. I don’t know whether this guy thought a ‘rez dog’ was a special breed of canine, or he felt sorry for their situation and wanted to rescue one.
'Rez dogs' in Crownpoint, N.M. Navajo reservation.

‘Rez dogs’ are mix breed dogs that are most times unfortunate enough to be born on a Native reservation. They are of the Bad and Mean Behavior Clan, born for the Starving and Skinny Clan, their maternal grandparents are the Warrior’s Friends Clan and their paternal grandparents are of the Protector Clan (not actual clans).
I wrote a story a few years ago about the ‘rez dog’ situation (unfortunately the archive is gone, but one website picked it up, here) I wrote about two women who save dogs and puppies from the reservation and take them to no-kill shelters out of the reservation and even out of state. Then I went on to say that animal control euthanizes 80 percent of the animals they catch — most of which are dogs. My original lede was cut, but it read something like, “A big black dogs lies, bloated and inanimate near a busy intersection where an outdoor flea market meets an elementary school.”
Every year someone writes a story about the ‘rez dog’ situation. A recent one that I read said that the Navajo Nation once again cut funding for animal control and now they don’t have enough money to perform euthanasia, allegedly. That means they cut animal control staff from 6 to 5 for the whole Navajo reservation, which is about 27,000 square miles.
Dogs pretty much run wild on our reservation and when they die, no one comes to claim the bodies on the side of the road because other starving dogs get to them first. Some people make their dogs really mean and have 6 or 10 of them in their yard. Strays roam about the grocery store and flea market picking up scraps.
My dog Kobie was a very good dog, and there are a lot of those and good owners on the reservation too but there are just so many dogs, we can’t take care of them all.
Kiko is our other dog. We found her when she was a stray puppy. She was muddy and stinky and we just couldn't turn the other cheek.
Kiko and Kobie are standing at the top of a mesa overlooking Crownpoint.

Kobie was a very good dog.

Kobie came from our neighbor who got rid of the other puppies. Spaying and neutering is not very common — though it certainly is very cheap and sometimes free — and there are a lot of people who ‘get rid’ of unwanted puppies and kittens.
This frustrates me too. In the Navajo way, every living and nonliving thing on Mother Earth is to be respected. Most of that was lost during assimilation. I have no idea where the dog got it’s bad rap. They are expected to protect our property but are not considered to be pets and are not allowed in the house.
I don’t see how this kind of abuse and neglect can be as big a problem as it is now and they still cut funding. What are they using now, bullets and boot heels? Or nothing at all?

That is why I always say and advise, "don't get a $500 purebred, get a 'rez dog.'"
Zoey is new to the family. She was a stray 'rez puppy' and now she's our 'rez puppy.'

Also, this is our cat Kitty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kill them Redskins! Yeah! High-five!

It seems like this subject came up a few times just this week.  Native mascots in sports. Read one story here.
In that story a Native activist, David Narcomey, explains why these mascots, or minstrel shows, are an offensive gesture to Natives. He says they promote low self-esteem and low self-image among the Native population while promoting racism, cultural discrimination and religious discrimination.
He says some tribes endorse the use of their images and names in sports teams, and Natives in general don’t mind the reference because; there is a lot of money involved; they choose to simply stay out of the controversy; there is no awareness; or they really don’t care at all.
“Cool your heels,” says a person who wrote a response to Narcomey and this story. This writer says that Native mascots should stay because they are a strong tribute to Native history, culture and image. These mascots show how proud and strong Natives were in a respectful manner. By having them on the field they are helping keep the historic culture alive. It also puts Natives in a mystical spotlight and keeps their memory alive.
Apparently he gives himself the authority to speak on such issues and uses “us” in his letter because he is 1/64 Cherokee.
He may need reminding from the football field that he “is” Native and there are still Natives in this country. But I don’t. I am 4/4 Navajo and so are all my family members as far as my memory is concerned.
Mascots like these only make me feel like I am dead and we were totally defeated; like they can use our image, our feathers, our weapons, our dances and our tradition any way they please.
Sure, I was a Warrior in elementary school, but 99.5 percent of the school population was Navajo, and our mascot had the right image with the correct Navajo symbols of protection and bravery. We didn’t dress some fool up to parade around the court or field in mock attire. We were real Warriors with 100 percent of our ancestry running through our veins. Our Warrior was nothing like these cliché mascots with their fluorescent feathers, fake deer skin and hatchet. I’m sure the eastern tribes don’t like that one bit. I sure don’t.
I agree fully with Narcomey. I’m glad 60-something percent of Native mascots were removed from high schools and some colleges, but they all need to go.
Boy, you just wait until Halloween comes around and I see white chicks wearing raunchy Indian costumes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For Indians, By Indians

My good professor, Dr. Pepion, the one I earned my American Indian Studies minor from at NMSU, is heading a research study. The research will identify sources of strength that Native students use to get them through college. Read the story here.
Seeing as how I was one of the older, and probably the only former student at the first meeting on Monday, I’m a special case, he said. I’m taking part in the study and it makes me feel good.
We’re trying to figure out how universities can keep Native American students enrolled. And to all of our knowledge, this is the first ever study of its kind that will be shared with other universities when it’s ready in a few months.
Most of the researchers are Native and all of the “subjects” are Native.  Maybe this will actually make a change in the system because all other studies that were done have made no particular impact because they can only tell us is what’s wrong so people can throw more money at some program or other. We are trying to figure out what we’re doing, or did, right.
Each student will share their college experience through a series of questions and meetings. Mine happened like this:

My family had a medicine man do a protection ceremony for me. Then I started my freshman year at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas. I cried pretty hard when my parents dropped me off at my dormitory and left. I knew I was the only one along with one friend from Crownpoint.
Coming from the reservation where 99 percent of my peers are Navajo made Las Vegas very strange and cold. It wasn’t my home and it wasn’t comfortable. Everyone was so different, like the TV came to life and swallowed me.
The Native American Club saved us. There, we could visit other Natives, build relationships with each other and find so much comedy in all the little things we did together. We even went to the San Felipe Casino for a Navajo comedy show by James and Ernie and the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque together.
I later found journalism through the American Indian Journalism Institute – and it was a life changer. I transferred to NMSU for the journalism major and my sister’s network of Native friends and peers became mine. The American Indian Program will never be as friendly and laid back as the Native American Club in Las Vegas though – there was such an awesome family feel in Las Vegas that NMSU can’t grasp behind all the bureaucracy.
I started to see New Mexico as my home, not just the reservation anymore. I’ve been to so many places and talked to so many people as a journalist and it has changed my mind about the world.
I also had a very strong personal drive to finish college and be the first in my family to graduate from college. I’ve always wanted to make my parents proud and be a good representative for my tribe whenever I found myself being the “only Native,” which is often. I don’t know what my parents did right – I asked them and they don’t know what they did right either, but they did a good job.
Now I am the first Native writer on the Sun-News staff in 25 years, according to Judy, the HR person. And here is my blog (I will try to post a new blog every week if not more).
So it looks like my sources of strength are first my family, my parents. Second; wanting to set a good example for my tribe and be a good representative, especially after receiving scholarships, it made me want to make their money worth it. Third; finding a Native community at my schools and eventually branching out. Then there are friends and the experiences of living life independently and how much better it can be once I achieve my goals.
Then there are so many reasons why Natives don’t finish school and get their diplomas and that is what we talked about during our first meeting of this project. Through four years as a college student I have seen my Native peers drop out because they became pregnant, too involved in the party scene, their school work became too much, they missed home or ran out of money.
Well, like I said, I’m happy to be a part of this research study because I want to see another research study done someday on why 99 percent of Native students are finishing college.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This weekend we remember...

My Facebook status says "Andi Murphy read a story saying 9/11 was the worst attack on U.S. soil. It's not. Remember the Indian Wars? Whole villages, towns and tribes were massacred and my last name is Murphy. All ordered by the U.S. government. Yet, Andrew Jackson's face is on the $20 bill -- like putting Hitler on our currency. Remember ALL people this weekend who were victims of terror."

It received several likes.

Something in the back of my mind told me to be just a little afraid for posting something like this because people are very patriotic especially since it has been an entire decade. About every hour this week I heard and saw something about the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

It was a terrible time. Thousands died and we are still at war. We remember that day by hosting remembrance events, bike runs, fundraisers and mass prayers.

I remember that day when I was in boarding school -- Bureau of Indian Affairs school -- and I was in the 7th grade. They took us, single file to the dormitories where we watched the towers fall in New York on a big screen TV. I was shocked and sad. I wish I could remember my view on the war back then.

Terrorists. War. Iraq. Afghanistan. Death count. Sounds familiar.

Just that one story I read on the Internet struck a cord in me: "9/11 was the worst attack on U.S. soil." What about The Long Walk of the Navajo where half of all the members of my tribe were killed. The Trail of Tears were half, even more, of the Cherokee were forced from their homes to walk impossible miles. Wounded Knee? Government issued genocide? What about the California Natives? Gold makes people crazy and makes people die. What about the death of my culture? We didn't want to be Christians in the first place and the melting pot was the worst thing that happened to this country.

And, true to my status, President Andrew Jackson was a known Indian hater and pushed such atrocities on Natives. His proud face is on our $20 bill (I think Natives should direct their efforts of getting Indian mascots out of sports to getting Jackson off our money - it's like putting Bin Laden or Hitler on the $5, very offensive).

It's not just Native Americans. What about slavery? Color oppression? Child soldiers? Human trafficking? Drug cartels? Ect.

This weekend, I am going to remember all victims of terror. We shouldn't be selfish with our sympathy and memories. Shed a tear for, and remember, all those who died shedding tears of fear and are currently living in fear all over the world.