Sunday, March 25, 2012

Yo! We're Here

In a city there are clashes of cultures and mixes of people. One of the smaller populations that make up a city is Native Americans. There are 1,618 Natives living in Las Cruces N.M., which has a population of 97,618, according to the 2010 census. This is a lot, probably about 2 percent.
I watched a couple of muralist from the American Indian Mural Krew spray paint a mural onto the side of a building at the Court Youth Center, 402 W. Court Ave. in Las Cruces. They are Jaque Fragua, Jemez Pueblo, and Saba, Navajo/Jemez.
The first mural honored Native women; their strength, beauty and obvious importance and necessity to their culture. It’s beautiful.

The second mural is located next to Delicia’s Café, 1413 E. Amador Ave. or the corner of Solano Drive and Amador Avenue.  This is a big one and, to me, it’s a little more impressive and it speaks a little louder. 
Graffiti art, or aerosol art, is a direct message to the community. This one is letting everyone know that Natives are still here so everyone should recognize that. Don’t speak about us or treat us like we’re extinct or something from the past.

Natives dressed in a mix of traditional and current attire. 

Below the black horse is a Spanish conquistador’s helmet. Despite the Spanish’s attempted genocide of southwest Natives, we’re still here. The arrow through the helmet equals victory. And I think the Native in yellow is giving the bird… Defiance, I like that.

The man holding the rope; he may be Pueblo. His rope has three knots in it and it’s not tied to the blue horse. Let me explain: The Pueblo Revolt, Popé’s Revolt, happened in 1680 against the Spanish. Pueblo messengers sent out ropes, all with the same number of knots on them, to all the Pueblos. Each day every Pueblo would untie a knot. When there were no more knots that meant they would all rise against the Spanish together.  Although their plan was figured out, they drove the Spanish back down south.

It’s challenging to live in the city, especially if you’re like me and you grew up on the reservation. It’s easy to get lost and forget your promise to your tribe (or the promises you write on your tribal scholarship applications).
The Navajo reservation and any city are so different. It’s different in culture, population and aesthetics – what “aesthetics?” one might ask. It’s a different country.
In Crownpoint, which is on the Navajo reservation, there is no grass or landscaping, unless it’s in front of a brand new building which will lose its green beauty in about three years. There are no leash laws or laws that say ugly houses and yards will result in fines or jail-time – if there are, they have never been enforced in my lifetime. There are no ghettos, upscale parts of town and there are no gated communities. In Crownpoint all the houses look the same and look like they cost about $10,000 to make. There are no recreation centers, there are no gyms, there are no restaurants, no pools or stores. For a tribal college town with a population of 3,000 or so, there is nothing there except: two tribal colleges, two elementary schools, one high school and a hospital.
 In the city, say, one like Las Cruces, there’s everything. They have leash laws, grass laws, noise laws and traffic. There are people of different cultures and colors. There are country clubs, parks, stores, restaurants, swimming pools, bars, clubs and movie theaters. And there are jobs.
Jobs are the No. 1 reason why Natives have moved into cities. That, and the relocation program of 1956. This happened during the termination era in Native history (1953 to 1968), one of the last times the U.S. tried to get rid of tribes, and end the obligations of a federal relationship to save tax dollars. The purpose of this relocation program was to get Natives in urban areas to further whitewash and assimilate them.  They offered job training, jobs and housing to thousands of Natives (sounds like a good deal until you find out that they only trained you for dead end jobs. Do you think they would have Native doctors and businessmen at that time? Yeah right. Not on America’s tax dollars.). That is why my mom was born in Los Angeles and we still have family there.
From the description of Crownpoint you can see there are very few jobs outside the hospital, schools and the grocery store. There is no room for park rangers, writers, chefs or musicians. So we must leave for the city. I left for school. Even though I can literally see two accredited tribal college from my front door in Crownpoint, I felt the need to leave and experience the outside.
I had to get used to all of the differences, which wasn’t that big of a deal with the support of my family and the fun of the city. I will go home someday, but not anytime soon. I love it in Las Cruces.
Yesterday my sister was at Wal-Mart in Gallup which is filled with tons of Navajos on a Saturday. She saw two women dressed very traditionally and looking very lost, like they just came off a horse and don’t speak English. She called me right away and said that it was very cool to see these women because they’re rare. Even Navajos are urban enough to think traditional Navajos, as traditional as those two women, were such a beautiful, rare sight to see.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tale O' the Murphys

Right across this blog is the name of a Native American. I'm a Murphy.
It's usually white people who ask me about my name and “how did you get that  name?” Sometimes they can't believe it and other times they're sort of rude and say, "you don't look like a Murphy." For a long time I never gave much thought to it, it's just my name. And I'm going to say this is the attitude of all Natives. That's just their name, it came from their parents, that's it.
Smith. Johnson. Freeman. Arviso. Garcia. Mitchell. Craig. Bennett. McCray. That's what roll call sounds like at any school on the Navajo reservation.
I get my name from my great-great grandfather. No, he wasn’t Irish, he attend an Indian boarding school headed by a priest named Murphy.
Around the assimilation era in Native history (1871 to 1928) many Native children were taken from their families and put into strict, military-like boarding schools. These boarding schools were always lead by religious groups. There was a lot of abuse that went on in these schools because orders were given to “kill the Indian, save the man.” Apparently being Indian was devilish and wrong. Kids were beaten for speaking their language and sexually abused by the snake priests. Here, their Native culture and language was stripped from them including their names. My great-great grandpa was given the name of the priest who was at the head of that particular boarding school in Fort Wingate, five miles east of Gallup, N.M.
From what I’ve read and have learned, Native Americans were given white man names several different ways; boarding school teachers came up with all the white names they knew and listed them on chalk boards for the children to choose; soldiers who were dealing with Native groups and families gave them names that were easier for them to say; and Natives intermarried.
There is another side of my family that intermarried. They are the Arviso’s.  
Jesus Arviso was a little Spanish boy who was captured by the Apaches and then sold to the Navajo. He became a Navajo-Spanish-English translator who negotiated with the U.S. Army and Chief Manuelito before the Long Walk about 1865. It’s believed that he was kind to the Navajos, because he grew up with them, and did what he could to relieve some of the cruelty brought on by the military. Arviso had children during the Long Walk and the Arviso children have always been light-skinned like the Spanish.
Grandma Red Hair, the medicine woman, on my dad’s side and Red Beard on my mom’s side. Makes you wonder. What’s the genealogy there? Not Irish.
Sometimes I’d like a real Native American name, the kind you hear from up north like, Eagle Bear, Ecko Hawk and Iron Eyes. But Murphy is all I know.

Thanks to:
Tim Murphy
Natalie Murphy
Oleta "Grama" Murphy
Willie "Papa" Murphy

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We Feel It In Our Hearts: Visiting Dennis Banks

About 150 people from Las Cruces, El Paso and even all the way from my little hometown, Crownpoint, came to the New Mexico State University campus to see Dennis Banks and his documentary “A Good Day to Die.” 

I wrote a story about it, here, for the Las Cruces Sun-News the next day.
I bet if Martin Luther King Jr. was still around, there would’ve been more people, but there wasn’t. I don’t think a lot of people knew who Dennis Banks was or what he did for Native Americans.
He’s our Dr. King. He’s our freedom fighter.
Banks is a cofounder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), an activist group founded in the late 1960’s by urban Natives in Minneapolis to fight the injustices they faced everyday from abusive cops, a corrupt justice system and an economy that had Natives living in ghettos and on the streets.
AIM stood up for a Native mother who had no one else to call when her son was murdered and the white killer got off with a slap on the wrist. AIM stormed and trashed the corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs building in South Dakota. They took over Wounded Knee and demanded justice for Native people.
They were "hostile" and they were rightfully angry. City cops would round up Natives in the city bars and blame them for unsolved crimes to improve their own track records. Native families lived in slums. White people stole Banks and thousands of other Native children away from their families, beat them, erased their identity and taught them how to hate themselves in boarding schools. White people stole this land and they still don’t pay rent. Yeah, they were angry – I’m shaking with this anger right now.
Banks and AIM stood up and said, “NO!” They got the world’s attention before the American press decided to give Natives 30 seconds on TV.
Banks came here last week to wake everyone up and to remind them that things are still not right and we should still be fighting for who we are and what we believe is important to us. Other people will never know what it’s like to be Native, they don’t understand us and so they don’t know how to respect us – “some of them do,” he said to me in a short interview.

We should also never forget about history. Natives, and everyone, should learn it, get angry and do something about the future. Americans sanitized history and tried to erase us, which is the “American way.”
“A Good Day to Die” is a very moving documentary about AIM and their battles. The showing and Banks’ words told me that we have to keep fighting; don’t lay down and become white, don’t let them have that. We have every right to be Native, different and strong — we have been so for millions of years — in this place where everyone is, unfortunately, made the same.
My fight is with words; with this keyboard. My American Indian studies professor, Dr. Pepion (Blackfeet), proudly introduced me to several people that night by saying, “This is Andi Murphy, she’s a Navajo journalist here; the first Native journalist in the history of this city.”
What are you fighting with?

Here is a response by my sister, Alisha Murphy. She’s a social work major, and senior at NMSU.
The event was so special. Words cannot express what I am feeling. I’m so proud to be Native. I’m so happy to have met one of the founders of the American Indian Movement. Dennis Banks changed the minds of millions during Wounded Knee II, and he especially helped Natives feel like they existed in the “white man’s world” again. He is the inspiration of change, he’s the reason Natives have a voice and he was sitting next to me, talking to me one-on-one.
This hero told me to find my own way and to change people’s lives through the social work that I do. He looked at me square in the eyes and said he supports me. I feel that he and I connected on the raw fact that helping other people gives us a sort of high, where that’s all we want in life.
Helping other people is our mission and it doesn’t matter what the situation is, we will keep fighting to help other people. I’m working with kids from impoverished homes and broken families. Dennis Banks has inspired me to keep on with my work and to be the change. Most of all he encouraged me to stand up for what I believe in, even if that does mean I stand alone.
His life and his experience is an example of Native strength, perseverance and pride even when the negative overshadows the positive. To me, being in his presence was priceless; knowing his history, I felt the energy was still there, that if I spoke to him, asked him questions, I would learn so much. And I did!
An inspiration? Yes, he was exactly that. I walked away from that dinner table feeling more confident in who I am and I felt that I could start a change.
AIM was powerful back in the 1970’s, it changed ways of thinking and it made history. History was made that night when he stepped into that auditorium and into my life. I will never forget his words and advice. We need that spark in students, we need that energy to make ourselves noticed amongst our own people and to the world. 
Too radical? No way! Dennis Banks allowed me to put my phone number in his phone and he then shook my hand. I felt so much respect for this man and it was overwhelming. Never in my life did I think I would meet such an incredible human being. He’s a symbol of standing up for what is right, taking the hard hits, standing alone for justice and that is what social work is. 
As he was talking to me (eating his salad), I looked at him straight in the eyes, soaking up everything I could from that moment I never thought I’d get. This man stands for something and he’s eating fry bread with me. He started out wanting to be treated better and then he went on wanting his people to be treated better. His willingness to connect with students tonight was excellent. At first I was intimidated and scared of what to say to this great person. Within a minute of him answering my question about his hat, I felt like I was talking to a family member. The way he spoke to me wasn’t in a way that made it seem he was above me or I was inferior to him, he spoke to me as an equal. He respected that I was a Native woman talking to him. Having a discussion and not just standing in the background. Dennis Banks’ words are truly an inspiration, his life is a symbol of change which is possible.
Dennis Banks changed my life, this is no exaggeration; actually I’m still in awe that he was in Las Cruces.
His advice to me:
“Plant your garden of change, watch over it and water it because as a leader you create change.” 
So many people thanked him for his work and so did I, but I also feel that saying it isn’t enough. His visit is a wake-up call to the next generations, asking them to stand up and take charge. What better way to thank him than to stand up now!