The Night I was Followed…

Image/Text by Lady Yazzie

It is a cool autumn day and you just had one of the best days of your life. You saw your friends who you haven’t seen in a few months. You finally had the time to do some retail therapy, actually, it was more like window shopping. However, you do find a book series for a Christmas present. And you decide to buy it before the craziness comes.

As you make your way back home, you stop at a gas station to fill up before the next 4-hour drive. The cool air is so calming, you closed your eyes for a moment to take in all the happiness you feel. As you open your eyes you notice a black car parked in front of the gas station.

You think nothing of it as you walk into the store. Once, you come out of the store your gut starts to feel funny. But you think, “Maybe I shouldn’t have drank my Dutch Bros so fast,” with a slight giggle.


The music is on blast as you continue your journey home. As you make your way up the winding road you take a look in the rear view mirror and see the black car from the gas station. You think nothing of it because you’re so deep in your own world and caught up in your joyful feeling.

All of a sudden your gut starts to feel nauseous, as you notice that car is awfully close to yours. You take your foot slightly off the gas thinking maybe they will pass you.

But that wasn’t the case… for me.

Yes, this story is real. It’s my story of the day I was followed. I can’t even begin to tell you how terrified I was that night. Luckily, I got rid of the car following me but this memory is carved into my brain forever.

But doesn’t it make you wonder…

What could have happened? Would I be another missing or murder Indigenous woman? Would my case be solved? Or would it go unsolved, like so many do. If I called the police what would they have done? Would it just be another case to be pushed to the side because I am a woman? And an Indigenous woman?

Recently the Urban Indian Health Institute released a report which provided data on the Missing and Murder Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). This data gave a snapshot of 71 urban communities in the United States. To read the full report please click here.

Gallup, and Albuquerque, NM made the Top 10 Cities with the Highest Number of MMIWG cases. New Mexico made the Top State of the Highest Number of MMIWG cases.

Gallup, is a border town which is right next to the Navajo Reservation. Albuquerque is the largest city in NM and sits near Pueblo reservations.

These two places are where I call home.

Image from the Urban Indian Health Institute

Like I mentioned before many of these cases do go unsolved. However, they are many that are NOT in law enforcement records.

Gallup, NM sits at the Top 10 Cities with the Highest Number of MMIWG cases that are NOT in law enforcement records.

According to the report, “The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.” 

What? Only 116 were logged? This doesn’t make any sense!

In the “Challenges and Obstacles in Obtaining MMIWG Data,” which discusses how law enforcement handled their request for data of cases. To collect the data, researchers had to paid fees, which were costly in a few cases. Law Enforcement either provide some data, no data or still have the request pending. Even with the data collected, researchers found racial misclassification which caused more lack of data of how many MMIWG are missing from the data they have access too.

Image from the Urban Indian Health Institute

After, reading this report I never felt more at risk than before. I always knew to watch my surroundings, tell others where I’ll be going, what time I should be arriving, that I made it safely, give my friends and family’s phone numbers to my family before I leave. I have done what I could but that night when I was followed I felt like I didn’t do enough.

No one should feel this way…

What must we do to make this change? What are you doing to make this change? We need to be that change. We need to create awareness. We need to have a voice. We need to fight the government systems that works against us. Too long have we’ve been pushed to side. It’s time to end this. 

Resources: 
Urban Indian Health Institute http://www.uihi.org
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report http://www.uihi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Missing-and-Murdered-Indigenous-Women-and-Girls-Report.pdf 

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November is: Native American Heritage Month AND National Diabetes Month?

At first, I think who’s is in charge of these National months? Why are those two things in the same month? Then I give a small smile because it is ironic. It’s ironic because we, as Indigenous people suppose to celebrate but yet we still have to fight to live.

We came off the month of October where many people wear a headdress or over sexualize “Native American” costumes. There is not a day that goes by where we don’t fight against the oppression and racism. Now, we come into a month of a silent genocide. Don’t we even get a break?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states:

  • American Indians/Alaska Natives had the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes for both men (14.9%) and women (15.3%).
  • Prevalence varied by region, from 6.0% among Alaska Natives to 22.2% among American Indians in certain areas of the Southwest.
  • Overall, prevalence was higher among American Indians/Alaska Natives (15.1%)

According to an article Traditions and Diabetes Prevention: A Healthy Path for Native Americans by Sue McLaughlin, she states, “Less than 100 years ago, diabetes was virtually unknown in native communities. It was not until after World War II that diabetes cases began to be reported by IHS providers. In fact, a century ago, all chronic diseases, including diabetes, were practically nonexistent in Indian country,” (McLaughlin, 2010).

Diabetes is a disease. It’s a deadly disease that causes many complications and deaths to our Indigenous peoples. It’s a silent genocide with the other diseases, drug and alcohol abuse, the abductions, and murders our people face each day.

How can we change the diabetes epidemic? What must we do in order for us to lower those numbers and make Indian Country healthy? What are the small changes we can do in our lives to lower our risk? How can we care for some who has diabetes?

Most of us may have said we have to go back to traditional foods, lower our intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods. We need to exercise, drink water, and lose weight. We need to see a medical provider for treatment options when we have been diagnosed with diabetes. Maybe even see a traditional healer for other options such as which herbs to use or what ceremonies need to be done.

My challenge for you (and myself) for Native American Heritage Month is to learn about your traditional foods. What are the uses of eating corn, squash, buffalo, deer, wild onions or carrots, blue corn mush, chokecherries, or whatever your tribe ate? In what ways were those foods prepared, or stored for winter or out-of-season months?

Despite the irony of these two National Months, we must take the opportunity to learn and expand our knowledge of being an Indigenous person. We should be proud of our Indigenous Heritage every day, not just when it’s convenient for us or when a day or a month tells us it’s okay to do so. We are unique. We are different. We come from a line of resilience and strength. We are our ancestors’ greatest prayers.

Corncobs-825x550

Image from Google

Read more:

Diabetes:

  1. Basics: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html
  2. Diabetes & Youth: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetestv/youth.html
  3. Native American with Diabetes: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html
  4. Diabetes Mellitus in Native Americans: The Problem and Its Implications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK233089/
  5. Treatment & Care for Diabetes: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/
  6. Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/insulin-medicines-treatments

 

Traditional Recipes: (If you have any additional resources please comment)

  1. Native American Food: http://www.native-languages.org/food.htm
  2. The STAR School (Diné): https://firstnations.org/sites/default/files/FDPIRToolkit/NIzhonigo%20Iina%20Recipe%20Book%20EDITEDpb.pdf
  3. Traditional Foods: A Way of Life (Northern Plains) https://opi.mt.gov/Portals/182/Page%20Files/School%20Nutrition/Menu%20Planning/Traditional%20Foods%20Recipes.pdf

 

References:

Diabetes Home. (2018, February 02). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics-report/diagnosed.html

McLaughlin, S. (2010, October 02). Traditions and Diabetes Prevention: A Healthy Path for Native Americans. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2337/diaspect.23.4.272 

My Self-care Tips for World Mental Health Day

IMG_2092Today is October 10, 2018.

Today is also World Mental Health Day. #WorldMentalHealthDay

Today, I wish to share a little backstory of how I learned to take care of my mental health. I also have a few suggestions or tips that have helped me throughout the years.

I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of 18. Doctors immediately tried to put me on medication but I never took them. I never took them because it never felt right. (SIDE NOTE: I do advise to see a medical provider for your options. What I did wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Instead, I made it worst.)

It wasn’t until I was re-diagnosis at 25 when I met my (former) psychiatrist. I told her my reason why I didn’t want to take medications and she said, “Yes, you have a right to say no if you don’t feel comfortable.” She educated me on the options I had.

During our sessions I learned, I’ve been dealing with depression since I was 16. My depression came from loss, being told I’m not good enough, that my culture is wrong, feeling hopelessness, and being in two abusive relationships. But I also, found my strength and determination to overcome this illness. As years have passed I continue to carry what she taught me about self-care.

Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical well-being. We must learn how to take care of our mental health. The following are a few tips I’ve learned on this healing journey.

  1. I dance, I do Pilates, take a walk or HIIT workouts, or any exercise activity.
  2. I eat my salad. Eating fruits and veggies it’s a nice way to clean your system of toxins.
  3. I talk to supportive and positive friends and family when something is bothering me.
  4. It’s okay to say “no.” Don’t wear yourself out trying to do everything.
  5. When I don’t feel like talking to someone I write it all down. It’s a nice way to collect your thoughts and work out the issue.
  6. I keep a daily gratitude journal to write all the things I am grateful for that day. Even if it’s one thing such as, “I went for a walk today.”
  7. I drink a cup of hot tea to relax. Destress the body, it’s not good to stress.

These are just a few things that I have learned. What are your ways of self-care?

I will end with the definition of Mental Health: According to the Mental Health.gov Mental Health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

For more information about Mental Health please visit:

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health

My Memory

©Save Wiyabi Project

©Save Wiyabi Project

October is Domestic Violence awareness month.

This topic I know is very sensitive. I know it brings back painful memories for those who have been through and seen domestic violence happen first hand. Don’t worry, I understand. I understand because I have been there. Yes, I have been there. I know the feeling of hopelessness, loss, and betrayal. I remember asking myself when will this end. Somehow I manage to be brave and find my voice in 2010. I knew I had to break the cycle. Though it didn’t come easy. As I educated those around me about domestic violence, I was still living in the cycle. It took a few years for me to realize this. The day I wrote this poem/story was the day, I made a breakthrough to break the abusive cycle. That day I became stronger. I faced my demons and washed the dirt on my face… to create a different memory.

This poetry is in partnership and includes all rights to ©Save Wiyabi Project & Lady Yazzie (Asia Soleil Yazzie) in 2014.

My Memory

 

The Strong Hearts Native Helpline is a safe, anonymous and confidential service for Native Americans. Advocates are available at no cost Monday-Friday from 9:00am-5:30pm CST. 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483)

©Save Wiyabi Project & Lady Yazzie (Asia Soleil Yazzie)

Blaming doesn’t heal

IMG_2962

Darklisted Photography

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I know many people viewing this photo will think I’m hypocritical because I am topless or sexy. However, I am here to bring awareness to this issue because I was a victim of sexual violence. I did not deserve to be raped. I said, “No,” & nowhere I didn’t give my consent to him. I’m sharing this photo because I’m sick of ppl victim blaming. I’m tired of people saying it’s the victim’s fault, or that the victim had it coming because of the way she/he dresses or how they flirted with the perpetrator. I’m sick of people publicly shaming the victims when they speak up. When did it become ok to do this? When it should have never happened. Think about that before you point a finger at the victim.

I wanted to share this because of the constant blaming victims face. I remember when I was raped, I thought it was my fault. I thought it was my fault because society has taught me, condition me, to blame myself. It took me months to finally realize, it wasn’t my fault. However, the wound is still there. There’s not a day that goes by, that I don’t think about it, with special thanks to social media. Reading and hearing stories of women dealing with sexual assault trigger my memory. Though I have come a long way in my healing journey, there is much work that still needs to be done.

I started my healing process in 2012 because I found my voice in the classroom. This is how it began, one day during class, a well-respected individual started blaming a victim of sexual assault. My heart dropped. I felt anger. So many emotions came at one time, overwhelming me. And I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say. I felt like she was blaming me, even though she wasn’t talking about me. Finally, one day I spoke up. I said, “I was assaulted. 1 in 3 women will face this. How many of us went through this that are sitting in this room?” Since that day, I did everything I could to bring awareness to this issue. The next thing I knew, I found myself advocating for Save Wįyąbi Project. I started speaking at schools, conferences and even creating dances. These are the little things I’ve been doing to bring awareness and to help stop violence against women. Especially to my Indigenous sisters.

I don’t call myself “brave” for doing this. I just know, we as a community need healing. We need to stop blaming. We need to start educating. Start being creative in our own way to bring awareness to this issue. Together we can stop blaming and to stop violence against Indigenous women. Now my question to you is, how are you going to bring this change?

Quick facts:

  • 4 in 5 Indigenous women have experienced violence

  • 1 in 3 Indigenous Women will be raped

  • Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than any other ethnic group

  • Over half of Indigenous women report having experienced sexual assault

  • 55.5% of Indigenous women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes

  • 66.6% of Indigenous women experience psychological abuse

  • About 2/3 Indigenous women are assaulted by non-native men

  • 71% of sexual assault against Indigenous women knew their attacker

Resources:
https://www.csvanw.org/resources/what-is-sexual-assault/
https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/american_indian_and_alaskan_native_women__dv.pdf

 

My Body Slays

Darklisted Photography 2018_1

Darklisted Photography 2018

I smile because I love me.
I smile because I love my body.
My body slays.
I’ve endured surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, damaged ligaments, and Bell’s palsy.
I’ve been called skinny and short when I was a child,
and I’ve even been called fat.
They told me, “You have a belly! You can’t dance or model looking like that!” in my 20s.
I’ve been constantly told I’m not the “ideal,”
Even for an Indigenous woman.
And for what?
Not being dark enough, even though my skin is brown.
I’m not Diné (Navajo) enough because my figures are different.
They tell me, I have too much Pueblo because my first clan is Zuni-Red-Running-into-the-Water.
I’ve been turned away because of my tattoos, piercings and colored hair.
But still… my body slays.
I own and embrace what I have.
I am unique.
I am a Queen.
My body is my body, no else.
I’m the one in charge.
Why?
Because my body slays.
And I…
Well… I Slay in Beauty.

-Lady Yazzie ©

The poem you just read is the introduction to a series called, “My Body Slays.”

The idea came from seeing the negative effects of body image, ideals, and shaming. Body image, ideals, and shaming come from everyday interactions with family, friends, peers, books, magazines, and media. I recently took a class and one of the books we read was “Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention,” which discusses the issues of body image and how to find ways to cope with negative feedback with positive body image. It stated the media tells everyone to look a certain way from the moment we are born. We already are told that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. When girls become older, then they are told from toys and media the ideal woman’s body is to be white, blonde, tall and skinny, aka the Barbie doll. On the other hand, boys are shown through toys and media to be living G.I. Joe action figures, which is to have a fit physical body with built arms, legs and six-pack abs, (Cash and Smolak, 2012). It’s really insane that we are conditioned at a very, very young age.

Even I experienced body shaming. Yes, even me. The most recent was in 2016. I was told because I am a dancer and model, I shouldn’t have a little belly and that I looked pregnant. At the time it happened, I didn’t realize I was experiencing body shaming. I literally had my friends tell me I was being body shamed and everything started to make sense to me. I understood why I was feeling hurt, ashamed, and why I was overdoing my workouts, which resulted in my knee injury. Since then, I removed myself from this person and I am much happier and healthier.

I’ll talk more about my experience, and the experience of others, as we move through these series. Stay tuned for more on “My Body Slays.” #SlayInBeauty 

Darklisted Photography 2018_2

Darklisted Photography 2018

 

References: (Cash, T. F., & Smolak, L. (2012). Body image: a handbook of science, practice, and prevention. New York: Guilford Press.)

Photo Credit: Darklisted Photography \\ IG & Facebook: @darklistedphotography