My goal in life, my goal as a mother, a Diné mother is to instill in my little one, the importance of self-identification. Autumn, at age 6 now, is starting to grow into her own skin, her own identity, and that identity includes being Navajo (Diné). The other day she randomly says: deiji’éé’, I’m confused and I ask her what she said: “shirt Mommy, it means shirt.” I feel like now is a good time in terms of age and understanding to start introducing Navajo traditions and culture into this tiny, beautiful human. As she begins to grow and later evolve into a young woman, I want her to always know her strong, culturally rich background; American Indian and African American. I want her to know her clan, speak some of the language, know the history, culture, and traditions.
I want her to respect and stand up for her history.I’m not going to know everything, and I don’t, but I do have my experiences as a child, my family, and my friends. Most of all, I want her to grow up being proud of who she is, I want her to stand tall, resilient, confident, and humbled.
With that said, tomorrow is the Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017, and while many have traveled far, those still in search of eye protection and the anticipation throughout the public continues to increase, Autumn and I will be home. For a few weeks, I put a lot of thought into how to I would approach this with Autumn. She’s still very young and she may be confused, unaware of what’s going on, or she may just overall not care. I wanted this to be a teaching moment, a defining moment in her growth. I was stuck for a few days and then I pictured myself asking my grandmother and one word stuck in my head; "Yiiya.” I took that as a sign and I knew what I had to do. I truly feel like she spoke to me.
In the Navajo tradition, it is believed that the sun dies during a solar eclipse. This occurrence is an intimate/private moment between the sun, moon and the earth. In accordance with Diné teachings, one must not look at the eclipse; one must respect the Eclipse by maintaining stillness in their homes and not partake in food or water during the eclipse. This is a time of rejuvenation, a time of prayer and new beginnings.
So tomorrow, as Autumn and I partake in our stillness, I will be reading “Sunpainters: Eclipse of the Navajo Sun” by Baje Whitethorne. I look forward to this beautiful moment between her and I.
Summary: In Sunpainters; Ecelipse of the Navajo Sun, Baje shoes childen, adults, too, the Navajo way of stillness and prayer at times when Mother Earth causes the ground to tremor as she raises her voice or cracks her back…Baje wishes to pass on Navajo culture and tradition. “We ask permission and give thanks for everything we take from Mother Earth,” “and this is important to know.”