Hearing the Call For Change

Aug 21st, 2016 | By | Category: 28-1: Volunteerism
By Carrie Billy

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Diné College’s one-act play that won top honors at this year’s AIHEC student conference in Minneapolis. The play is an example of how today’s tribal college students, grounded with a strong sense of their tribal identity, are developing the confidence, tools, and courage to shape a better world on our own land.

When the Warriors Were Called Home is a play about an annual winter event: the march of death by exposure in Gallup, New Mexico. Last year, hypothermia in or near Gallup claimed more than 20 Navajos. This year, more than eight people died. If it was anywhere else or anyone else, the students said, there would be a national outcry. In Gallup, New Mexico, it’s just an annual event. Not anymore. That group of young Diné College students held all of us accountable: the Navajo tribal government that hopes for a new solution; the State of New Mexico that cut funding; and the City of Gallup that once closed the detox center and now contributes little to its support. “We are telling the story,” they said, “Now what are you going to do?”

It was not easy for any of the students to perform their play, and it is not an easy play to watch. For all of us who are Navajo, the story is difficult, deeply personal, painful, and at times just plain uncomfortable. Yet, it is a story that we have to hear if we are ever going to change the situation.

Transformation takes courage. Changing complex generational problems requires even more resolve—and often it requires reaching out and working with others. I am proud of Diné College for giving its students the freedom to explore their creativity, even though funding is scarce and resources are lacking. I am proud of Diné College for creating a safe place for students to confront some of our most serious challenges. I am proud of Diné College—and all of the tribal colleges—for instilling in our young people the courage and, more important, the sense of responsibility to make our nation a better place.

Every winter, the howling wind cries out to our warriors. Our young people are hearing the call.

Ahéheé!

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