- Educators concerned about Utah American Indian dropouts
- Navajo artist creates success in art, business
- Navajo rug sale supports American Indian elders
- Acquiring health care a dangerous struggle for American Indians
Rose Johnson-Tsosie / Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008
I consider myself a solo journalist. I love working by myself, being free to move in and out of a crowd, snapping my camera everywhere I go. There is something so liberating about sitting in a quiet corner scribbling notes all over a green steno pad or dodging strollers and spilled beer at a summer festival, all for the sake of getting the story.
So at 10 minutes to 7 p.m. I showed up at the Salt Lake City Library to hear author Rose Johnson-Tsosie speak. She is a Navajo writer who was adopted by a white couple at 9 months old along with her twin sister, Mary Annette.
Rose began by saying that her story is a happy one and that she was glad to share it with us that night. I settled in my seat and picked up a pencil.
For the next two hours or so (honestly I don’t know — the time flew!), Rose spoke about her life’s story. I would tell it all here because it is so full of miracles and blessings and crazy twists and turns that are more than fate but that would spoil her book, which, by the way, everybody should get a copy of.
This woman had me captivated. She was dressed in bright purple and turquoise with a necklace made of carved stone bears. She had on dark glasses to protect her lack of sight but many times that night I could have sworn she was looking straight into my own eyes. I laughed with her jokes. I smiled at her triumphs. And yes, I cried with her emotional discoveries about her own life.
I could not make my hand move quickly enough to catch every quote on paper but I got enough to be satisfied. The words of Tsosie reached through my soul and gripped my heart. I’m not sure if it was her voice that touched me so strongly or the soft smiles that tugged on her aged face every time she came to a happy part of her story. Either way, the beauty of this blind Navajo woman is priceless.
Tsosie is one amazing woman. After she spoke, the audience was told we could purchase her book outside the auditorium where she would be available to sign our copies.
Of course, I had to have the book. I love reading and although I have a very busy schedule, somehow I knew Tsosie’s book would be a very enjoyable breeze.
I waited in line rather impatiently with everyone else to get my copy signed. Suddenly it was my turn and finally I got to talk to her. Ms. Tsosie took my copy and opened it to the front cover. As she started to write, she got to the J-a-m-i- of my name and then stopped to talk to me. I had told her I was a student at the U and she was very interested in what I was studying, how far along I was in school, etc.
What touches my heart about this moment is that she couldn’t see well enough to realize she hadn’t finished spelling my name and so the book is left with “Dear Jami-.”
I couldn’t be happier about it.
Purchasing her book is rewarding. It gives me a chance to later reconnect with the same emotions I have had tonight. I encourage others to purchase this book as well.
“Finding Helen – A Navajo Miracle” by Rose Johnson-Tsosie.
This night was so good for me to branch out into the American Indian community. I felt connected to Rose’s history even though I wasn’t even remotely a part of it.
I suppose this is what being “on assignment” means. Testing the waters of another community that has been slowly integrated into my own. The Navajo culture, as well as the American Indian culture overall, is so precious. We mustn’t lose it. America, as the melting pot of the world, has a responsibility to keep Native traditions alive and to protect the rights and heritage of American Indians.
This is how I have come to feel concerning American Indians. With each new connection I make, each darker hand clasped in my own, I feel closer to appreciating the value of American Indians.
It is so good to feel like a writer again. News writing is great but I am an emotional person and I love to make connections from heart to heart. That’s my style. That’s my forte! I loved this experience and I am truly touched that hearing Rose speak meant so much to me. This was very worth missing the football game, even though it was supposedly incredible. That’s enough of that.
I’m a writer. Let’s kick it back into gear.
The 19th Annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale / Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008
“Click, click, click.”
A very old Navajo woman uses a comb made out of bone or wood to press down her weaving on a rug that is sure to be very large and very detailed. The yarn she is using is real, natural sheep’s wool. Her colors — a dark brown, sage green and merlot red — are also created naturally. The green and red are dyes made from vegetables.
I look at her hands and marvel at their visible age. How beautiful and how marvelous it must be to have hands like hers; hands that have probably led sheep through the Arizona desert sands, been the first to hold dozens of newborn babies, been chafed and cut through by harsh winds, and cradled a hundred children’s faces.
I envy these hands. They have been so well-used and worn but I know that each hand is unique to its owner and considered a connecting part of the spirit and heritage of the Navajo people.
Oh, to have hands like these.
The above experience was at the rug show. What an amazing thing to do on a Saturday morning. Well, morning that slipped silently late into the afternoon. When I decided to go I had no idea what a huge experience it would be.
The sights and sounds at the show were overwhelming. Children were darting in and out of display tables and rugs were tacked on to every available inch of wall space. I couldn’t look at all of it. I simply couldn’t take it all in. So many patterns were splashed throughout the lodge in Park City that I didn’t know where to start or which to describe or ask about first.
As I was led through the mass of people by a very kind and thoughtful volunteer, Mary Phillips, I wanted to take a picture of everything. Thankfully I contained myself long enough to be as respectful as I could be and to ask before taking pictures. I never got denied a picture even by Jay Tavare, a very well-known American Indian actor. He was gracious and animated about the whole event and I was flattered that he would take the time to talk to me.
In the middle of the day a rug weaving workshop took place. During this the process of the weaving was explained and we (the audience and I) heard from Linda Myers, Rose Johnson-Tsosie, several of the weaving elders, and others. Many of the rugs for sale were brought up to the center of the room to be shown and the stories and traditions behind each rug were talked about. It was really wonderful to see all the different patterns pointed out.
After being at the festival for 4-1/2 hours I was exhausted. My brain was on overload due to so many stimuli being presented to me at once! As I drove away from the lodge in Park City I was excited to explain to my friends and family everything that I saw and felt and captured on camera. I suppose this is how it should feel after every experience.
Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008
Yesterday I wrote about the rug show. Today I would like to follow-up with that.
I don’t mean to sound rosy and bright and shiny all over. I don’t mean to gush about every event I attend and every person I meet while working on this American Indian beat. However, there is nothing left to do but have excitement and wonderment and awe and inspiration spilling all over!
I have been lucky with this story because the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met have all had a wonderful effect on me. I’ve been impressed with everything going on that I have no room to be critical or disappointed. But since when does the world need more criticism or disappointment, anyway?
At the rug show I was treated with the utmost respect. I was given a press packet, a personal tour guide, allowed to take photographs and to get close to people who may have been reserved under normal circumstances. Maybe I was spoiled because the people of the Adopt-An-Elder Program were happy to give a student some real-world experience. In fact, I think I was. I think that those ridiculously friendly people were eager to help a student get a story, and get a good one. At any rate they were so open and friendly and eager to please me.
Well maybe in the real field things won’t be so easy. But this time they were and I recognize that I am blessed to have been given this treatment. I felt like a writer. I felt like a reporter. And I wanted to share my story again and again and again because of it. This is what I plan on my life being like. I know I am capable of writing a good piece and for as long as I can remember I desired the chance to have a voice in this big world. This must be the beginning.
I have participated in the Days of ’47 Royalty Pageant for two years. Before the actual pageant takes place, a preliminary judging is required in which a panel of judges asks you some questions based on the information provided on your application. Each time I have participated, the same question has been posed. It goes something like this, “You say you plan on entering the field of journalism. Do you feel that the media today portray a correct view on current issues? How do you feel about this?”
Each time I’ve answered the best I can and have said something like, I know that today’s media can hold bias, especially in its coverage of particular stories. But I also know that when it comes down to the fiber of it, journalists are people. People who hold individual values and beliefs and frequently portray these values/beliefs in various ways. However, I believe in a basic, good nature of man, and that what the world needs to get the stories straight is a few good journalists who listen to their inner voices and seek out the truth. There are more journalists like me who love to keep facts as facts. And we will do all we can to make this world a better place by being better informed.
Does it sound a little cheesy? Well I will admit it is a little cheesy but that’s how beauty pageants (er, scholarship programs) operate. We dramatize a little to get our point across. But it does have so much truth to it. I want to look for the true nature of any person, cause, or belief. I love to see ordinary people do extraordinary things.
This Adopt-An-Elder Program is an extraordinary thing! It was started by one impressed woman who thought that the idea of Navajo elders selling their work to maintain their independent life was inspiring and worthy of supporting.
This is the kind of story that stays with the reader for the rest of their lives. And even if it isn’t my words that spark action, I hope the people simply become more informed by what I have to say and later using that information. That’s good enough.
I consider myself a multimedia journalist because I am most comfortable behind a camera. When I graduated from Woods Cross High School in 2006, my parents gave me a Canon Rebel XT and since then I’ve been snapping the shutter daily.
I am a student at the University of Utah working on my third year. When I graduate I hope to have an exciting career planned out for me.
My dreams include writing a series of children’s books or one really fantastic novel. Through studying news writing and creative writing, I am learning to be a better, stronger writer and I know good things lie ahead of me.
My life has always been entertaining so I feel I should share the laughter that echoes around me.
I love traveling, painting, photography, music and, of course, my two grown-up puppies Meg and Clare.