Meeting and an Interview with a Native American

Posted: June 13, 2011 in News and Views

By Ali Palh

I met Varian Begaye at the School of International Trainings located among the beautiful hills of Vermont. Varian Begaye, a humble, sweet, friendly, intelligent person introduced himself to me as a native American. Native American term refers to indigenous peoples lives in the United States. I thought it would be great opportunity to interview Varian and share his thoughts with readers. I requested him and he agreed to interview. I appreciate his kindness and generosity.

Varian Begaye

RightsNOW Pakistan: Could you tell us about self?

As a young boy, I nearly grew up around the Dine Bikeyah or “Navajo Reservation” in the midst of my grandparents and close relatives. Not only that I was raised in a Traditional Hogan or within the livestock on my guardians; I was brought into the highest Canyons of Red Stone Plateaus and sand dunes covered with yellow top grasses. The place I grew up was in Rock Point located in the Northwest of Arizona State. In fact, I was taken to at Rock Point Community School and this is where learned to be literate in both Dine and English Language: it was honor to learn the ways of our own people and to see the world within two aspects.

Today, I live with a lovable wife and three beautiful children in Birdsprings, Arizona that is in the southwest region of the Dine Bikeyah. And now hold a job at Little Singer Community School that is historical school named after a traditional practitioner of the Dine people in that region. As an Administrator, I overlook a program that was Grant given to five schools in the Dine Bikayah which is “Navajo Peacemaking and Safe Schools Project.”  Because of this school and a tremendous mentor, our principal Etta Shirley advised me to be a part of CONTACT 2011, she attended the program in June 2010.

RightsNOW Pakistan: What is the concept and meaning behind being Native American?

The impression of being Native American is really important, because our history is very fascinating in many ways, but tragic. The studies shown that it is an estimate range from about 10 – 90 million Native Americans were inhabited in America at the time of the European arrivals. Most of the Indigenous people of North America lived in the land many, many years before white man set foot on their soil. Studies and origin stories believed that during the ice age, they have traveled a land-bridge across the Bering Sound, from Siberia into what is now Alaska. The European had gradually migrated across the land and southward into Mexico and beyond. The name “Indian” was given to us by a settler by name of Christopher Columbus who mistakenly believed he had landed in the Indies.

They labeled us Indigenous people in many ways by Indians, American Indians, and the now preferred as Native Americans. Again most of the Indigenous people migrated to all regions of North American land and were formed into many different tribes or nations. We were adapted well into the particular regions and made wise use of all natural resources that is available. As a Dine Nation and all parts of my Native People we believed in respecting the land and the abundance of gifts it offered to us as we respect our Mother Earth.

RightsNOW Pakistan: Could you tell us about your tribe and culture?

Our tribe is respectfully known as the Dine meaning “the people”, otherwise we have been labeled as Navajos. The Dine Nation extends into the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, covering over 27,000 square miles of beyond compared beauty. Visitors from around the world have different deceptions and mystified when they hear the Navajo language – another words were known to be the enemies of World War II. Although we are Unknown to many, the Dine language was utilized to create a secret code to battle the Japanese. Navajo men were selected to create codes and serve in the front line to overcome and deceive those on the other side of the battlefield. Today, these men are recognized as the famous Navajo Code Talkers, who exemplify the unequaled bravery and patriotism of the Navajo people.

Our people are well-known for their many crafts and the gifts that was given to them by weaving sheep wool blankets/rugs, silversmithing, and sandpainting. Although the crafts originally began as a necessity, weaving rugs and blankets became more refined thru influence from nearby Pueblo (tribe) people. With the sheep given back to us by the American government, my people raised, sheared, spun and dyed their own wool and invented many elaborative patterns. Through the system of trades that was set up among non-Indians in shops were known as Trading Posts, the Navajos have uncountable designs which would appeal to the non-Indian settlers. As of today there are regions in the Dine Nation that is reflected in its own design of blankets and rugs, although individual weavers do make up different patterns.

RightsNOW Pakistan: How do you see/feel human rights, fundamental freedom native American have in United States?

Human rights have been a universal issue that our Native People and all people in this world are entitled to them. But our Native People have always believed that we are created as the children of the Holy Deities and we are all human beings that are born to be free and to be equal with our dignity and rights.

It is difficult to manage and balanced some of the issues that deal with Human rights, but I have figured that human rights are indivisible. It doesn’t matter if it has diverse relation within the economic, political/social issues, Civil Rights and cultural.

I believed that if one person is in denial of one right it will decreases an enjoyment of other rights and will declare numerous issues. Because of this situation the rights of everyone on this earth is to be sufficient individual at a certain level and not compromised or not to eliminate other rights. In example, to have the equal amount of the right to health or  to receive equal education.

As I mentioned, teachings that was embedded in me has given me the wisdom that all individuals are equal as human beings and we should have the good quality to inherent some self respect of each person as of our own siblings. My elders have mentioned that any people should not even suffer discrimination whether it deals with race, ethnicity, gender, age, different languages, and religion.

One of the biggest and most concern that has been in the arena of Human Rights for Native Americans, specifically, Dine Nation for the past generations was the continuous struggles land ownership as were promised years ago. The People of the Dine Nation has been in relation with the Sacred Mountains and conducted ceremonies that entitled to our rich land. Particularly, San Francisco Mountain is integrated to cultivate human waste so there can be somewhat businesses for interested people and we are totally against this issue.  While there seems to be some hope, we need to be recognized and appreciated again; we are still losing our land as I speak. My Dine People have much higher appreciation for the land and what it can provide us. Why? Because we have the most spiritual component to our land!

RightsNOW Pakistan: What language you speak? Is it different from English?

My elders have always taught me to speak with my mother tongue which is Dine Bizaad meaning “Navajo Language.” I was so fortunate to learn how to speak , read and write at my school at Rock Point Community School, the heart of the Dine Nation. Of course to pass general courses I had to push myself to be literate in English language.

 RightsNOW Pakistan: You can tell us which language you apply and how you encourage your children to speak that

 This is very fun and explorative; I always encourage my three girls to speak and practice Mother Tongue as much as possible. One way we practice this is when they tend to ask for something that needs to be purchased, they have to describe it in Mother language and not to forget to say shizhe’e meaning “father” or shima meaning “mother” as they greet in our home. My wife Angie and I precisely address our traditional outfit to our children and this is very important for our culture and traditional. Normally we recall and remind them to introduce themselves with their four (4) basic clans that identifies the kinship and which clan they represent; they are the Dine People and always remember where you came from.

RightsNOW Pakistan: Any message you have for the people of world and United States?

 Use and practice the famous quotes of our Native People in North America.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

RightsNOW Pakistan: What if someone wants to talk to you? You have contact information?

 You can contact me via email or my work number:

Varian Begaye, NP/SS Coordinator

Work:  (928) 686-6108 ext 224

varianbegaye@aim.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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