If you'd like to help the Indiegogo campaign aimed at creating new Navajo Language learning materials by collecting and archiving the spoken word of Navajo elders -- a 'learn from the elders' approach to cultural preservation -- you can do so here: Link -> http://igg.me/at/navajo/x/4253969.


Hi Reddit! Nearly 4 years ago I submitted an AMA (Reddit, IAMA Native American Indian who lives on the reservation, or the U.S's third world.) in which many of you asked some good questions about where I live and how I grew up. I invite you to ask me again and I'll provide as much insight as possible.

As an update since then, I've started a Navajo language teaching website (Navajowotd.com) to give back. As you may know, the Navajo culture and language suffered, and still does, from an effort to extinguish it by various outside influences. It is my hope that more people will learn Navajo so that they can speak to their elders, and to encourage a dialogue about the importance of cultural preservation.

If you'd like to help the effort to preserve the Navajo culture, I started an Indiegogo campaign to begin collecting and archiving the spoken word of Navajo elders, which I've named the Diné Bizaad project (Diné: the people; bizaad: his/their words). Here's the link: http://igg.me/at/navajo/x/4253969.

I also am on a walk that began a week ago at the western border of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and am now in New Mexico. This is to spread awareness of a pivotal moment in our history as Navajo people known as the Long Walk (Hwéeldi). In the 1860s, my ancestors were forcibly removed from their homes to a barren reservation east of Albuquerque, NM. Many of my people died, but their resistance and subsequent return via the Treaty of Bosque Redondo, led to the sovereignty we possess today. The treaty allowed the US government to take Navajo children into boarding schools, where a long line of mistreatment began in the government's pursuit to eradicate the Navajo culture. My walk to is to create a dialogue around this painful moment in our history as we are a few years from the 150th year since the return of our ancestors to our homelands.

I look forward to your questions!

Edit: Running to get lunch! I'll be back asap!

Edit 2: I'm back. You can read the post I wrote on my walk to Bosque Redondo here: Remembering Hwéeldi, the Navajo Long Walk: Why I am walking 500 miles to Bosque Redondo.

Edit 3: You can hear some Navajo at my soundcloud! http://soundcloud.com/navajowotd

You can also download a pronunciation album that I produced and a translation sheet (600 words, MP3, PDF in a ZIP file) at this Dropbox link: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/29377071/Final/Navajo%20Pronunciations%20(MP3).zip.zip)

and

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/29377071/Final/NPAList.pdf

Edit 4 (7 hours in): Thank you Reddit! I'm off to go eat dinner, and then off to get rest for tomorrow's trip. I'll answer more questions later, though! Please support the Indiegogo campaign, or share this walk with your friends. You can find updates on http://twitter.com/navajowotd, or http://facebook.com/navajowotd.

Ahéhee'!

Comments: 822 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

sixrustyspoons348 karma

I see your a man who can walk 500 miles, could you walk 500 more?

bennnnyyyyy246 karma

I was planning to walk back home but after further reflection I feel I should focus my return on giving back to my community.

And yes, I am that man.

paulvs88260 karma

Does the team name Washington Redskins bother you?

bennnnyyyyy482 karma

Yes.

Washington Whiteskins.

Washington Yellowskins.

Washington Blackskins.

Washington Brownskins.

Doesn't seem right to me.

Rhino02ss33 karma

Would you mind me asking why? I'm a Cherokee decendent living in Kansas City and generally feel no ill will toward the Chiefs name.

Conversely: If a new team were to surface with a similar name I would have an aversion to it. I do believe that these team names would not exist if they were founded today for that very fact.

(Full disclosure: I'm less than 50% Cherokee and have never lived on reservation. However, My parents are proud of the heritige and did insure that it was instilled in us early on.)

bennnnyyyyy56 karma

There's just so much negativity associated with the "redskin" name. Stanford went through this same issue and they changed is before it was the Cardinal (or the Tree).

panacat211 karma

Ya'at'eeh from a fellow Navajo from Chinle! Safe Travels! :)

bennnnyyyyy162 karma

Yá'át'ééh!

ipoopt91 karma

I'm from Kayenta. Just wanted to say good luck!

bennnnyyyyy96 karma

Hey! Ahéhee'!

Captain_Gonzy42 karma

Do you have like a special set up with your keyboard to type those accent marks or do you have to remember those number key combinations?

bennnnyyyyy61 karma

On a Mac, I use the US Extended keyboard to type the ł letter, which is a combination of alt+l

ecleslie168 karma

Safe travels & thank you for providing learning opportunities, especially for the younger generation. I've grown up off the reservation & have missed opportunities to learn Navajo, but I'm grateful for the lessons on navajowotd.com!

Growing up as an urban Navajo, I value every trip we take up north. My daughters do too & sometimes I feel like they treasure their culture identity more than those that live on the reservation. So I may get flack for this question, how do future generations of urban Navajos apply the Long Walk to their lives?

bennnnyyyyy172 karma

To me, it's about remembering how much pain and strife our ancestors went through to secure our right to continue living independently. They continued because of the culture, and how it emphasized family and relations among everyone through the clanship system. Everyone helped each other out and that is how I feel we can continue to apply the Long Walk to our lives.

In this regard, I do not believe there is any difference between a Navajo living in the Nation to one living in an urban area, as both seem to have forgotten why we have clans in the first place. We all need to make the effort, and to demonstrate to each other that it is no longer shameful to speak and express yourself in the Navajo way - traditional, Christian, or any other personal belief doesn't need to conflict.

ecleslie35 karma

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! :D Good luck on your journey & will continue to support your future effort to preserve our language.

bennnnyyyyy35 karma

Ahéhee'!

RageQuilter90 karma

It seems like many tribes have been suffering from an identity crisis. Do you feel like the Navajo would be better off going fully back to the old ways, living an "Amish" lifestyle?

bennnnyyyyy188 karma

No.

Health epidemics, deflated economy, rampant corruption, over-dependency on outside things means we would probably be doing more harm than good.

But I do feel that way sometimes. (not the Amish part).

Squ85 karma

Are there any full blooded native americans with male pattern baldness?

bennnnyyyyy154 karma

Yes, mostly due to being exposed to the early dumpsites of contaminated uranium or nuclear fallout.

You might be interested to hear that many wells (including ones from where I live) are still contaminated from uranium runoff into the groundwater. This has led to problems with health, including loss of hair.

jagg921370 karma

Is this from the Manhattan project?

bennnnyyyyy99 karma

Yes, and testing sites in Nevada.

raginseagoat82 karma

Do you have any skinwalker stories you can share with us? The stories I've read always creep me out.

bennnnyyyyy71 karma

Can I ask what you've heard? I've always been interested in what people are being told..

Icirus88 karma

I asked a similar question. I date a girl who's father grew up on the rez and she told me a story about her aunt. The story is her Aunt was lost around LA I believe. She was pretty much without money and hitchhiking back to AZ. She was approached by someone who claimed to be a skin walker. She was asked to close her eyes and when she opened them she was back on the rez near her house, with no difference in time. It could have been the cactus juice though.

bennnnyyyyy78 karma

Ah, some say that skinwalkers do not leave the Navajo Nation, or the traditional homeland.

The traditional homeland is bordered by the 4 sacred mountains: Mt. Blanca (Tsisnaajiní), Mt. Taylor (Tsoodził), the San Francisco Peaks (Dook'ó'ooslííd), and Mt. Hesperus (Dibé Ntsaa).

wrexsol53 karma

Question! What is a skinwalker? :O

bennnnyyyyy84 karma

A type of creature that begins human, but through malice and bad magic can become an animal that torments people.

Kensei14128 karma

To be honest, it is a very common feature in stories that have a supernatural edge. Both Jim Butcher with his books the Dresden Files and the t.v. show Supernatural have touched on the story of them. One of my favorite books that seem to reference them though is by Rudolfo Anaya and called Bless Me, Ultima. They are always referenced as a bent force though. Something that does not flow with nature but seems to get enjoyment from perverting it.

bennnnyyyyy50 karma

That sounds close. In Navajo, there is no absolute good or bad, but simply a balance, or harmony. There are perversions, or imbalances - a way for one to be consumed with self-interest.

Jacques_Cormery18 karma

This is fascinating to me as it sounds a little like Manichaeism. Do you have any reading recommendations that expand upon the philosophical underpinnings of Navajo (or Native American in general perhaps) belief? I work in academic philosophy, and although I'm sure I could track something down on my own, I was curious if you had any in mind.

bennnnyyyyy36 karma

The book A Synthesis of Navajo Philosophy gave me the impression that it may be a little more Hegelian. But I fell behind in my Philosophy classes in Uni :)

Jacques_Cormery10 karma

Is it The Main Stalk by Farella that you're referring to? If so, that sounds exactly like what I'm looking for. Thanks for the quick reply and thanks as well for an extremely interesting AMA.

bennnnyyyyy7 karma

Yes, that is the one. It's a very interesting read!

iwanttofork78 karma

Have you met or are you related to any navajo code talkers from WW2?

bennnnyyyyy159 karma

Yes, I met Keith Little before he passed away last year. He was a huge proponent of Navajo language learning and preservation, and when he passed, I took it upon myself to continue promoting it in his stead.

Most of the original Code Talkers have passed away, which one remaining I believe. This is a signal to me that their generation, the ones with a rich history that has yet to be passed on, is ready to leave us. So that is why I hope to create a dialogue that encourages people to learn the language and communicate with it.

iamkoloss49 karma

[deleted]

bennnnyyyyy75 karma

They better! It used to be shameful to speak the language, because missionaries and boarding schools punished those who spoke it. Now, we have a great effort that encourages young Navajo education. And what I do is try to help the younger to mid-age generations reconnect.

o-o-o-o-o-o17 karma

Have you had a chance to see the Star Wars movie that was dubbed in Navajo?

bennnnyyyyy32 karma

Yes! It was enjoyable!

I was reluctant but I think they did a good job with it.

RedditRalf60 karma

Feet killing you yet?

bennnnyyyyy107 karma

I used to heard sheep for my grandparents a lot so it's not that bad ;)

RedditRalf40 karma

Good luck on your travels, and keep good care of your socks :)

bennnnyyyyy71 karma

Ahéhee'! (Thank you!)

GoofyPlease136 karma

Michael Jackson?

bennnnyyyyy39 karma

I don't get it :(

iusticanun48 karma

Michael Jackson used to make random high-pitched noises during the instrumental break of his songs, and said noises sounded a lot like "a-HEE-hee."

bennnnyyyyy101 karma

Ahhh haha.

Now I won't be able to hear the same...noooooo!

Origamipana56 karma

Haashdóone’é nílí?

bennnnyyyyy55 karma

Yá'át'ééh!

Tódích'íí'nii nishłį́

Hashk'aan hadzóhí báshíshchíín

Tłááshchí'í dashicheii

Hooghanłání dashinalí

Nishą'?

(Also check out Clanmaker.Navajowotd.com -- tell me what you think!)

ThatOneZombie1625 karma

Aww, we're not related :(

bennnnyyyyy100 karma

Well hello there future inlaw! :D

ThatOneZombie168 karma

Well, I thought it would be cool to be related to "that guy who walked across the NN and New Mexico." I can't really spell my clans but here they are.

Kisánni Táhbááha Táhbááha Tsínajinni

I wish you luck on your journey :)

bennnnyyyyy9 karma

Aoo' ahéhee'!

ARatherOddOne56 karma

I took a quick look at your website on teaching Navajo and now I know why people say it's hard! All the different tones can get pretty confusing. If someone seriously wants to learn Navajo and become fluent, what are your suggestions for them?

bennnnyyyyy67 karma

I would suggest just listening to it to get started. Hearing the way some words reflect others, the intonation (which is fixed), getting a hold of the cadence. You have to warm up your ears, in a sense :)

If you're dedicated, move onto the language textbooks, as they are probably currently the most comprehensive way to get the basics down. Just approach the language with an open mind because there are many exceptions to the way it is used, such as who may say which words, and when they are appropriate.

Good luck!

(Actually I personally believe there is a lack of learning resources that the beginner can access online, and not be discouraged. That is what I hope to change with the Indiegogo project :)

hey_dirty17 karma

Are the intonations in the Navajo language the same as in some Asian languages (fixed vs. not fixed)? I know Vietnamese has 7 tones and I think Cantonese has the most with 9 levels of intonation.

bennnnyyyyy19 karma

Yes they are fixed. Normal tones and high ones, there are also rising and falling in long vowels, nasal tones, and glottal stops. They aren't fixed in some cases, though.

If a word following a high long vowel is normal tone, that long vowel becomes a falling tone.

sunburn_on_the_brain10 karma

As someone who has taken an interest in this, thank you for putting the NavajoWOTD site together. I've done what I can on reading how to pronounce the syllables and characters, but having them spoken out clearly with the spelling is a huge help.

bennnnyyyyy9 karma

All of the sounds are hosted on Soundcloud (I've posted a link at the top of this page, and also a way to download a really good audio album with translations). Hope this encourages you to keep going!

bumscicle48 karma

[deleted]

bennnnyyyyy99 karma

There have always been groups that have been working to help. Many times, these are veterans and their story is the same as any other ethnic groups. Veterans in general suffer and our country has let them down.

On the surface, it may seem like a 'Navajo' problem, but it's more complicated than that. The issues we face with alcoholism are well documented, in fact alcohol is outlawed on our reservation (an area the size of West Virginia). So part of what you're seeing stems from Navajo people being more visible as they do not live in the same places that they get alcohol.

I know what you're describing, and my family has its share if ex-alcoholics. I wish I could give you a more direct answer but I can only shed more light on the issues.

MeatJenkins35 karma

Stay hydrated. Do you and or many of Navajo have artifacts dating back to this hard time in your history? Or for that matter further in time?

bennnnyyyyy37 karma

Most of the artifacts come down in oral histories. But, I did hear of small rock piles created by those that came back from the concentration camp-like Bosque Redondo. I have seen a couple of them when walkers join me and point them out to me.

I think most people choose to leave these artifacts where they lay, though.

Oldlostsoul26 karma

My grandfather grew up poor during the depression in Gallup, NM, and told me lots of stories of how back then, mines and business pretty much treated the local tribes as less than human and refused to hire them, thus continuing their poverty. When I went to visit family there, it still seemed as if this thought was still in the back of everyone's mind. Do you feel things have noticeably improved from the last generation?

bennnnyyyyy25 karma

It's very hard for me to tell, as I didn't have family that came from Gallup area. My family is more from Flagstaff area, where I believe things were a little more civil. Navajos were always kind of poverty stricken, so the Depression wasn't as drastic to us. But now, I think we are a little more subject to the overall economy, as we get a lot of business from tourism. I can say, though, that relations are better. I grew up alongside people of all backgrounds, and there is seldom ill between us when it comes down to how hard one works towards their goals.

blackbirdsongs10 karma

Have you been to the Show Low/St. Johns areas? I grew up in St. Johns; the high school bused in kids from the reservation and it was always very clear the whites stayed with the whites and the res kids stayed with the res kids. It always made it awkward when someone from the 'factions' would break off and do things like clubs. Do you feel this sort of dichotomy is harmful or helpful to maintaining your culture?

bennnnyyyyy16 karma

I went to high school in Winslow, and then in Flagstaff, so I understand what you're talking about. The truth is, those are the people who are actually doing things -- bridging the gap almost.

But that's high school for you I guess.

gaypat1 karma

Gallup is fucked up, a few years ago, the Albuquerque Journal ran a story about how "indian rolling" was sort of an initiation over there for local kids.

Gallupian4 karma

I am from Gallup. Lived there majority of my life: 3-21. I will agree that Gallup is fucked up. "Gloni Bashing" does go on, as it is sort of a coming of age ritual in that town. I will not call it "Indian Bashing" because it is even a ritual for the younger Navajo boys. A "gloni" (Spelling) is the Navajo word for a wandering drunk, like what white people would just call a Homeless Drunk. The alcoholism issues are really rampant in Gallup. There is even a separate from jail facility to house intoxicated people. Where police literally round them up nightly in alleys and around the local bars and then release them in the morning to continue the cycle. One of the most sad things about the alcoholism epidemic in Gallup is the use of "Ocean Water" (named for its similar appearance to the Sonic coconut drink) Literally mixed: Aquanet hairspray, Listerine and even hand sanitizer. This is due to no alcohol sales on Sunday in the Gallup Area, so they now consume this concoction to get drunk. so now you must show ID to get mouth wash.

Racism is still very apparent in the town. While 76% of the population is Navajo, 90% of government is White/Hispanic. Coming into Gallup, as a white person, you should expect stares of random people and horrible service at any restaurant.

I no longer live in Gallup, NM

bennnnyyyyy3 karma

I can't imagine. I felt the harshest of stares when I was walking through Gallup on this trip. Gallup is an animal that I have not bested, and probably will not for a while...

Apiperofhades25 karma

Do navajos still throw parties when a baby laughs for the first time? are there any books you can recommend me on old navajo culture?

bennnnyyyyy49 karma

Yeah, the person who makes the child laugh has a certain duty to that child :)

The child will pass out gifts at the gathering to make sure he/she is happy and charitable (not selfish). It's still practiced even in Christian families, so it's more a societal practice that everyone embraces.

You might be interested in a book called Diné Bahame' (The Peoples Story). It's a collected of old stories from oral histories.

baby_your_no_good24 karma

What is the Navajo belief on the Thunderbird have you or anyothers encountered one, like the legend says, it killed the dragon men, can it really be a man. And can you tell me about skin walkers. Thanks you far taking the time for an AMA.

bennnnyyyyy66 karma

I personally do not know the significance of the thunderbird to Navajos.

But I know a thing or two about skinwalkers...some people say that they began back in the early days of our emergence. A woman lived with her brothers, and she fell in love with Coyote, who was a very attractive, strong man. He knew the ways of the Holy People, and could change into an animal. But he wasn't an honorable person to her brothers.

The woman went away to live with Coyote, and her brothers began to want her back. One, they didn't trust Coyote and two they missed her. They went about trying to get rid of Coyote, and by some accounts, succeeded. When she didn't see him return after a trip, the sister went looking for him, and discovered him in tatters. She became engraged and used the magic that Coyote taught her to become a bear.

She went on a rampage for 4 days, weakening herself at the same time. And when the brothers saw what their scheming had caused, they fled.

This is said to be the same process that skin walkers use to become their animals. All along my walk, I've heard stories of experiences with skinwalkers, a few coming from the elders.

OnlyDeathAwaits20 karma

How long does it take someone to learn Navajo?

bennnnyyyyy32 karma

Some say you can never stop learning! I've met people in their 60s that grew up speaking Navajo and sometimes they'll relate to me how the Old Navajos used to speak, and how it was a lot more song-like than what it used today.

Good fluency can typically take a year, depending on how much daily practice you get.

PowerKiegal19 karma

I am 1/4 navajo, and would like to get more involved in this part of my culture. According to the adults when i was younger, i was not welcome. Is this common?

bennnnyyyyy30 karma

That's generally not true. At the same time I think we're going through the process of figuring out what it means to be "Navajo" or Diné. I'm of the opinion that if you know the language, and some background, histories, you may be more a Navajo than one that lives here and doesn't know these things.

That opinion has gone through many changes, though, so even I am still trying to figure out what it means when someone wants to be more involved.

You really do have a lot of room to blaze your own trails. Ellis Tanner, for example, and Eddie Basha, are considered friends of the Navajo because they did a lot to bring essential business to the Nation. Taking time to understand the needs of the People and working towards alleviating common problems is always welcome.

chakula38 karma

[deleted]

bennnnyyyyy12 karma

I understand where you're coming from, and I feel that Navajo culture is best at what it does because at the core it encourages relations among everyone through the clanship system. You're either friend or family, and I hope we can get back to that. It also emphasizes a kind of leadership that has its roots in the planting of crops (pun not intended). So relations and leadership through example, are what I understand to be shared values in Navajo culture.

atlas132418 karma

I was part of the Navajo tribe in Indian Guides as a child. (organization similar to boy scouts) Does it bother you that White children dress up it traditional garb and prance around OR do you like the fact that they are taking some interest in your culture?

bennnnyyyyy44 karma

'Traditional garb' in most cases means something entirely generic, devoid of the meaning and symbolism of the various pieces worn by the dancer. That is what irks me, is that even though people may claim to take interest, they clearly didn't take enough time to truly understand.

There is no inherent significance in dancing around in exotic clothes. It lies in the mind and the psyche of the person who has a focused purpose in doing what they do. I'm on the fence about this right now.

darkNergy16 karma

Ideally speaking, where do you see the Navajo nation in a few generations from now? To what extent do the Navajo people wish to recover the old order and lifestyle that you used to have? Conversely, to what extent do you guys embrace the existing order?

bennnnyyyyy15 karma

I hope we can become more an independent nation than today, net exporting instead of almost completely importing our goods. But I think this is the aspiration of any nation. I hope people can recover as much as possible, because there are fascinating things that elders tell of people that lived long ago, and here we are looking for heros to look up to. I think we have all the basics in place from outside governments and societies to create something good. There's a lot of confusion right now about which direction we must take, so a break to reflect would be a good deal I feel.

fringe_event15 karma

What do you hope for and think will happen a thousand years from now, assuming humanity is still around? Would you want colonized planets that are 100% Native American or Navajo, or would you prefer to be part of a bigger human collective? If much of humanity lives inside computers and virtual worlds, would recreating and living in the past be good or bad?

bennnnyyyyy41 karma

Navajos have always been inclusive, adopting other tribes that want to be a part of our clan system. We weren't afraid of peaceful integration, and in fact we took many of our ideas from other tribes and people. I hope we can continue that and not shut ourselves in.

In this way, I think being a part of a collective is in our blood :)

jcnelsen12 karma

[deleted]

bennnnyyyyy11 karma

Traveling as in driving or walking?

mrs_pots11 karma

Have you ever heard of the documentary photographer Edward Curtis ( http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_S._Curtis ) ?

If so, do you see his work as being beneficial or detrimental in preserving Native American or Navajo culture? Critics often bring up how he staged photographs.

bennnnyyyyy9 karma

I think we have to acknowledge that his work put faces to our people that some could relate to in far away places. This may have done some good, but at least now that we know his tactics, we can take a step back to re-examine how much our own views are effected by outside people.

I'll need to look more into the modern critiques of his work to say one way or the other...

willrahjuh9 karma

Shit. OP delivering like no other. I don't have a question for you beyond what do you think can be done to improve conditions on reservations?

bennnnyyyyy17 karma

Reservations are all different, but I feel that outside influences, like missionaries, church groups, anthropologists, need to trust us a bit more to do the things we need to do. I've heard of church groups pulling funding from their Indigenous outreach initiatives because there are no white missionaries to continue work, when there are fully capable Navajo people willing to pick up the slack.

There's no singular answer, but I feel that we're all working on identifying the things that don't work, and haven't been working for us.

At the end of the day, I feel that we need more go-getters and do-ers that are not afraid of failure, such as the type businesses sometimes experience.

frapawhack8 karma

hope you have good shoes

bennnnyyyyy10 karma

Moccasins!

Hrodland6 karma

What's the benefit as compared to hiking boots with rubber soles? Don't moccasins wear out fast?

bennnnyyyyy18 karma

I actually wear my 3 year old nikes :) but I do have good moccasins.

whitneyffemt8 karma

Where do you sleep while traveling? Do you have friends that you stay with along your route or do you just camp out?

bennnnyyyyy17 karma

I have a tent that can sleep in. But more often than not people have invited me into their homes. They are often relatives through clans.

Now that I am in New Mexico, however, I doubt I will run across any relatives as frequently as I have.

Jaylanestran8 karma

I was wondering, as a non-native, if you think the reservation system should just be abolished? It's pretty obvious that no treaty is going to be recognized and that native Americans are not going to get their land back. The sovereignty enjoyed by tribes seems to be the equivalent of what you'd have in regular towns and counties anyway. Tribal heritage might be BETTER preserved by integration. Successful people with more money would have an easier time funding traditional arts. The reservation system seems like an attempt to ignore reality and ends up preventing native Americans from enjoying a reasonable quality of life.

bennnnyyyyy34 karma

No, because it is something that my ancestors fought and died for during the Long Walk. They did something, which was to stand up against a government, or died trying, to regain their freedom to live independently in the Navajo homeland.

American society isn't all it's cracked up to be, either. Overall, what we have is good, and we're on the road towards healing from years of abuses and prejudices.

It would be a mistake to give up on that process, not just because of the way it was paid for, but because historically speaking Navajo society is fundamentally in conflict with American society. We are matriarchal while non-Native societies tend to be patriarchal.

We would lose that central aspect if we were to integrate further.

Stack_Lee7 karma

Hello!

Though you couldn't tell from looking at me, I'm about a quarter Cherokee. Over the past few years I've been trying to learn more about my Native heritage and I've found that I feel much more spiritually compatible with Cherokee (and Native beliefs in general). Do you have any suggestions for ways to learn more? Any particular books?

Another thing: I've considered doing something similar with the Trail of Tears. Not so much as a public awareness thing, but more of a personal thing.

I wish you good luck in your efforts!

bennnnyyyyy10 karma

There are many people in your shoes that have been able to connect to their culture through 'Adopt A Native Elder' type of organizations. I know of a few people who have done so on the Navajo Nation, and it's a real interesting conversation when they speak about what they came to learn.

That's one way I can think of, which isn't the typical route of buying books, or watching movies. Depends on how you want to approach learning more.

Shodokan7 karma

This may branch a bit off topic but I've never had a indian I could actually speak to so this is actually exciting for me where as I can learn about your culture and such. But my first question is does your tribe still have bitter feelings about the americans coming and a forcing you away from the lands you guys rightfully owned and moving you guys into small reserves? I know if I were in your shoes I would be rather heated even though it's been hundreds of years it's still not right what happened to you guys. (I am a American and still think it's wrong what my ancestors did to your people)

bennnnyyyyy23 karma

There are many patriotic Navajo people, and many that still resent the government. But the fact remains that the US is a lot more attentive to the issues it caused in Indian Country, so attitudes span the gamut.

More and more, however, I think people are beginning to understand what effect government assistance has on our overall ability to embrace the sovereignty we want. Even though the US government promised us healthcare, education, and independence, we aren't where we want to be. And that's where a lot of lingering resentment comes from.

Culturally, I believe we are making a huge amount of progress in connected to our roots, but we need to make sure that those efforts continue.

polynecrosis7 karma

Ever done Peyote? Just curious, sorry if that is an ignorant question.

bennnnyyyyy13 karma

Yes, but it's not something that I choose to do any more.

SpecialSause6 karma

I've never heard of the Navajo long walk before. Is it similar to the Trail of Tears?

I have family that live near the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina and it makes me sad to see their culture being forced into being a gimmick for American entertainment.

bennnnyyyyy14 karma

It is similar in many ways. We were able to negotiate a return to our homeland, which is something that other tribes weren't allowed. It doesn't mean we weren't exploited afterwards, but it does mean we are where our ancestors' ancestors lived.

langong6 karma

How's your beard compared to Gump ?

bennnnyyyyy66 karma

My genes have decided to withhold the privilege of accumulating facial hair from me.

bennnnyyyyy22 karma

My genes have decided to withhold the privilege of accumulating facial hair from me.

francescatoo6 karma

What do you think of Tony Hillerman? Is his depiction of Navajo police and life in the reservation close to reality, even if his books are fictional?

bennnnyyyyy7 karma

It's an interesting read, and there are a few gems in those books. I have a feeling they may be a little mild compared to the actual experiences of Navajo police, however.

norcalpb5 karma

Do you know a large guy named kiefer?

bennnnyyyyy8 karma

Keifer!

ndlxs5 karma

Good for you for bringing this to light. I read the account of the Long Walk in the book "Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West" and it brought tears to my eyes reading about the horrible injustices that were brought down on your people. More people need to hear this story.

bennnnyyyyy7 karma

Thank you for the thoughts. I am interested in read this book.

Injustices, I think, would be an understatement. It's cruel when you really consider the women and children, and the elderly, who were forced to walk (many of whom didn't make it there, and those that were lucky enough to leave, weren't able to make the journey back.).

pleatedmeat4 karma

I live in South Dakota near Rosebud and Pine Ridge (closeish, anyway) Sioux Reservations. I drove through them about a month ago while I was traveling. On my way there I stopped in the largest town in Rosebud, and on my way back I stopped in a town in Pine Ridge. I had always heard about how many people in this area consider the Reservations to be dangerous, but I took Native American History in college and my professor really made it seem that I had nothing to worry about (she's from Pine Ridge). Additionally, even Natives in this area confuse my mixed Mexican heritage with their own; apparently I look like I could be of Sioux descent.

My question is, why do you think that there is such a negative stigma about the Reservations from the surrounding communities? I don't feel like I'm in any danger when I'm stopping at a gas station or a grocery store on the Reservation, so what do you think caused my white coworkers to fear stopping there? Is it the same fear as stopping in any part of any town that they consider to be 'seedy' or is it motivated by something else? (I personally think the culture is interesting, and I'm happy that they paint their houses such bright colors.) Is there the same issue in the Navajo Nation area?

bennnnyyyyy11 karma

Sometimes, people can be unruly, or 'fed-up' with their conditions that it can lead to off-putting attitudes. But for every bad experience I would say there are 10 more good ones. I guess it's just human nature to hang on to the negative.

I also think that we know how we make outsiders feel, so in a way it's a sort of test to see if someone will do something unexpected (i.e. actually take time to get to know people).

There's also the issue with translating between languages. Where English caters to anyone, including someone who is very sensitive, Navajo (for example) is very direct and sometimes mean to the uninitiated. So a direct translation into English can seem harsh and antagonistic when you're on the other side.

LikeAStrauss4 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! I have always wondered what the best wording would be to describe the Native American population as a whole to avoid offending anyone. Would it be best to use the term "Native Americans," "American Indians," or another term? Thank you and good luck with your travels!

bennnnyyyyy16 karma

I tend to use either Indigenous or Native American Indians, or the tribe name itself (I prefer the latter). I am more and more uncomfortable with a general term simply because every single tribe is its own nation, with its own customs and agreements with the US government. But that's a personal feeling.

Zomg_A_Chicken3 karma

What did you eat for lunch?

bennnnyyyyy8 karma

Someone gave me a Navajo taco (Indian Taco), which I was not expecting. People are keeping an eye out for me and it's nice to know that they care about what I am doing.

But normally I have either tuna, granola, dried fruits, summer sausage/crackers, or the occasional donated plate. :)

Netprincess2 karma

Some of the reservations here in ABQ NM don't even have access to public water , Its shocking. Sir I admire you!

If there is anything you need let me know. I'm in Alburquerque.

bennnnyyyyy2 karma

Thank you, and that is, unfortunately, a continuing reality on reservations everywhere...

mkultra500002 karma

How are you able to walk and type. Did you construct some rudimentary harness?

bennnnyyyyy4 karma

I am currently resting, and I am typing on a borrowed computer.

mkultra500002 karma

I assumed. But much props to you for answering a sarcastic comment. Good luck and stay strong.

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

:) I expected this question so it was no problem answering

Taintedgod2 karma

I went to a festival when I was visiting a friend in NM and I ended up playing didgeridoo an Aboriginal instrument with a few guys from the drum circle. And everyone there had an essence a fire about them that was so uplifting and amazing. Totally looking forward to an update on your journey. Good luck and safe travels.

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

Ahéhee'! Thank you!

cantremembr1 karma

Hoka hey! I live in Albuquerque, and haven't heard anything about your walk. Are you coming through the area and doing any events/talks/meetups? I am a recent transplant to NM from SD and would love to learn more about the Navajo experience here in the southwest.

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

Yá'át'ééh! I've decided that I didn't want to walk through the city, so I'll be heading along a route that's further south. If you'd like to read more about my walk, I wrote a post here: Remembering the Long Walk.

But so far I have not planned anything yet for Albuquerque..

fistfuckofthegods1 karma

Why is it, that every liberal arts hippy broad claims to be 1/4 Navajo?

bennnnyyyyy25 karma

Navajos have a blood quantum requirement to be an enrolled member of the tribe. 1/4, as opposed to the 1/32 of other tribes, is the threshold.

It is possible that those individuals actively claim Navajo heritage to claim the benefits that the US government promised to the Navajo people in the Treaty, or to spread awareness of the continued existence of the Navajo Nation today.

Or, it is also possible that they wish to be seen as unique, exotic, fascinating, etc., and as such they tout a Native American heritage as a sort of permit to wear fashionable articles of clothing, including head dresses (which aren't Navajo).

Noobert131 karma

Do you know how to find out if someone is navajo or not? It's funny to me that I came across your thread because I've been researching my family history trying to learn about my native american heritage. My last name is Buck and it is believed that my father's family was navajo from the arkansas region, but we can't find too much information because everyone has died. Recently though I found where the name Buck was changed in the 1860s to a christian surname. Any advise for someone trying to trace their ancestry?

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

I do not, unfortunately.

I can only point you to the usual resources, like the various census registries. Sorry..

bluejaye1 karma

Do you ever work with other Native Rights groups or only within the Navajo community?

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

I haven't taken an active role in Native Rights organizations, but I do like to keep up with them. When I went to Stanford, I had the opportunity to speak to Russell Means on many occasions before he passed away. I also have been able to converse with domestic violence prevention advocates, political thinkers, etc., and they all tend to have a broad focus on the many tribes, not just Navajo.

For now, I feel I need to focus on where I'm at, otherwise, I may not be able to do the things I want to do.

kmays101 karma

do you know LouGene Aaron Jones? he was one of my fraternity pledge brothers who grew up in Arizona on the Navajo reservation, but i haven't seen or heard from him in years...

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

No, sorry. I do not.

gabe_tash1 karma

Hello sir, I'm 1/4 Navajo but I don't feel as if me or my dad are in touch with our culture at all. I am a member of the Native American student association at the university of hawaii, but I feel as if that isn't enough. Any advice for me, to reconnect with my heritage? Learning the history, language, etc...?

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

I know of a few people who have reconnected via an "Adopt a Navajo Elder" program, but short of endorsing any in particular, I feel that that might be a good place to make an impact.

You can also spread the word about my Walk to Bosque Redondo (I wrote a post about it here) or contribute/share with your friends the Indiegogo campaign that I started today to develop affordable Navajo language learning materials (http://igg.me/at/navajo). Hope this helps you in any way :)

Icirus1 karma

Are you scared of being attacked by a skin walker?

bennnnyyyyy3 karma

No, not personally. I'm more afraid of being attacked by humans :)

SilverSultan1 karma

I have been reading this book for a while now: http://www.amazon.com/Neither-Wolf-nor-Dog-Forgotten/dp/1577312333

It is almost as I do not want to finish it. Have you read it or heard of it? It is a very good book. I read about a chapter or so every once in a while. Every time I get goose bumps and realize something new. I very much relate myself to the Indian way of life I guess. That is all really. I want to say I have a lot of admiration and respect for the beautiful philosophy on life that seems so right and natural....'we belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us'. That is all really. Good luck on your endeavors!

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

I will look into this book more, but thank you for your well wishes!

theancientshaman0 karma

Do you take any hallucinogens ?

bennnnyyyyy2 karma

Not since the World Series

perche0 karma

Can you tell us anything about this? Is it authentic Navajo?

bennnnyyyyy7 karma

Nothing in that video is recognizably Navajo.

perche1 karma

I'm disappointed. I always thought it was based on some kind of authentic Navajo calls, though obviously popularized for a rock and roll audience.

It's part of a great song called "Land of the Navajo". I searched but couldn't find the version I really really like by one of his bands called "The String Cheese Incident". He ends the song with these kinds of calls. Next you'll tell me there is no Santa Claus!

bennnnyyyyy6 karma

We listen to modern radio stations, country music, all types. Authentic Navajo is done to the beat of a hand drum, with repeating stanzas that can go all night, and really deviates from the popular harmonic structures of modern music.

KTNN Online, our local AM radio stations, plays some Navajo tunes between the country music. (It's really popular and is probably the only daily news source for the entire Navajo Nation - an area the size of West Virginia).

perche1 karma

Are you cow125647?

bennnnyyyyy4 karma

No.

wtfover21-2 karma

pass through farmington yet?

edit*

Being born and raised next to the Navajo reservation. My personal experience with the majority of the natives is drunks/lazy people. They give you a bad rap.. Now i am not saying all Natives are drunks but the ones that arnt.. typically are not even remotely close to the culture of the reservation.

I hate the fact that Native kids have so many fucking opportunities to get a good education and they piss it away for the free hand outs. And the ones that actually do take advantage of the opportunities get shunned and leave the reservation.

eh... Good luck on your travels at least your trying to better your community and culture :)

bennnnyyyyy3 karma

My route is through Window Rock and Gallup, so I won't be going quite that far north.

I made it to Stanford, but I wanted to be here to help out. I still want to continue my education, but I need to understand what I can do specifically. So, opportunities still exist even for those youth - or anyone of any age, and in my free time I try to tell people about the opportunity to do things that don't necessarily require big degrees, and that learning for the good of it can be fun.

Ahéhee'!

Ap0Th3-4 karma

Hey,

I know for a fact many government secret bases are located in reservation lands, usually inside mountains or underground in some way.

Have you ever witnessed anything like this? Have you ever witnessed any UFOs or weird phenomenon during your stay?

Thank you and safe travels.

bennnnyyyyy1 karma

I can say that I have not experienced either...but every once in a while there is a story of a UFO sighting, usually in a community called Leupp on the Navajo Nation.