My name/label is Marley Shebala. But who I am is Tó’aheedlíinii (Water Flows Together clan), which is my mother’s clan. She was Dine’ (Navajo). And I am born for Naasht’ezhi (Dine’ word for Zuni people). My father’s clan, which is my paternal clan, is Cha’al Dine’ (Frog clan). I am Diné (Navajo) and A:shiwi (Zuni word for Zuni).
Actually, Dine’ and A:shiwi mean Humans/The People. There are may be some individuals reading this that may wonder why we would simply call ourselves Humans/The People when it’s obvious that we are Humans/The People. It may seem simple and actually it is simple. It is so simple that it evades full understanding unless you were born Dine’, A:shiwi or one of the indigenous people of Mother Earth.
Being Human/People is more than having five-fingers, walking erect, wearing clothes, driving a vehicle, eating with a fork and spoon, reading a newspaper, using the internet, etc. In our teachings, and I’m still learning those teachings, being Human means living with nature, which is Life all around you.
And what is Life around you? For us, it is the Air, Fire, Water and Mother Earth. It is also the Four-Legged Ones, the Ones-That-Crawl, the Ones-That-Live-In-The-Water, and the Winged-Ones.
I have provide a very brief explanation of a way of life that still exists among indigenous people that some of our non-indigenous relatives often have difficulty fully understanding and therefore accepting. And I must admit that there are some indigenous people who have forgotten their way of life or who have decided to ignore it.
I have worked as a journalist and photojournalist for about 28 years on the Dinetah (Navajo Reservation) because I’m a muckraker at heart. I believe that the people have the right to know what is happening in their community because the more informed an individual is about their community then the more likely it is that he or she will be involved in their community. And it’s my hope and dream that their involvement will be to continue Life, especially since there is only on Mother Earth.
Working as a journalist in my homeland, I am often asked why I want to display my relatives “dirty laundry,” which makes my people look bad. And that question is usually posed when I’m working on an investigative piece about the Navajo government’s dirty laundry and usually the question is asked by an elected Navajo official or politically appointed Navajo government administrator.
My response is to share a bit of Navajo history about our government, not the popular-vote government forced upon us to replace our government so corporate America could have their way with our natural resources.
Our government consisted of Headmen of the various clans. The clans had recognized areas of land. And it was routine for the clan to gather and hear what was happening in their community. There was no censorship and that is linked to our understanding about the impact of an activity to the entire community. We understood that a single activity was not an isolated event.
And so whether an event was positive or negative, it was shared with the community because its impact is the same. For example, in our way of life, if a woman becomes pregnant or a child is born or a young lady begins menstruating, a spiritual ceremony must be conducted and that ceremony involves the community. Negative events, no matter how heinous, shameful or deviant, also had to be shared because healing prayers involving the entire community had to be done.
After I share that story, I’ve always received a slight nod of the head and a brief farewell to have a good day.
But the Navajo government consists of elected officials/politicians and just like the U.S. government’s politicians, they prefer to keep their unpopular decisions and actions away from the eyes and ears of their people.
This website and professional journal, Dine’ Resources & Information Center, is to keep an eye on the Navajo government.