Editor’s note: this column was published for Mother’s Day 2017. It has been modified.
The Navajo believe that women are sacred and that everything in the universe exists in male and female duality.
In Navajo culture, every day is reverence of the female being, and it starts with pre-dawn prayers and songs. Each morning one wakes up, puts on moccasins and runs to east, all while praying and loudly shouting, making one’s presence known to the Gods and Goddesses.
The Navajo people, who are matrilineal and matriarchal, identify themselves by the clans of their mothers and grandmothers.
One important day to the Navajo is Mother’s Day, which often encompasses huge feasts, presents, traditional songs, and ceremonies for the matriarchs and clan grandmothers.
This was the tradition in my family, and we celebrated my grandmother, Eleanor, my mom, Marlene, and my aunts, Joan, Fannie, and Vangie.
Mother’s Day was an important celebration of grandma Eleanor who was the pillar and spiritual leader of our family. She was showered with gifts, cards, flowers, honor songs, and food. One could look out and see many vehicles parked outside her home, a testament to her many well-wishers.
This scene plays out across Navajo country every May.
In the Navajo language the word for life is iina, which sounds much like the Lakota word for mother, ina.
I find it very beautiful that these two words, separated by hundreds of miles and cultural differences, are so intertwined in their literal definition and meaning to the Navajo and Lakota people.
This further exhibits that mothers are sacred and are the life givers of nations.
This Mother’s Day, celebrate the mom in your life– for she is the one who can take place of all others,
but whose place no one else can take.
To my mom, Marlene, I love you beyond words can convey. You are our cornerstone and our ever guiding light. Shima, ayoo adaniinini!
To my sister, Tracey, happy birthday shideezhí. Your strength and dedication to family and our nation is amazing.
To the family of Andrea High Bear, words cannot express my condolences. May her life and tragic passing change the world for the better.
Happy Mother’s Day to the women nation. You are cherished.