I was born and raised on the Navajo Nation with the desert landscape expanding in all directions as far as I could see; my understanding of being human stemmed from this beautiful place, uncaged and free. My grandmother shared her ancestral wisdom with me about the Earth, our Mother, and how it is our responsibility to be the curators of the land. She explained our peoples’ rightful stake to this continent and our continued struggle to have access to ancient sacred lands.
While seeking refuge on mountain trails, I always find myself searching for faces that look similar to mine, to no avail. I hear my grandmother’s voice retelling our peoples’ history of forced migration from fruitful lands to infertile reservations and I begin to feel this ever-growing sense of inheritance whilst in the mountains; this is Native Land. I have lived in Colorado for the past 18 years and I am consistently questioning why people of no Indigenous ancestry claim they are “Natives,” how is it that I need to provide a brief history lesson to the gatekeepers of National Parks as to why I shouldn’t need to pay to have access to the park, and why isn’t the outdoors population more diverse?
While backpacking I love to wake up each chilled morning, eager to watch the sun peak over the mountains and greet me while the rest of the crew sleeps. It is in these moments when I feel whole, unburdened by the demands of modern society, and just free; the way we were suppose to live. I find my natural place in the mountains and am professionally working to provide access for underserved youth to experience our ancestral lands.