Indigenous Stewards was born out of collaboration between University of Washington Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (UW CEEH) and the University of Arizona’s Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (UA SWEHSC) for the Native Environmental Health Stories Project, a supplement grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The purpose of the magazine was to serve as a conversation piece in tribal communities and give them a platform to begin to discuss environmental issues in their own communities.
The literature contest featured in the magazine showcases native students who took their idea of what environmental health meant to them and wrote a story or poem. The following excerpt is from a story written by the first place winner of the high school division Samuel Slater:
“I do not believe that if every Navajo were to start growing corn today, the rain would immediately return to its seasonal balance. However, I do believe that hidden in the act of growing a field and immersed in the nurturing of other beings are the lessons that have made us resilient and flexible to life’s challenges, and are just as applicable today as they were to our cheis and masanis and naliis hundreds of years ago.
When we plant a field, pray to the Holy People, and tell the stories of creation, we are recognizing our place in the universe. We are planting ourselves firmly into the web of continual creation. We learn about processes of action and reflection, of going through the steps of Nitsahakees, Nahata, Iina, and Siihasin—thinking, planning, living, and reflecting. We realize that everything we do should be in the mindset of Sa’ah Naghai Bik’eh Hozhon, the eternal lifelong struggle to follow the Corn Pollen Path, striving for hozho in all aspects of our lives.
These lessons were meant to be taken out from the cornfield and hoghan in order to be applied in our daily lives.”
From Hozhonahasdlii: We will plant in Beauty again
Samuel Slater is from Round Rock, Arizona on the Navajo Nation and is currently a junior at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. The full story can be found in Indigenous Stewards once it is available as an online magazine.