October 21 2018 03:49:15
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Interview Dineh Elder Pauline Whitesinger
Indigenous People

Photo contributed by Kenneth Diner, from 2007

Ancient Ways Abandoned to Fend for Themselves at Big Mountain
"Early 21st Century: The Last Days of Traditional Indigenous Life (Was) at Big Mountan
[Author’s Note: “Free & Easy” is not your typical fashion magazine where it exploits flashy or plastic glossy and saturated colored clothing that imitates the latest Paris, or that U.S. gangster look. Instead, it is like an alternative look and presentation of fashion that remains as a traditional look, which might have survived because of its utilitarian and comfortable wear, but can still be withheld as a fashion trend. “Free & Easy,” a Japanese magazine also does featured stories not related to developing trends, but stories about cultural entities that is not of popular interest and should be reported for the benefit of addressing the human searches for reassurance and understandings.
America’s Freedom of Speech and Press has long denied stories that come out of indigenous resistance communities at Big Mountain. Then, we have a magazine that is published in the Japanese language and thousands of miles away that decided to come out to Dineh elder, Pauline Whitesinger’s home in remote Big Mountain country to hear her story about “the once upon a time (to be),” The Indian Way to Live as Human Being.]
F & E: According to your traditional way, what is Life like in a day?
Pauline: Plans and schedules were important and are made in advance. However, such disruption that we had earlier are unexpected and those kinds of events take away the time delegated for priorities and goals. But here, at Big Mountain, we live with a lot of threats from the police and guns of the United States. And unfortunately, we just saw that this morning and you yourself have seen it personally.
In the old days, a day would start when you leave your dwelling place and as you make your first step outside your doorway, your day begins. What lies ahead is not clearly predictable because you may ‘tripped.’ You need a family or community to be part of your day and within that, there is a culture. Others would be there to share with you or support you in case you ‘stumble and fall.’ It was taught to me when I was young that we should limit the use of the word, ‘no!’ We were to always be there for someone in need and have empathy because ‘you’ may need that help someday.
Today, you may ask for help like borrowing tools to mend your clothes or repair something. The method of borrowing is a test of the human ability to be considerate, and it is an expression of attitude. How you achieve in that test will ultimately determine your mental balance, if you have empathy and humbleness, and it basically determines where your ‘heart’ is at: love and kinship. Certainly, these things were expected of every new born back in the old days. For instance, the new born will give to the community or if he is a boy, he will cultivate the fields or become builder of dwellings. This is probably how my father was raised because he was always there to help build a lodge or help maintain the values of the community.
I don’t think I can define Life. It has to be how much the human mind can take. Utilizing faith is key so, that you can pray when it is difficult and never give up on that faith no matter how painful.
The modern-day, human mind seem less durable and it resorts to degrading others, or alcoholism. Modern way of life has separated our children from us and they have become ‘uncivilized.’ The family units of the Indian are gone. The reliance on horses and sheep herding is the past and the automobile is now the future.
My childhood times required us to haul water by hand and I remember making the climb out of this canyon, Sweet Water. I helped with carry bundles of firewood and sometimes when we moved, I helped carry the grinding stones. A day’s job did not involve going to the grocery store to get soda pop, a dangerous form of drink which we didn’t realized, and other unknown American products.
Our time as traditional elders is a time where we are no longer honored by the youths. What has happened to their brain and hearts, I wonder? The white society is becoming unstable, too, and one example is like hearing about an eight year old shooting and killing his father. At eight years old, you are just starting to learn about your responsibility! A very joyful time! I learned about life not through punishment like the whip. When I whined as a young girl, my mom said to me, ‘your complaint cannot be accepted now because it has expired.’ My father was much kinder. You were told to listen and you did. I know about abuse and dishonor, and I knew of love and respect.
That has been the way I tried to based my Life all these years.
F & E: Tell me about the Dineh (Navajo) concept of Life after death.
Pauline: The old ways, which I still live according to, prohibited the Dineh to talk about such matters. It was prohibited when a state of Life is happy because it is not in a state of mourning. This moment we have now is in a state of enjoying each other’s company and (that) other subject matter must not be discussed.
F & E: I hate to use the word ‘myth,’ but does the Dineh have a myth about the creation of the humans?
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