The Bridge Lady

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March 14, 2021- Throughout history, change for the better has been orchestrated by both people adopting a progressive stance and by those taking a prudent, conservative view, whilst remaining open to new ways of doing things.

Annie Dodge was born in 1910, to a traditional Navajo family. Her father, Chee Dodge, was the last man to hold the position of Chief of the Navajo Tribe. He became the first Chairman of the Navajo Tribe-first of the Navajo Business Council (1922-28) and later, of the Navajo Tribal Council (1942-46). Chee was a shrewd businessman, amassing a fair amount of wealth, whilst maintaining a strong sense of Navajo tradition. As such, he lived in a hogan-based camp and had three wives, the third of whom was Annie’s mother, Mary Begaye.

Annie, and her five siblings were raised in the traditional Dineh manner-learning to herd sheep, practice Dineh medicine and honour their maternal and paternal clan structures. At the same time, Chee saw to it that all of his children learned the ways of the wider world. Annie took a conservative view of politics, becoming a lifelong member of the Republican Party. The event that shaped the course of her life, however, was the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19. Because of her having suffered a mild case of the disease, from which she developed immunity, Annie became interested in Public Health. She earned a doctorate in that discipline, and worked diligently to improve the lives of the Dineh people, over a span of fifty years. She served three terms on the Navajo Tribal Council, at one point running against, and defeating, George Wauneka, the man she married.

George and Annie remained a strong couple, regardless. Annie always regarded the men around her as her partners, never as her overlords. The strong Dineh matrilineal system helped in that regard, as did her parents’ commitment to their daughter’s education and well-being-and Mary’s fierce independence from her husband.

Annie’s greatest legacy was the improvement in the overall public health of the Navajo Nation. She broadcast a weekly radio program, in the Navajo language, carefully explaining modern medical practices and techniques to her fellow Dineh. She pushed for better well-woman and well-baby practices, regular ear and eye examinations; a strong campaign against tuberculosis and alcoholism; for vaccinations against polio, chicken pox, smallpox and measles/mumps/rubella, as well as improvements in sanitation and housing.

Annie continued her father’s work of bridging the gap between traditional Navajo life and the wider American society. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Lyndon Johnson, in December, 1963, becoming the first Native American to receive this honour. In 1984, the Navajo Tribal Council designated Dr. Annie Dodge Wauneka “The Legendary Mother of the Navajo Nation”. Upon her death, in 1997, she was enshrined in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, in Seneca Falls, NY.

Annie Dodge Wauneka’s life work is a shining example that one can hold traditional, conservative views and make a strong contribution to the improvement of the surrounding community. The key is always keeping an open mind and heart.

Crawling,or Walking, Out of The Tunnel?

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February 5, 2021-

I was gratified to see an extended family member write that she was moving on, from a climate of fear and distrust, to affirming her faith in God and country. To be trapped of one’s own accord, in a tunnel of false hopes and unfulfilled promises, is bound to lead to the depth of despair.

I’ve remarked in the past, that there is much to admire in both conservatism and progressivism. Placing value on hard work, a measure of self-reliance and pride in one’s legitimate heritage can see a person through a good many of life’s misfortunes. At the same time, embracing new ways of solving problems, being open to a wide variety of points of view and being inclusive of all groups of people can ensure that a person is never truly alone-even in the direst of times. What matters, regardless of one’s personal ideology, is a deep-seated respect for ALL life. Compassion must ever rule over transaction.

So it has been that I have opted for walking out of various tunnels of darkness and deception. Many have offered quick fixes to problems, false hopes for resolution of matters, in which my personal growth actually mandated seeing them through. It was cold and lonely in those tunnels-and the demons that did keep me company were worse than no company at all.

In the gathering light of day, and in the shimmering starlight, walking upright and looking straight ahead have rekindled strengths that I had nearly forgotten, whilst crawling about the tunnel of delusion. Those who maintain clear vision, and retain a healthy sense of their own truth, will be sources of untold strength-to selves and others.

The Run-Up Ends

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November 2, 2020-

It is time to breathe. It is also time to remember that, no matter who is elected president, our system will survive. It has seen worse men occupy the office and has seen worse reactions to disparate candidates. The 50/50 chance of a woman, even one with whom I disagree on many issues, being elected vice president, is a refreshing aspect of this contest.

I see Donald Trump as a populist, an opportunist and something of a narcissist, but not a fascist. I see Joe Biden as a career politician, also an opportunist, but not a communist. There are elements of both progressivism and conservatism that can do this country good. I guess this is why the electorate has seen fit to balance the two, by and large. We need traditions, to keep us grounded, and we need inclusivity, to strengthen our population and our institutions.

I have been excused from jury duty, by way of the trial being canceled. So, my full attention is now on the community and in helping out in any way necessary, in the unlikely event of unrest here. We have had our differences, and some have made it their business to exercise a minor show of force, at some public events. Still, people are mostly content to show their signs, across the street from one another and sometimes engage in spirited civil discourse.

If you haven’t voted-please do. In all cases, stay safe and maintain respect for all, no matter what stance anyone takes. We are all lovers of country, if not of planet.