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Assets in Action: Celebrating Native American Heritage Day

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By Bernadette Lauritzen

November is Native American Heritage month. An additional focus takes place the day after Thanksgiving, called Native American Heritage Day.

Jessica “Jaylyn” Atsye of the Laguna Pueblo began an event in 2010 called Rock Your Mocs Week. This year the week takes place Nov. 12-18. It will be the third year Los Alamos supports the effort by Rockin our Mocs.

It is a chance for Native Americans, both youth and adults, from all backgrounds, to wear their moccasins for a day or the week and share their pride and culture. The traditional moccasins are as different as the people who will wear them.

A friend of mine, Deb Minyard from Pojoaque High School, received a pair as a gift when she was the 2015 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. Her student, Nessa, asked if she could give her a handmade pair as a gift. When Minyard accepted, the student measured her feet in the traditional way, by tracing them.

The handmade moccasins were crafted by Bernard Mora of the Tesuque Pueblo. The beautiful gift brought Minyard to tears, making her feel like a part of the student’s family. Minyard considers the gift one of her most treasured possessions.

One local youth group is selling teal ribbons for community members to show their support. The ribbons allow those that don’t have moccasins to display the teal ribbon out of respect for their Native friends and their culture.

The ribbons are $1 each and the funds raised will allow the students to hire a Native baker and share even more of their culture with their fellow students. If you would like to know more or purchase a ribbon, contact us at cya.org@att.net or call us at 695-9139.

We’re lucky to live in a beautiful area, surrounded by history and culture. The history is in the hills, the trees, the wind and the rocks. As part of this history, many of our local neighbors, co-workers and friends navigate the daily field of living in two different worlds.

Native language and customs are alive and well. As a resident of the state of New Mexico, we should learn about the Native communities that surround us.

I often hear how immigrants should learn English upon arriving in America. Remember that our Native communities were here long before we were here.