Nylana (Navajo Nation)

Many of us lean on technology more than we realize or would like to acknowledge. It adds convenience to our lives, helps us become more connected, and allows us to network and find new opportunities.

And no one is more passionate about helping her community lean more into technology than Nylana. She’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied science at Navajo Technical University and will be the first in her family with a technology degree.

Nylana dreams about being able to grow and expand her community’s technology infrastructure, helping small and large institutions alike overcome obstacles to meet their business objectives. By helping her community thrive technologically, Nylana is hoping to make a positive impact on places like her community’s hospital, schools, and anywhere else she can!

“Being a woman in technology has been something else. A lot of people told me that Native women can’t do this, but I’m proving them wrong. I love that I’m showing other little girls that they can also be an information technologist, computer scientist, or anything else they put their minds to.

To me, education is power. It’s the power that allows you to do whatever you want with your life and your future. It takes you places. And believe me, with an education, you’re going to go places.”

My Recipe- Blue Corn Mush


Blue Corn Mush is a delicacy on the Navajo Reservation. It’s our version of Cream of Wheat®. This traditional dish is a good source of calories and nutritious calcium and helps maintain good bone health. Many Navajos are lactose intolerant. Fortunately, Navajo people can get their daily requirement of calcium thanks to the use of juniper ash in many traditional Navajo dishes. Juniper ash is created by burning the branches of the juniper tree, commonly found on the reservation. Researchers found that one gram of ash contains as much calcium as a glass of milk.

I love and have a soft spot for this dish because it takes me back to my roots and reminds me of the food that I ate growing up. It reminds me of spending time with my family, crammed around a small wooden table, with everyone trying to get the first scoop.

Life always made sense to me when I saw my mother standing next to a pot of boiling corn mush. This is my comfort food. I believe that comfort foods are the universal cure to any bad day. As soon as I take that first bite, all my worries disappear. I feel better and my mood improves. Also, the ingredients come from nature, which makes this dish a healing food.

Ingredients 
Serves: 2-4. Cook time: 10 min

  • 1/2 cup of roasted blue corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon juniper ash
  • 2 cups cold water

Directions

  1. In a bowl mix the flour and ash together with a whisk until evenly distributed. Set aside.
  2. Place water in a pot, making sure it is not more than half-full. Add the flour mixture while the water is cold so as not to create large lumps. Whisk together until smooth.
  3. Cook mixture on medium high, stirring constantly so the bottom of the pot doesn’t burn. Cook until thickened to desired consistency. To make consistency thinner, add water. To thicken, add a slurry of half water and flour (2 tbsp. cold water + 1 tbsp. flour).
  4. If desired, sweeten with sugar. Enjoy it while it is warm!

My Book Suggestion - "Fall in line, Holden!” by Daniel W. Vandever

This book was written and illustrated by a staff member at Navajo Technical University, where I’m currently attending. Personally, I really like this book not just for the illustrations, but because the storyline is important to me.

Fall in Line, Holden!  shares a dark time in Native history: boarding schools. It’s an important topic that is rarely addressed and we learn about it through Holden’s experience and discoveries. He uses his imagination to push beyond the rigidity of his world to see a different world.

I was Holden growing up and as I read this book, it took me back to my youth. I, too, was told to “fall in line” and was surrounded by a whole world that expected me to follow very strict rules. But like Holden, my imagination would transform something strict to something beautiful. This book gave me a better understanding of myself and my elders and how they had their identity taken away but not their imagination.

I was always interested in books written by Native authors and it is really empowering to see how they inspire Native youth. I’m encouraged that I, too, can write something in the future that will inspire other people like this book inspired me.

Cover of Children's Book "Fall in Line, Holden"

Click the image above to find this book on Amazon Smile. Don’t forget to set the American Indian College Fund as your charity of choice!

My Special Outdoor Place - Horsehoe Bend

I’ve always had a relationship with nature because of the stories that I’ve been told. Every creation story involves the environment; it’s a key symbol. After hearing the stories, it made me want to go out and explore nature and connect with it by hiking.

Hikes around the Navajo reservation and surrounding areas are beautiful. Hiking is a great way to reap the benefits of what nature has to offer and it gives us some much-needed therapy.

In traditional Navajo culture, and for those of us who continue to celebrate it, there is a spiritual connection with nature. We respect and connect with ourselves, our identity, and the Navajo spiritual value system of peace and harmony of our minds during the Corn Pollen prayers, a spiritual ceremony to honor, respect, and pray to Earth, Nature, and Universe, which are our Creators.

Hiking is also how I spiritually connect with our holy people gods. Knowing that I walk where my ancestors once traveled and stood takes me to a serene place.

With the growing number of areas that are open to local fracking and pipelines, I see nature is disintegrating. The idea of protecting nature also means we need to protect resources like air, water, sun, land, vegetation, animal life and minerals. Our resources were made without our intervention and provide life to all living beings. We need to preserve them in to connect with the things that make us whole.

Canyons on the Navajo Nation - Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend in Page, Ariz.

 

My Song Suggestion - Anthem of the American Indian by Xit

My mother listened to “Anthem of the American Indian” so often, it felt more like a statement to me. I heard it so many times during my childhood I can still remember it very vividly. This song was made famous during the American Indian Movement (AIM), which was seen worldwide in highly publicized protests particularly within Native reservations and communities, shocking people around the U.S.

“Anthem of the American Indian” is almost five minutes long and was sung by the 1970s Native American group XIT. I remember the great harmony of Native American drums and the way my mother sang—it was extraordinary.

One verse has stood out to me until today, “I am who I am/ And who I said I was/ I am the image of myself/ I am Indian.” This verse speaks to me because it allows me to imagine what and who we are as Native Americans. I can still remember my mother singing this song and telling us stories about her days as an AIM activist.

We, as indigenous people, go through hardships and situations, but they aren’t permanent. The verse “Oh, great eagle king of the sky/ Lift our spirit up and carry us high/ Wings of strength that float along/ Take away the weak and make us strong” shows that we are strong through our beliefs. I am touched by the lyrics and this verse, when heard in the context of the song, shows we are as strong as the prayers that made us.

My Art Suggestion - The Long Walk I by Shonto Begay

My people didn’t want to leave their ancestral places and did not allow foreigners to have a share in the territory. This resulted in the government removing Native Americans from their ancestral places to ensure other people could live in that territory. In 1864, the Navajo (Diné) Tribe was expelled from Dinétah (Navajo land) in what is now Arizona and was forced to march the “Long Walk” to Fort Sumner in New Mexico.

They left behind a vast mosaic of sacred mountains, spectacular canyons, colorful desert plains, scattered pasturelands, pure streams, and significant game. They took up a new life on an overcrowded and gloomy prairie with no building materials, short grass, few trees, minimal firewood, water, and little game.

I’ve always had an interest in the Navajo Long Walk and I listened to stories from my elders and Navajo historians. Then I stumbled across this piece of art that gives viewers a visual perspective of this tumultuous event.

When I looked at it, I had an instant emotional connection. Feeling and seeing the expressions of the fear on my ancestor’s faces pained me. But when I feel my emotions, I remember that pain is only temporary. This was a temporary situation that we, as Navajos’, encountered centuries ago. We prevailed through our strength and prayers and came back home to Dinétah.

I’m proud to be Navajo and Native American. The Long Walk shows we are strong, and we’ll continue to be strong. We are still here.

Painting depicting the Longest Walk

Ways You Can Help


Meet BlueMeet NylanaPhoto of Native student TashaDecorative image with text: Explore outdoorsDecorative image with text: See art recommendations.Decorative image with text: See book recommendationsDecorative image with text: See Recipe recommendationsDecorative image with text: see fim/song recommendations

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