By Eunice Lai, Summer Times Staff Writer

Disclaimer: The following interview speaks only for Colby Yazzy, and not for all natives or tribes.)

“We don’t live in T-pees, we don’t still hunt for our own food, and we can’t tell time with the sun. We are a whole lot more than that.” So said Colby Yazzie, 17, from the Navajo Nations.  “I still try to bring traditions into everyday life, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

You might have already seen Colby on stage during International Day, but you most likely don’t know the most interesting parts of his culture.

Exeter Summer Program is filled with incredibly diverse people from all over the world, and through The Summer Times we hope to spread awareness and educate everyone about the different cultures found within this school. “We still exist especially when modern western pop culture is taking over the world,” Colby said. “In a way we’re primitive because we’ve been around for so long, somewhat unchanged.”

Colby is from a unique desert tribe where “unlike the plains tribes, who hunt and gather, we’re more farmers. We grow our own food and we also raise our own animals. Like sheep and goats and horses and cows, those are all very important to us. This is unique Native American wise as not many tribes do that.”

Compared to the past few centuries, American society has come a long way to accepting people of different races and cultures. “In the past century, our tradition was literally beaten out of us at schools,” said Colby. “Our grandparents were tied to radiators for speaking our language and during a revolt our ancestors were cut behind their heels so they wouldn’t run away. We didn’t get religious freedom until the 70s.” 

“It’s a part of who I am, but it doesn’t really affect me negatively, it’s not like it’s going to get in the way of things.” Colby still faces some obstacles that intervenes with some of his culture’s traditions. “In one of my classes, we were supposed to go to an exotic pet store and most of the exotic pets were going to be snakes, so in my culture we try to avoid snakes as much as possible, so I had to miss the class.” Colby said. “Things like that is sort of how it could affect me. Things like schooling, especially where majority of the students aren’t native, as I’m used to the majority of the students being native unlike here, it’s not the case.”

Navajo Nations also have many small, interesting traditions that plays a part in creating their unique culture. “In my culture, when a baby laughs for the first time, we have a big party.” Colby said. “The baby passes out salt rocks to everybody, and everybody eats some salt. This is because when a baby is born, we say that the baby is born still a part of the spirit world, so half human half spirit, so once the baby laughs, it becomes full human. We just go like ‘Yipee!’ It’s a part of us.”

Despite all this, Colby said that keeping his tradition in the modern day isn’t easy. “It’s still not great,” said Colby. “We still have to fight for our rights.”