My name is Merritt Youngdeer. I’m a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina. My grandparents, like many tribal members from all across our country, attended Carlisle Indian Boarding School.
I grew up greatly admiring all those who have served in the Armed Forces. I knew that many Native Americans (including my father and uncles) had served this country with distinct honor and fulfilled their call of duty.
The year was 1934, and I was six months old. My father, mother, and I lived in a small settlement in the foothills of the mountains 100 miles northwest of San Carlos. Our home was a wickiup that my father had built for us.
I stood before the judge as a desperate 24-year-old, overwhelmed by the consequences of my life choices. I felt completely defeated by addiction, and the word “hope” had no meaning in my life. All of society’s efforts to reform me had failed.
A descendent of Cherokee grandparents, Carlos lived in Miami, Arizona, for a period of time as a young boy, not far from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. Carlos faced some difficult challenges. With an often–absent alcoholic father and a mother working hard to pay the bills and put food on the table, Carlos learned that life can be tough.
I grew up surrounded by the traditional ways of our people. In my youth, I heard the old stories handed down by our elders. They differed depending on a person’s recollection, but they focused mostly on the creation around us. I was told we came from the earth. As a young man I had so many questions.
It was the winter of 1979, and my wife Kathy and I were rejoicing in the birth of our first-born son. We named him Nathaniel Ara Ross. I was working in a factory on night shift to make ends meet. At night when I came home, I would check on Nathaniel. Those precious days were filled with joy and wonder.
Our reservation has been our home for many generations, and family ties are strong in our community. Our culture celebrates what each season brings, such as planting our corn, gathering and grinding acorns, and watching our grandchildren experience the fresh snowfall for the first time.
When I smell the smoke from the wood fire in the winter, it reminds me of the times when I was a little boy living in our hogan. It was during the winter season that the stories of the elders were passed down to the younger generation. I would listen to my grandfather teach us the history and ways of our people. Now I am an elder, and it is my responsibility to pass along the important truths for this life and the life to come.
My name is Roy Hawthorne. I am a proud member of the Navajo Nation. I am honored to have served my country through my military service in both World War II and the Korean War. I volunteered to serve in an elite group known as the Navajo Code Talkers.
The “Man in the Maze” is a familiar image in the land of the O’odham people. Though interpretations differ, the labyrinth design reminds us of the many choices we must make as we journey through life. We are wise to pause and consider the path on which our choices are currently taking us.
Cochise, Geronimo, and Naiche were warriors. They will remain legends in Apache history. The Apache fought against the Spanish, Mexican, and United States governments for hundreds of years to keep their way of life in their homeland.