Native Youth Leadership Alliance

MAKAI WITH MURALS

First of all, thank you for your time and consideration of me as I take this time to introduce myself. Ya’aa’teh. Hello my name is Eric Lewis, I also go by Makai; I am a proud member of the Dineh’ Nation. My clans are, I’m Nihooba’anii born for Dzil’tl’ahnii, my maternal grandparents are tsi’naajinii, and my paternal grandparents are Ta’chii’nii. I was born and raised on my ancestral lands on the Dineh’ homeland; located in what is now know as the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. I come from a family of five; I am the middle child of my two siblings.

I like to say that I’m not a new Native, I’m the old Native adjusted to new conditions. Some people might call me a radical, some can call me a tree-hugger — I’m indigenous. I am Dineh’.

My love for our ways of life, our people, and land comes from my ancestors, and what they fought for so that we could have what is left of our culture and land; and this is where most of my inspiration comes from. I was created and raised by two loving parents in a strong cultural home. I don’t drink, and don’t smoke, except in some of our ceremonies where we use mountain smoke. I am extremely spiritual and carry a strong belief in my culture and try to support it through my daily life. I’m highly dedicated to my education, and to uplifting/helping others. I only want the best for others, and that is what my journey is about.  Like many other Natives, I strive to become someone who will make a difference, not only for my family, but for my community.

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I just graduated with my AA degree from Northwest Indian College (NWIC) in the Native American Studies/Native Environmental Science program and have also been very active in the NWIC Center for Indigenous Service Learning.  I am moving back home to New Mexico after graduation and look forward to completing my BA degree in New Mexico closer to my community. I am passionate to make a change in my community because tt may be a new time and era for all native people across Indian country, but the struggles and challenges continue. Certain things have been improved in our communities but there is much work that still needs to be done. Our communities confront major challenges and issues facing in natural resources, community health, drugs/alcoholism, poverty, education, repatriation, loss of traditions & languages, trauma/suicides, racism, cultural appropriation/stereotypes, diabetes/obesity, treaties/sovereignty – and the list goes on.

IMG_0379I always say that to be a Native person today comes with many responsibilities, in looking at the personal and political choices we make and applying a native logic to them; living according to our cultural teachings and values; thinking and behaving in a way that is consistent to the teachings of our ancestors and with the laws of nature. I say this because I believe that this will restore balance to the land and our communities.

I want to do something about the situations we are in. I want to help, and all I can think of is, it starts with our youth; they are the flowers of the future. We need to love, teach, protect, raise and nurture them well. As my grandmother and mother have encouraged me and have been my role models, I hope that I can give back to my Native people in the same way, to be of help/service, to be a role model to young Native children, and to preserve our beautiful language, culture, and land.


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