Year of Living the Community: Week 30

Jana, posting for the CCP experiment team


Lyla June Johnston, activist, musician, poet of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages

Lyla June Johnston, activist, musician, poet of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages


Twitter can be so full of shit. I persist in using it, though, because I'm a realist and shit is real. But I'm a beauty-hungry realist and sometimes even Twitter connects me to Ecozoic beauty. Like this morning, when I followed a lead and met Lyla June Johnston. Her Twitter profile includes a link to her website Sodizin. It's really beautiful. 

The question referred to in the title of this post is from this poem. The question Lyla June poses is, 'What is civilisation?' She raises it in the context of a poem about her grandparents being part of a group of Indigenous children at a school run by the Dutch Reformed Church near Gallup, New Mexico. They were told, in hundreds of ways big and small, that they were uncivilised.

Beautiful children like my grandparents
with smiles so pure and hearts so loving
were told they were a broken form of human
with every word and action.
— Lyla June Johnston

It's a story we're familiar with here in Australia, the Stolen Generation being taken from their parents 'for their own good.' Lyla June names the same phenomenon in her native land. 

There is a stolen generation who
even though they spoke our mother tongue
did not teach it to their children
out of fear they would be punished as they were.
— Lyla June Johnston

The poem is a declaration of what Lyla June calls 'Indigenous renaissance,' a powerful statement of resistance to the diminishment of any peoples. 

Our generation today,
we are reawakening to our beauty now
in this Indigenous Renaissance.
We are here to declare
that we are beautiful, we are respectable, we are virtuous
as we are.
— Lyla June Johnston

I find her words generous and welcoming, especially the invitation to kinship, an invitation extended through insights into the beauty of the Navajo language. 

Níłtsą́ means rain in Diné Bizaad (The People’s Language/Navajo Language).

The cross-L letter in our alphabet (ł) is an aspirated sound
made when you put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and breath out.
There is no sound really, just the air breathing outward
like an -S- sound of someone who speaks with a lisp.
— Lyla June Johnston

To learn more about Lyla June and her work, here's a bio on the Center for Humans and Nature

Whoever you are: Ayoo Anííníshní, I hold indescribable esteem for you
because you had the courage to come to this world as human
and fight this great battle between what is far from Creator
and what is close to Creator. May your path be blessed always.
— Lyla June Johnston