When you think of Native American communities across the United States, what image comes to mind? For many, it is often the picture shown here, portrayed in the media, or in old western movies, but, what we often miss is that true Native beauty is vibrant, diverse, and endless!
My name is Jennifer Leo, and while this is the first time I’m writing to you, I’ve been with Seva for the last year as the Program Officer of our American Indian Sight Initiative. As a proud member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I work hand-in-hand with Native partners to assess their unique needs and co-create solutions that strengthen our communities.
As a Native person, I have encountered many myths about Native communities. But, I want to help flip the lens. Let’s dig a bit deeper, and let me share a side of Native communities not often portrayed – the true beauty, joy, and even struggles we face. Come along to meet some of the partners you support, and who knows, you might even learn something new!
Even though we have never met, you & I are connected.
It may seem hard to believe, with so much that separates us. Your story may have started in a different place than mine, at a different time from mine, with different characters and plots. But, at this moment our paths meet.
This connection among all people is something I learned from my dad. As a little girl and a proud member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I remember my dad telling me stories. Sometimes they were about himself. Sometimes they were about my aunties, or my grandfather. And, sometimes they were about my ancestors from long ago. I remember he told me about a time my grandmother had no food to feed him for dinner. So, she washed him, and wrapped him in a blanket and sang him to sleep, to take his mind off his empty stomach.
I grew up hearing these stories, learning the details of lives of people I had never met. One day, my dad took me to a mesa, and he said, “Do you know why I tell you all of these stories?” I shook my head no. And he said, “Until today, when you looked in the mirror, you have seen only yourself. After today, – you will see all of us, looking back at you.”