My grandfather was a hard working Navajo. And I mean a hard physical worker. He worked on the railroad and also ran a large ranch with sheep, cattle and horses on our reservation. He worked from sun-up to sun-down to ensure that his overall ranch operation was running strong. His family's livelihood depended on it. He was strong, slender and physically fit. I remember his hands being very strong. He was tough and conditioned!
When I look at old photos of Indians in the 1800's or early 1900's, or when I think about Jim Thorpe and the other great Indian athletes at Carlisle Indian School, or about warriors like Manuelito, Geronimo, and Crazy Horse or about all the strong women who kept their families and communities alive....I am reminded how physically fit and strong our people were. They were physically conditioned. Such physical conditioning was essential to Indian people's ability to survive the cold winters and the hot summers, not to mention protecting their homelands.
I also believe our people were mentally and spiritually conditioned. They were thinkers, strategizers, planners, philosophers and go-getters. They were conditioned to succeed. Mediocrity was not an acceptable trait because it would lead the demise of their community. They were conditioned to care for, defend and support their family and community-- there was little room for excuses. Equally important, they were conditioned to think ahead and to prepare for what was to come. Daily activities like hunting, fishing, herding, wood gathering, sewing, and gardening were about preparing for the seasons to come-- for the future. Indian people had to be ready for what the future would bring. They had to be sharp, prepared and on their game. Survival was predicated on keen conditioning. No slackers allowed!
Today, our overall spiritual and mental community conditioning is, to use a physical analogy, a bit flabby and out of shape. As a community, if we all got on a metaphorical community treadmill, I am afraid we would be reaching for the oxygen masks pretty quick. But like physical training, we can get back into shape and recondition our minds and actions again. It will require commitment and dedication, but like our ancestor we are strong with much to offer. This journey of collectively reconditioning our people requires a steady diet of the following:
- having a spiritual foundation;
- understanding and living by our cultural values and teachings;
- having high expectations, dreams, and goals and then step-by-step going after them;
- supporting and encouraging each other;
- understanding our roles and responsibilities to our families, communities and Nations--we are not here to live unto ourselves;
- having a positive outlook and attitude;
- being proactive and having a plan;
- taking time to laugh and gather with each other;
- taking care of our bodies and having balance in all we do (eating, exercising, working, fun..)
- educating our minds and aquiring a skill/trade
- doing for ourselves and not relying on others to do or pay for us;
- not tolerating mediocrity or complacency;
- giving back;
- moving with patience, humility and fortitude.
These are but a few things, but if we work on these things daily and incorporate into our lives, overtime, our minds, bodies and spirits will again be conditioned to ensure our family and community success far into the future.