2022 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Alfredo Quntana, 20, (Navajo), of Spanish Fork, Utah, Dreamstarter idea is “to bring awareness to the invisibility and erasure of Indigenous people and their contributions, while also highlighting the importance of continuing our culture through our youth. “I want to add to and change the way the American story is taught in Utah public schools,” he explained. “I want to share the stories of contemporary Native youth while at the same time adding Native perspective to change how history, culture, language and how contributions are taught.”
“I was always taught that I am Nahookaa Diyin Dine’, I am a holy, sacred being. This is how my tribe describes me. I was placed in between the 4 sacred mountains to protect my land, my people, and my truth. “I want to educate our youth on authentic traditional stories and teachings that are still practiced today. I want to be an example by teaching Native American youth that their stories, and the story of our people, are important and should be told.”
Among the projects Alfredo is planning include a powwow, teaching students how to strip bark off lodgepoles, tipi workshop preparation, a Navajo language class, as well as hosting a storytelling workshop and a reading club. This reading club will include visits from Native authors, with the goal to inspire love for reading. Alfredo plans to work with and be a special mentor to the young men in his community by creating classes on drumming, singing, and taking them through sweatlodge in 2023.
Alfredo told us in his Dreamstarter application that he thought up his project after reading “Becoming Visible: A Landscape Analysis of State Efforts to Provide Native American Education for All”, a report by the National Congress of American Indians published in 2019. The reports goal “was to determine which states require or provide support for Native American K-12 curricula for all public students and to review the policies, laws, and practices those students currently use to authorize, provide, or improve the delivery of their Native American K-12 curriculum.”
“It fit in with activities that I was passionate about already,” says Alfredo. Through his Dreamstarter project, his goal is to reach administrators, and teachers in the Nebo School District by showing them the benefits his cultural teachings have had on the youth. He hopes this will inspire the school district to include more Native American history and change the narrative around Native Peoples. Alfredo explained how his dream fits into this year’s theme of social action by telling us of the loss by his family of their community medicine man who he described as “a personal mentor who taught me a lot of the traditional Diné teachings. “He taught me a lot of traditional songs, dances, and more about our Navajo beliefs through our creation stories like Hozjo’ (balance, beauty, order and peace) which is to live in harmony with Mother Earth and Father Sky. With his help I was able to start healing myself.
“I believe in this year’s theme of Social Action by wanting to share this knowledge with Indigenous youth, and encourage them to follow and practice their traditional beliefs and tell their stories. “Our people have been decimated, colonized, enslaved, and discriminated against using the dominant society’s political views, treaties and legal practices to silence us.
Alfredo is aware of others before him “working to make things better, but we have not made the changes that need to be made yet in Utah. “Maybe if we all united in this goal, including children, youth, parents and professionals it will move forward.
It’s time to tell our story, the whole story.”