Shakotah Star Billie (Navajo Nation), 22, of Spanish Fork, Utah, is pursuing her dream with her mentor organization, Nebo Title VI Indian Education, to help Native American youth and community achieve happiness, peace and balance using Dine’ concept of their Hózhó (an important word in the Navajo language and means having peace, balance, beauty and harmony to be in you and around you).
“I would like to teach this through five different types of wellness: spiritual, cultural, physical, mental and environmental,” Shakotah told us in her Dreamstarter application. “My idea is to educate my community about how you can become healthy through food and exercise.
“I would also like to teach about the important aspect of traditional medicine. My ancestors used traditional medicines along with prayer to heal themselves.”
Her mentor, Eileen Quintana, Title VI program manager at the Nebo School District, reported in November on Shakotah’s program progress noting that Shakotah is working with Nebo Indian Education students and families “bring solutions to current problems facing our Native youth” which is benefiting 275 children and youth, and 280 adults.
“This traditional healing covers a holistic approach to physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental wellbeing,” says Eileen. “When connecting with natural elements, Mother Earth and Father Sky, you start understanding what it means to truly be human.”
Among those who have benefited is Shirlee who told us that “The Running Strong program has been a huge blessing to the Native community, our schools and the students here in Utah County.
“I am raising my 7-year-old granddaughter and my 10-year-old grandson,” said Shirlee, who had recently retired and is raising her grandchildren following the death of her daughter. Needless to say, they needed support, encouragement and positive teachings which this program is providing.
“When the program gifted students with school supplies, clothing and shoes it was exactly what we needed,” she told us. “It helped us offset costs so we could afford other needs of the children.
“We deeply appreciate the help and support that has been shown to us and we thank you so very much. We continue to grieve and cry but we also have smiled with the kindness of much-needed support. The children were excited to receive school supplies and new shoes.”
Eileen noted that “many of our families’ parents and grandparents went through boarding schools, Christian foster programs or adoption, so learning about the cultural ties to their tribal identity and belief systems were hampered.
“Our families long for these powerful cultural activities such as indigenous gardening, cooking traditional dishes, storing food, using plants as medicine and dyes for weaving.”
And to the supporters of Running Strong who are helping to make Shakotah’s dream a reality – and teaching Native children and families about their cultural heritage – Eileen says:
“Thank you very much for everything that you do. Billy Mills and the amazing team and supporters who makes all of this possible.
“We would not be able to do this if it was not for your funding of Shakotah’s Dreamstarter project! We are thankful for this opportunity to help our local youth demonstrate their leadership and make dreams come true!”