Tracie Benally


Tracie Benally

Tracie, Diné Nation (Navajo), was interested in becoming a We R Native Youth Ambassador for three specific reasons, which include being a part of a team committed to healthy, positive, and sustainable change in Indian Country; having the opportunity to further learn about effective leadership and collaboration across communities and state lines; and having the support and direction necessary to organize and lead projects within my community.

The voice of the younger generation has not always been well-represented in major decisions. Having the opportunity to become a Youth Ambassador will offer me a unique opportunity to lead community change through collaboration with other Ambassadors across my reservation, and is a powerful platform to contribute to the overall voice of Native youth-driven across the country. One thing I am particularly passionate about sharing in my community is the power of education through reading and writing. As a product of the public school system on the Navajo reservation, I learned very early in my education that one of the most powerful and effective tools in creating change came through not only being able to clearly articulate my views in the written word, but also being able to critically analyze words that could either harm or benefit my well-being or that of others around me. While reading and writing are educational tools that are very important to my identity as an Indigenous activist, they are not subjects that are pushed in ways well-received by younger generations. So, as an aspiring educator, I have made it my personal goal to share my love for reading and writing in ways that are receptive to learners of all ages, but particularly the youth. In recent months, I started a social media account titled “Navajo In A Bookstore,” which is dedicated to spotlighting works written by Indigenous authors in order to encourage engaging with culturally responsive materials, and reinforcing the notion that education can be a tool to preserve and strengthen cultural pride in times where it is threatened. Using this social media platform, I hope to appeal to the youth in order to raise awareness around critical issues such as reproductive justice, physical and mental health and safety, tribal sovereignty and politics, and cultural pride. In the coming months, I hope to further my presence within my community and across my reservation by hosting book drives, family literacy evenings, and plays put on by children based on culturally responsive texts such as “The Goat In the Rug.” Leading this change in my community and reservation is extremely important to me because it is an example of educational investment I wish was available to me while I was in school. I sincerely believe that with exposure to reading and writing, upcoming generations will also understand just how powerful education is in an ever-changing political and social climate and that in which we live.Prior to this year, I often used the word “passion” to describe how I felt about my work in the field of education. Up until a few months ago, this word seemed to encompass the levels of love, care, and commitment I felt for the students, and communities I served. But as my roots in this field and within my own community grew deeper, I realized this word was not nearly enough – it failed to describe the love I felt for the students I taught or engaged with.

Dear Auntie, what are you grateful for this year?

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