Josie Vargas

My Dad is Huichol and Mexican (Mexican/South American tribes) so growing up in the US without a strong community was really hard. For a long time, my only connection to my culture was through family visits and gifts that would come in the mail. In high school, I reached out to other Native kids and I was really surprised that they accepted me so readily even though my tribes are south of the border. This gave me a sense of purpose and a drive to fight for Indigenous rights, especially for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence (both of which I have experienced). There are some resources for survivors, but Native survivors can find a lot of healing in culturally based programs. The best medicine comes from inside and our communities should be conductors of that. Language preservation and revitalization is also something I care deeply for. My grandmother's first language was Nahuatl, but no one else was taught how to speak it. I still don't know how to speak it, but I've made an effort to learn basic words and now I can count, name colors, name some animals, and say basic phrases. I don't know if I'll ever learn more than that, but speaking your language is powerful. I've also picked up a lot of Ojibwe to help my boyfriend (Saginaw Chippewa) learn so we can pass it on to our kids in the future. Even when it gets hard, I want young Natives to keep trying to learn their language and keep their cultures alive. Our grandparents fought for us to be here and the fact that we exist against all odds is resistance.

-Josie Vargas, age 20, is Huichol and Mexican and is passionate about art and culture and language revitalization.
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