For our second installment in our series on building an Indigenized future, we elevate our program team members’ voices. They share their thoughts on how we can leverage our time during COVID-19 to focus on infusing Indigenous values into our daily routines. The three of them are working to achieve balance. Balance helps us to stay grounded as we begin the task of building a new, Indigenized future. It also reminds us to center our culture and our values in the rebuilding process.
Working on balance is a deeply personal journey. For some, it may involve taking time to prioritize all aspects of health (mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical). For others, balance means making space for creativity or using traditional, seasonal cycles to guide our schedules. Ultimately, achieving balance will look different for everyone. As we work to build a future that’s Indigenous-led and beautiful, balance will guide us along the way.
Jayme Davis, Program Director (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)
Jayme believes in the importance of looking for the good during challenging times:
“When you’re going through a tough time, and when things happen that you just can’t explain, remember: balance is always there. I believe that sometimes, we endure times of hardship because there are bigger things at work. For me it comes back to our traditional ways of balance; in the midst of challenging times, I know the good is coming. That’s where my faith comes in. As hard as the challenges may be, I know it’s the challenge that’s going to strengthen my spirit and help me grow to fulfill my purpose here.”
She’s transformed her free time by focusing on learning from her parents and her elders:
“I’ve been surrounding myself with people I know and trust, and I’ve been re-establishing those relationships. I’ve been learning from my parents and my elders. Their stories feed my soul in a good way. I’m really utilizing this downtime to listen and ask questions. I don’t know that I ever would’ve had the chance to do this before COVID-19. I’m very inquisitive. I’m like a kid again. I’m capturing all of this in my journals so that I have a record of it for those in the next generation who don’t have the ability to ask these questions.”
Pearl Walker-Swaney, Program Manager (White Earth Nation and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)
Pearl is moving away from a western model of work-life and toward an Indigenous parenting structure centered on children:
“For me, achieving balance is about making time to do parenting and giving my full attention to that while continuing to work. I’m working to center my days on my family. I’m doing activities with my son so that he’s learning our language and our songs. He’s learning good morals. We are reclaiming how we would’ve structured our time if we weren’t living in a western world. I put together my work schedule based on my son’s schedule. It might feel random, but that’s what works for him. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to structure my time in this way during COVID-19.”
She believes that spirituality, balance, and parenthood are interconnected:
“Making time to nurture my spirituality has really helped with being balanced. It’s something we do every day, normally each morning. If we forget, my son says, ‘Oh hey, we forgot to say miigwech manidoo, or we need to put out our asemaa. We need to smudge.’ That makes me feel good knowing I’m contributing to his norms in this way. I know I’m nurturing his spirituality and understanding of balance as a parent.”
Apryl Deel-McKenzie, Program Manager (Diné)
Apryl is re-evaluating how she uses her time:
“COVID-19 has opened up time for me to reconnect to my cultural teachings and values. I’ve been reflecting on how I’m going to continue using them and make time for them going forward. Right now, I’m not out there doing things that were occupying my time. For instance, I can’t run to the movies or go shopping. But, I don’t actually have to do those things, you know? Westernized distractions were taking time away from me doing this important cultural work.”
To seek balance, she’s looking to her own culture and values:
“For me, it goes back to traditional Navajo teachings. We have this concept in Navajo called hózhǫ́, which has some deep meanings. One of the ways to understand it is balance. There’s always the need to have balance so that you are living a healthy lifestyle. When I think about the importance of achieving balance in terms of rebuilding Native nations, I feel like we’ve gotten distracted. We, as Native people, haven’t prioritized our traditional practices, values, and teachings. We need to go back to them. And, we need to find a way in this modern world to use them to balance us from western perspectives.”
Additional ideas for achieving balance:
Keep a journal: It’s impossible to process everything in the moment. Document your experiences. Return to them later, when you’re ready.
Listen to your body: Have you noticed signs like eye strain, fatigue, or muscle tension throughout your day? Take a moment to step away from your work and recharge.
Do things that energize you. Step outside, get some fresh air, and connect with your environment. Wake up with the sun. Pray and smudge in the morning (or anytime of day).
Achieving balance requires practice and hard work. Don’t get discouraged; keep striving toward making balance a habit.