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Junior has no reservations about her Navajo heritage

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Junior Wahelah Butler

Junior Wahelah Butler

Briana Pasion

Briana Pasion

Junior Wahelah Butler

Briana Pasion

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Walking around Watkins Mill High School, you’re more than likely to find people who share your culture in this diverse school. However, for Native American junior Wahelah Butler, that has never been the case.

Butler is a mixed Native American from the Navajo tribe and recently attended the unveiling of the Navajo Treaty at the National Museum of the American Indian. “It was special to all tribal members, especially the Navajo nation,” Butler said. “It’s good to know [the document is still relevant] because my ancestors went through a lot to get this done.”

That sense of community is sometimes lacking at school, however. “I’m the only [Native American at Watkins Mill] that I know of,” Butler added. “People see me differently. They know I’m mixed, but not that I’m Native American.”

Butler lived on a reservation in New Mexico for seven years before moving to Maryland. The reservation is “a desert in the middle of nowhere, but it’s still home to me because I’ve grown up there my entire life,” Butler said.

At first, Butler was not particularly interested in attending the unveiling of the Navajo Treaty, but that changed once she learned more about the Navajo culture and she “realized my ancestors went through everything and anything to get us, natives, what we deserve,” Butler added.

Despite having lived on a reservation, Butler has found that “It’s still kind of hard to relate to people who are Native American because if they’re full Native American, I’m still half,” Butler said. Butler’s grandmother teaches her the language and history when she visits her reservation in Arizona.

Living in the Washington, DC area as a Native American comes with its challenges though, particularly when it comes to the local football team. Butler wishes people would view Native Americans as more than just “’Redskins’ or [that] we have bows and arrows. Even though some of it’s true, they still don’t know how to see us.”

Though she sometimes struggles to find her place in the Native American community, Butler’s culture is very important to her. “My mom told me, ‘always speak from experience and what you know because no one can take that away from you,'” Butler added.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Junior has no reservations about her Navajo heritage”

  1. Limor Dekel on March 12th, 2018 5:40 pm

    I enjoyed this article. I did not know that Wahelah is part Native American although she was my student last year. Our school is so diverse and it is fascinating to learn about different cultures from the students. Keep up the great writing.

    [Reply]

  2. Mattithias Levell on March 13th, 2018 12:18 pm

    I’m a quarter Native American

    [Reply]

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Junior has no reservations about her Navajo heritage