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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 9, 2002 - Issue 54


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Stories of Inspiration

by Nathan J. Tohtsoni The Navajo Times-January 31, 2002
SHONTO, Ariz. (Jan. 31, 2002) - Across the hallway from Rosie Dayzie's office at Shonto Preparatory School are letters written by students.

They congratulate and gave bits of advice for Dayzie who was selected to be an Olympic torchbearer.

She joins seven other Navajos who will carry the flame through her birthplace in Monument Valley. In all, a dozen people who have connections to the Navajo Nation were selected.

On Monday, Feb. 4, all eyes will be on the Navajo Nation when the torch relay comes through the northern portion of the reservation.

The torch will be nearing the end of a 13,500-mile journey when the mystic, red rock formations will serve as a backdrop.

By the time the flame enters Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for the opening ceremony on Feb. 8, it will have been carried through 46 states. The final 1,050 miles will be through the Beehive State, including six miles on the Navajo Nation.

"It's a big deal. I'm fortunate to be doing something of a world event," Dayzie said. "The world spotlight will shine on Monument Valley."

Shonto Prep will transport students to Monument Valley so they can see Dayzie run.

"To me, that's what this is all about. It's not about me, it's about getting the students involved," she said.

The letters posted in Dayzie's office shared the Navajo Nation's sentiment. One student wrote, "I hope you make a very good statement for the Navajos." Another said, "If I were you, I would keep on running."

The Navajos selected to run in Monument Valley are Jack Anderson of Gallup, Virginia Ballenger of Gallup, Wilfred Billey of Farmington, Dayzie of Shonto, Kathy Holtsoi of Gallup, Brandon Leslie of Gallup, Clara Maryboy of Blanding, Utah, and Elmer Yazzie of Rehoboth, N.M.

Erik Goodsoldier of Lupton, Ariz., Lucas Lucio, also of Lupton, and Jan Reed of Chinle are running in St. George, Utah. Darrick Silversmith of Northglenn, Colo., runs in Denver.

Unique stories
For each person selected there is a unique story.

Billey, a Navajo Code Talker, is familiar with the spotlight.

Born in the Shiprock area sometime around September 1923, Billey, a former high school principal, was nominated by a former student, Jimmy Blueeyes.

He considers the relay the latest "once-in-a-lifetime" event.

On Nov. 24, Billey received the Congressional Silver Medal for service as a radioman in World War II. He also attended the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington, D.C., when the "original 29" code talkers were honored.

"I didn't think I was going to get it. I told (Blueeyes) put code talker on (the application)," he said, jokingly. "It's not only an honor for me, but an honor for the code talkers, the Navajo Nation and the community of Farmington."

Billey, 78, laughed nervously when he tried on the official Olympic torchbearer outfit. His home was filled with code talker memorabilia.

"I was one of the better looking ones," he said, pointing to a picture of his all-Navajo platoon in 1943. "A lot of these guys are gone. Sometimes I can't believe it, it's been over half a century ago, but surprisingly, I remember a lot of stuff."

In fate's hands
Lucio nearly dropped out of school but left it in fate's hands whether he would graduate. He received a bachelor's degree in physical education and sports science from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Lucio graduated from Sanders Valley High School in 1992. He returned to the school six years later as teacher and coach.

"When I started thinking about leaving for school, I didn't have much," he said.

Fortunately for him, a coach from Pima Community College in Tucson saw him run at the Arizona State high school championships and offered a scholarship. He transferred to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City but an injury cut short his track career. He transferred to Arizona and graduated in 1997.

"The way people talk about Sanders, about the education and community, is not all that great, it's just like any other place. You grow, learn and do something with yourself," he said. "We do the best we can to succeed. It's just the way you use it."

Lucio coached the cross-country team to a 2A state championship in November. He now has sights on at least four of his wrestlers winning a state championship this weekend in Phoenix.

Lucio coached his nephew, Erik Goodsoldier, in high school. They will run the relay as a pair in St. George.

Goodsoldier, a freshman at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, nominated his uncle whom he views as an "inspiration." The Olympic Committee notified them they would run as a team.

"He wanted to come back and help his own people, the kids there," Goodsoldier said. "He gave us a lot of courage to be what we want to be and he taught us never to fail. He's been there for us through thick and thin."

Indian center tutor
Darrick Silversmith was born and raised in the Denver area. His run is today, Jan. 31, through downtown Denver.

"I guess they selected me because of what I do for the native community," he said.

Silversmith is a student at Front Range Community College in Denver. He works the graveyard shift as a security guard and volunteers with the Denver Christian Indian Center as a tutor for ethnic school children.

"I don't think of it as doing it for me, but for the Denver Indian community and the Navajo Nation," he said.

Although raised urban, Silversmith has a connection to the Navajo Nation. His father, Richard, is from Pinedale, N.M., and his mother, Susie, is from Klagetoh, Ariz. He attended San Juan College in Farmington for one year.

"I think of the Navajo Nation as my other home. I feel a strong connection," Silversmith said. "Even though we have a large Indian community, it really doesn't feel like it. Being surrounded by my own people and hearing familiar things - it opened my eyes and I actually felt more alive."

Flame arrives by air
On Monday, the Olympic flame will be flown from Arches National Park, north of Moab, Utah, to the Totem Pole formation inside Monument Valley. Afterward, the flame will be flown to Bryce Canyon National Park, north of Kanab, Utah.

At approximately 11:50 a.m., the torch relay begins in the tribal park when it passes through the Artist Point vicinity, Thumb formation, Ford's Point turnoff and on to the visitor center. The entire six-mile distance should be completed by 1:30 p.m.

A ceremony begins at 9 a.m., which includes entertainment and speeches.

The park will be closed at 6 p.m. Saturday and won't reopen until 7 a.m. Monday. Access will be limited and seven Navajo Transit System buses will provide shuttle service. Navajo Transit is providing transpiration to the park from its Fort Defiance facility leaving at 5 a.m.

A local company is providing transport along the route for a nominal fee.

Billy Mills, 1964 Olympic gold medal winner, will serve as special guest runner.

"It will give exposure worldwide to the park and the Navajo Nation," park superintendent Martin Begaye said.

On a good summer day, about 1,500 people visit the park. In just a few hours Monday, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people will be inside the park, weather permitting, Begaye said.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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