November 02, 2008

Navajo pair is BRAVE

Pride, respect, power

Comedian, martial artist teach the strength of cultureErnest Tsosie III and Reginald Mitchell are telling people that there are healthier alternatives to violence and that, in general, we are suffering from a major disconnect with our cultural history.

"Ernie and I have put our talents together and formulated a new business and it's called BRAVE Natives," Mitchell said in a recent interview with Navajo Times.

"BRAVE is (short for) Being Ready Against Violent Encounters," added Tsosie. "It's violence prevention and awareness."

They give presentations at schools and organizations where Tsosie and Mitchell hope to instill pride, respect and power in youth.

Both are well-known to many Navajos. Tsosie is a comedian and actor and Mitchell is a martial artist.
And:When he sees pictures and images of historical figures, Tsosie said it captivates him and brings a sense of pride as he is reminded of the Native Americans' long struggle for survival.

"That was our ancestors and back then it was hard times," he said. "Our people are strong and I think our youth is weak, to be honest with you."

The weakness makes them vulnerable to negative influences and has led Navajo youth to imitate other cultures and ethnicities, even gangs, at they try to be something they are not.

"We're definitely in an era of identity crisis," Mitchell said.

"That's right," added Tsosie. "Not all (young people) but it seems like the majority. There are still some young people really into the traditional ways."

The problems stem from a lack of leadership, the men said.
And:"We talk about warrior-ism," Tsosie added. "When we ask the students, 'What is a warrior?' A lot of the students that we ask what's the first thing that comes to mind and a lot of them say fighter, soldier. We tell them that's right but that's just part of it, though.

"Being a true warrior is being a servant to your people," he said. "Back in the day the warriors, they hunted, gathered wood or whatever and they're servants to the people. It goes beyond that. I think that through gangs and video games have perverted that word 'warrior.'

"Violence has perverted the meaning of warrior," Tsosie continued. "Attacking another gang member or being initiated into a gang by conducting violence is being a warrior--that's perverted."

In the old days, warriors hunted for food, searched for supplies and looked for ways to help out. They did whatever needed doing and if an enemy attacked, the warriors protected their people.

"In historical days being a warrior is being a servant, someone who helps rather than hurt their people," Tsosie said.
Comment:  A consensus seems to be forming here. Sitting Bull and Billy Mills also said that being a warrior isn't about being the biggest, baddest soldier or fighter.

For more on Ernest Tsosie III, see Breakout Comedy Duo and Review of Mile Post 398.


Anonymous said...


Here's two EXCELLENT Indian role models in every sense of the term.

gaZelbe said...

Reggie was also instrumental in making RezRobics, which is a (free to Indians) Taibo-style aerobics program, set to Indian music and geared toward combating diabetes.

He is most certainly a role model. I have deep respect for him.

gaZelbe said...

And I forgot to mention that Ernest was part of Pam Belgarde's RezRobics as well. Both Ernest and Reginald deserve much credit and respect.

gaZelbe said...

The other important thing about this article is that it addresses an important misunderstanding about Indian leaders. The critical difference between traditional european leadership and Indian leadership is that european leaders have always been defined by authority and power. Indian leaders are defined by responsibility. Frequently, traditional Indian leaders held little to no "power" over their people. In plains Indians' societies, if a leader wanted to go to war, they would have to meet with individual warriors and make their case for war. A warrior made their own decision about participating in any course of action. The leader had no power to give "orders" or force compliance, per se.

From this fundamental difference in definition, many differences in behavior and societal structure between europeans and Indians can be explained.