Comedian, martial artist teach the strength of culture
"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.
"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.
"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.
For more on Ernest Tsosie III, see Breakout Comedy Duo and Review of Mile Post 398.