Reading in kinship: Shepherd Tsosie

Meeeeeeee! haha 

Well, I feel like I’ve been talking about myself throughout the blog.  So I don’t have much to say.  This post is a footnote of sorts, a link in the chain of our discussion and our lineage of dilbaa and nádleeh.  

For Diné cultural teachings context is foundational.  Words are “the how” of contextualizing myself in my community/world this is why we recite our clans whenever we meet another Diné person.  For me, (being Diné), this happens ceremonially, but also in daily activities like offering prayers at dawn.  And the words matter.  Another Diné cultural teaching is that even our thoughts can harm so our words best be chosen with care and intention, intention, intention.    

With My Dilbaa Dreams, I’m writing myself into the narrative (ahé’héé Octavia Butler1), we have to do this, or we disappear and our lived experience and our perspectives cannot then be used as a guidepost for another non-binary person looking for themselves in the story.  Like Octavia, I work and build in words.  With Words.  Words create.  That’s love!  

With words, I’m filling in my blank, so to speak, I write about what I think is important, what I think, what I know and what I want to learn more about.  I’m proof of our existence, of my existence within an intergenerational queer/non-binary/dilbaa/nádleeh present, and future, a patchwork of ideals, attitudes, knowledge, and ways of being that are held together by words, spoken and not, written.  We Diné far from homogenous in our thinking or feeling or identities, my aim is to add more voices for the chorus.  

How do words get made?  In recent discussions with colleagues I’ve pointed to at least two examples of saad being developed in community and then introduced as new terminology with definitions.  While terms like Dikos Ntsaígíí-192 were borne out of crisis or some major event, I’m interested in how new terms like Naahiłii3 are introduced into our lexicon, and where the community was involved in the development of such a term.   

Like writing yourself into the narrative, naming self is also so powerful, for many reasons and I admire Radmilla Cody’s “it’s up to you” approach to listening to elders after initiating the conversation with a question.  Cody’s intial inquiry sparked a new conversation about how Diné name and recognize their community members.  A deeper curiosity of mine lies in the diachronic process behind a word like dilbaa or nádleeh, from a Diné point of view.  Thinking this way can open up opportunities to move forward with building new language and terminology that addresses our identity (i.e. non-binary pronouns).  Using etymology and looking at words diachronically we can start to see where logical evolutions of words that denote gender in ways that built on the word’s foundational meaning.    

Before we start looking at words though, I’d like to spend a few more posts introducing MORE influential Diné baddies doing this kind of work around gender and reclamation of non-binary Diné identities.  

Stay tuned for more on words and poetry and poesis, and all the third and fourth-gendered gen-z and millennials doing this work too!  

Ahé’héé’ for reading! 

1 Butler speaks about the power of creating with words as a writer.  She says if you don’t see yourself in the story, you gotta write yourself in.  Butler’s papers are at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.  

2  the term for Covid-19 was used as a way to get information out in Diné Bizaad. 

3 Radmilla Cody provides an explanation of this new term and clan group on their website: 

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