T’áá ho ájít’eigo (Know who you are)

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T’áá ho ájít’eigo (Know who you are)

from Perry Robinson

Perry Robinson is a wonderful storyteller, who as a medicine man working for UNHS, has many opportunities to teach and counsel with people in need. One day as he was talking about “T’áá ho ájít’eigo,” (the importance of a person knowing who he or she is) he told a delightful story that offers something to everyone. Picture this.

There once was a caterpillar who struggled with his very existence. Everything he did, everywhere he went, took so long to accomplish—his whole life seemed to be measured out an inch at a time. No one else seemed to have this problem as the world roared by him at a rapid pace. He could not see things the way others did because his view was blocked by everything that loomed before him on his difficult path. Frustrated, angry, disappointed, he blamed the holy people for his condition. They were the ones who had made him small, slow, and beneath all the rest of the creatures. Why had they done this?It just was not fair.

One day he sat on a gnarled root, weeping and praying about his sad condition, but nothing changed. There was no miracle, nobody asked him what was wrong, and his speed did not increase. Life seemed hopeless. That night, however, he had a dream that he was at the top of a tall tree from which he could see all around him and far away. The world was beautiful, filled with flowers, buzzing insects, warm sunlight, fleecy clouds, and lush vegetation. The whole scene looked ideal, resembling nothing from his daily life. When he awoke, it was the same old shabby world. In the distance, however, he spied a tree, not that much different than the one in his dream, and so he thought that he would crawl toward it to see what it was like and if he could get a better view.

The caterpillar worked his way over the rough ground and to the base of the tree then looked up.He knew it would be a long and difficult climb, given his size and strength, but the dream had been so rewarding and life could only get better, and so he started to climb. His goal: get to the top.

The bark was rough, branches got in the way, oozing pitch slowed his travel, but he persisted.Finally he reached the last branch but was sorely disappointed. What he had hoped would be a countryside of light and cheer was instead a cold, gray wasteland waiting for the first snows of winter. Disappointment consumed the caterpillar; there was nothing to do but spin a cocoon, sit inside, and meditate about how sad he felt and how life was so unfair. Crying, he worked hard at making his home then crawled inside. More tears, more sadness, and prayer filled his life in his isolated nest. But there were still dreams.At night he heard a voice during one of his reveries saying to pray more and think about how there may be a purpose as to why he was in this cocoon, why his life had turned out this way, and that he needed to look at things in a holy way. Perhaps there was more to life than just what he saw.

A few days later, a thunderstorm rolled in with strong winds that struck the tree, broke branches, and tore its bark. The cocoon split open and as the caterpillar began to crawl out, something held it back. Looking first to the right and then to the left, he noticed that there were wings on his shoulders, and as he made his way out of his nest, that he had become a butterfly. The holy people had answered his prayers; he was free from all of those difficult times that had held him back, and his world—oh how his world had changed. Beautiful flowers spread beneath him, he soared to new heights with powerful wings, the warm sun welcomed him and filled his life with magnificent colors. Most importantly, he could travel quickly in any direction he chose. Even his body had changed from a boring, fuzzy caterpillar to a colorful butterfly that flew about pollinating flowers and spreading new life wherever he went. His prayer and thoughts had given rise to a life that fulfilled the purpose for which he had been created.

I am Perry Robinson my clans is Edge Water born for Nakaii’dine. I am from Pinon Arizona born and raised there. I finished high school at Intermountain H.S. in Brigham City Utah in 1974 went to school in Utah State University for a year. I got inducted into military. I was in Marines for 4 years. Worked in construction, as a Boilermaker and iron worker for some years. I slowly worked my way back into schools to get licensed in counseling grandfathered in and a license to do traditional counseling- ceremony. I worked for Navajo Nation behavioral health for 25 years as a traditional practitioner. Retired last year. Started working with UNHS. Now as traditional consultant- practitioner.

Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth