News From Native California Volume 31, Issue 3 - Page 49

protocol, I felt that sharing my experience through photog- raphy was a sacred part of this work, and so I went out of my way to acquire another camera for the journey. As I drove east on the 58, I knew that I was going to a place I had been before, but I tried to remember if it was in this world or the dream world. Racking my mind for a rea- sonable explanation, I saw the biggest, reddest coyote I had ever seen, and it looked back at me as I pulled over to lay down some tobacco. We all know that Coyote is a trickster, but my grandpa goes by Askishiniwish, Old Coyote, so I chose to see this coyote as an affirmation. Shortly after, I realized that I had been on this highway before. When I was seventeen years old I tried to end my life. When I was placed on invol- untary psychiatric hold, my parents drove me on this road to Bakersfield because it was the closest behavioral health- care facility that took youth. But I was not in any position to lucidly remember the highway. I have tried to tell my story about surviving a suicide attempt, but each time has not felt right. I do not have a miraculous story about how I overcame depression, or even an adequate explanation most of the time. All I knew is that I felt so overwhelmed, like I was carry- ing something that no one could see, and it was crushing me. Despite it being December, it was high noon in the valley and the sun was beating down. I had already seen a coyote and I didn’t want to see a rattlesnake, so as I walked, I sang the couple of songs I know to let everyone know that a human was coming through. Because one of the songs was a welcome song, I thought of Mahalia, my little cousin born the day before. I was called to walk all the way around the rock forma- tion before entering. Immediately before I turned into the entrance, the camera died—silly of me to fret over whether I would get the message or not. When I first walked in, I jumped at the fast-beating wings of a bird. After collecting myself, I was overwhelmed by how vivid some pieces of the paintings remained despite their near-whole desecration and I cried. It felt like my first cry was purely in mourning of my people and this land. We have lost so much, and while we must honor our resiliency any chance we get, there are some things that we simply cannot get back, and in this moment I realized that I had never truly taken the space to intention- ally mourn this boundless loss. Catching my breath, I found my eyes drawn up to the top where the speaker would stand, and a prairie falcon sat there. I stopped crying as the falcon looked at me. As indigenous people, we are intrinsically tied to our land. We are a part of a place, just like the generations of flora and fauna that shape the land. At times, we must fight tooth and nail for our land because it is self-defense. At other times, we must mourn our losses and heal ourselves to heal our ancestors. SPR IN G 2 018 ▼ 47