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Proud Navajo Woman, Sailor
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elesia K. Patten
January 11, 2018

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Ya’at’teeh, shi ei Denise yinshye, Kinyaa ą’anii nishłi, Ta neeszahnii bashishchiin, Ą’shįįnii dashicheii, Mą’ii deshgizzhnii dashinałi.

This is how Operations Specialist 1st Class Denise Alamo introduces herself to other people from the Dine or Navajo tribe. It translates to: Hello, my name is Denise. I’m Towering House Clan, born for Tangle Clan, my maternal clan is Salt People and my paternal clan is Coyote Cross Path.

“In Dine culture, you must know what your four clans are because they make who you are,” said Alamo. “For instance, when I introduce myself to another Dine, I would say my clans in the following order: my mother’s clan, my father’s clan, my maternal grandfather’s clan, and paternal grandfather’s clan.

A proud Navajo woman, Alamo is also a proud U.S. Navy Sailor, assigned to Destroyer Squadron 9 of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11. She’s currently serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

November 22, 2017 - Operations Specialist 1st Class Denise Alamo, a Navajo native American, on the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) at sunset. Nimitz and its strike group are on a regularly scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. The U.S. Pacific Fleet has patrolled the Indo-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional security, stability, and prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marcus L. Stanley)
November 22, 2017 - Operations Specialist 1st Class Denise Alamo, a Navajo native American, on the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) at sunset. Nimitz and its strike group are on a regularly scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. The U.S. Pacific Fleet has patrolled the Indo-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional security, stability, and prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marcus L. Stanley)

Since 1994, the U.S. Navy has reserved November to celebrate and honor Native Americans and Alaska Natives. CSG11 joins in the celebration by recognizing Alamo, one of its own.

Throughout her 18-year career, Alamo said she has crossed paths with several other Sailors who belong to her tribe. Military service is fast becoming a tradition in her family – her brother is currently serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and her “Shi chei”, or grandfather, was a U.S. Navy Seabee. Alamo said her decision to join the Navy was motivated by her “Shi chei.”

“Shi chei always talked about traveling and seeing different parts of the world,” said Alamo. “I also wanted to travel. Being a Native American Sailor holds much integrity and pride back on the reservation.”

Alamo grew up on the Dine Nation Reservation, an area near the Four Corners of the United States called "To'Likani" or Sweetwater, Arizona. Her family owned two houses; one was near the main road in Sweetwater and the other more remotely snuggled in the Carrizo Mountains. During the school year, they lived in the house on the main road. Come summer, the family moved to the isolation of the mountain house where they herded livestock and raised crops.

“Our nearest neighbor was about a mile away,” Alamo said. “That house had no electricity or running water. We had a farm that we maintained during harvest season and we planted fruits and vegetables such as corn, apricots, grapes, strawberries, watermelon, cabbage, tomatoes, and avocados.”

Alamo’s Navy life and her life on the reservation share some similarities. While deployed, she trades her life on land for a life in a more secluded environment. Like up in the mountains, the ocean distances her from grocery stores, movie theaters, and other home comforts. The many customs and traditions that are so heavily ingrained in the Navy also mirror Alamo’s way of life on the reservation.

“My grandparents enjoyed attending ceremonies and traditional dances so during my childhood I’d attend many dances such as: Fire, Rain, Squaw, Yei Bei Chei, Bear, Gourd, Round and pow wows,” Alamo said. “Some ceremonies we attend are: Blessing Way, Protection Way, cleanings and purification (sweat lodge), Journey to the Spirit World, Kinaałda (puberty) and other Peyote meetings.”

Just as her grandparents ensured the traditions of her people were passed on to her, Alamo proudly passes on Dine tradition to her children.

“I’m proud to be Dine and that I know my language, culture, and tradition,” said Alamo. “Dine people are also called the ‘Holy People’. We have many taboos that we are told to abide by, however that tradition is dying with the younger generation. I tend to pass on the taboos of our tribe on to my kids along with the folktales and many stories of Coyote the trickster. I will also make sure that they know their clans.”

Alamo draws inspiration and strength from her people, and uses them to inspire her throughout her career in the Navy, she said.

“In my tribe we have a saying, ‘Hozhooogo naashaa’, which translates to ‘in beauty I walk,’” Alamo said. “To me this means, no matter what obstacles are thrown at you, always strive to better yourself professionally and personally.”

Native Americans have been part of Navy history since its inception. Their undeniable strength and impact on protecting the United States, demonstrates the illustrious legacy of the first inhabitants of our nation.

By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elesia K. Patten
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2018

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