I travel back and forth to my home Rez just about every other day. It’s a 45 minute commute and I get the pleasure of seeing the beautiful rolling hills of my ancestral homelands on this drive.
A couple days ago a relative commented on my hair asking where my “Ndn hair” went? They were referring to my ombré hair coloring and how it used to be “long and black, now it’s… *pause* different.”
As I thought about that more I realized some of us have hair colored red, some green, some blue, some blond, some black, and some gray.
What I thought more about was the meaning and spirit behind hair. For Natives it seems long hair is thee signifying qualifier. As if long hair is the way to somehow become or be more Native. Coming from a large family where styles and lengths vary, I had to go there because my hair style was being addressed. As big headed and vainglorious as this post may sound about my hair, please, bare with me.
The relative, who is a Euro white male that married into a Native family has some ideals. His idea of what constitutes a Native clearly is a visual. Considering that I participate in ceremony it struck me that I could be categorized as not Native enough because of my hair? So hair really is a qualifier?? How about all the men and women who still work, sing, live, walk, and journey in forgotten ceremonies? Or those who chose a short hair cut due to a job?
It got me thinking more about what hair means to me. One thing I remember clearly are the times I had my hair cut. I’ve always had long hair and cut it for sports for the first time in the 6th grade. After growing out of the short hair phase, I grew my hair out due to my late grandmothers wish. I was 17 and didn’t cut my hair again until I divorced when I was 30.
Since that time I’ve grown my hair out but I’ve also styled it with a perm, colored it with caramel blond streaks and highlights and tried the bangs. My hair has offered the one thing that I believe we all have and that is an outlet and/or freedom of expression.
To revisit what my grandma (Nahlee Saani) shared, I have always known what hair means to me and my family. It is an extension of our spirit. As I was taught in Diné, there are two times we wear our hair down, the rest of the time we put our hair up. As my gram taught me, we wear our hair down when 1.) we are in mourning 2.) when we go to war.
With that awareness, I thought about what my extended relative shared and left it as “each to his/her own”. I have worn my hair the way that I do intentionally. Somedays I wear my hair in a ponytail AND on others day, I wear it down.
As I close out this blog thoughts out loud, I wanna share that I cherish being from two distinct Nations. And each bit of turquoise wisdom that has been taught to me has provided me the spiritual grounding I need on how to be the woman that am today. Next time you see me with my gorgeous ombré highlights, please, take note of how my hair is styled, it’s an extension of my spirit.