KROGER NEWS – Smith’s Associate Shares Her Navajo Heritage

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News


Wanda Nez Orr is an asset protection specialist in Smith’s division. She’s proud to share her culture and heritage in honor of Native American Heritage Month. We are so grateful to have such associates in our Kroger Family. They help us create an inclusive environment where everyone can be themselves.

I am a Native American. I am a member of the Dine’ (The People), Navajo tribe.

I grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Tohatchi, New Mexico. Frank and Rose Nez are my parents. Nez, the Navajo word that means “tall”, is what my grandfather was. There are four of us and one brother. Colin, my husband, and I have three boys and two girls.

I am a descendant from Chief Manuelito’s wife Juanita. Juanita was the first Native American woman to address Congress. Juanita lived in my home on the reservation.

Navajos don’t have nieces or nephews, we have our own children. We don’t have aunts or uncles, we have little mothers and little fathers. All our children are treated as if they were our own. Our culture teaches children and young people to respect their elders and refer to them as Grandma or Grandpa. Teenagers and young adults will often call Grandma or Grandpa as they speak to us even though we may not have met. Once, my mom and sister were at the mall when a young lady came over and wrapped a native print blanket around my mom and said, “Here Grandma, I bought this for you because I don’t want you to be cold.”

Navajos still live in or own a Hogan. It is a traditional place that we use to hold our ceremonies. The Hogan is a single room with a dirt floor. About every 10 years, the dirt floor is renewed by digging up about three inches and replacing it with fresh clean dirt. Like getting new carpet. To greet the sun, the Hogan entrance faces east every morning.

The Navajo society is a matriarchal one. Land and possessions pass from mother to daughter. The land is decided by the woman. The horse and saddle are all that the man needs to enter a marriage.

Here are a few traditions we still celebrate and some fun facts:

Baby’s first laugh. According to Navajo tradition newborns are first placed in the Holy People’s world before joining their earthly family. We believe that a newborn child is raised among the Holy People until he or she has his first laugh. The child’s first laugh is a sign he or she is ready to return home with his family. The Baby’s First Laugh Ceremony is hosted by the person who makes the baby laugh the most. It includes food and gifts for all those present. This is the first lesson of generosity.

The Kinalda is a four-day ceremony for the coming of age of young women. It begins at dawn when the Kinalda is blessed and dressed in her Navajo traditional dress and will run each day at sunrise, noon and sunset. She will run longer and gain endurance as she runs. A 4-foot by 1-foot hole will also be dug where a fire will burn 24 hours a day for the four days. It is the light of the young Kinalda and must not be extinguished during the four-day period. The fire is watched 24 hours a day.

During these four days, the Kinalda learns how to manage a home and become a gracious hostess. The third day begins with the preparation of corn cake batter, which is baked in the hole 4×1. For the baking dish, we sew cornhusks together. After blessing the cake, the Kinalda places the fire on top and covers it. The cake continues to bake throughout the night.

The medicine man will arrive that night and the Kinalda’s will stay up all night. She will be blessed by songs and prayers. The Kinalda will distribute all gifts she received to her guests at a wonderful feast in the morning.

Navajo Code Talkers. Freeland Nez was my dad’s brother and Navajo Code Talker. He was a great example to my dad. The Navajo Code Talkers were able to create a unique code within a Code and helped our country in World War II.

Here are a few examples of the code:

English Word
Navajo Word
Aircraft Carrier
Bird Carrier
Iron Fish

My dad was a medicine man. If one doctor couldn’t diagnose a patient’s problem, they would send him to my father. He was truly amazing. The yard was full of patients waiting to see the medicine man.

It has been a long journey for us Navajos. During the “Scorched Earth Campaign” of 1864, our livestock, homes, orchards and gardens were burned because there was a belief that the mountains on Indian land held silver. My ancestors lived in poverty and walked to Fort Sumner. They were allowed to return home when silver was not found.

Thank you for this opportunity. Not only from me, but also from your Native American associates.

Wanda Nez Orr

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