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Native American Experiences

December 1, 2022
Nicholas Humphries

An Interview With Kole GreyEyes About His Heritage and Personal Experiences

Nicholas Humphries

Kole GreyEyes is a freshman psychology major from Puyallup, WA, and a member of the Navajo Nation who spoke of his experiences as a Native American and what his heritage means to him. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern U.S. and contain about 400,000 individuals, many of which still live on the Navajo reservation. [1] It occupies the areas of Northeastern Arizona, Northwestern New Mexico, and Southeastern Utah. This is the largest land area held by a Native American tribe in the U.S. and its area is greater than the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined. [2] 

GreyEyes spoke extensively about his heritage in his personal life. His dad is of Navajo descent, but his mothers’ family is white. When he was younger, he wasn’t concerned about his heritage. “When I was in elementary school, I was forced into a group to learn about Native American culture.” [3] GreyEyes didn’t appreciate being forced to learn about Indigenous culture at the time, but he came to later admire this experience during his childhood. 

Although GreyEyes’s heritage didn’t affect his experiences growing up, he has now begun to contemplate it frequently. “I think about it a lot. My dad is 1/2 Navajo, so I barely meet the requirements to be an officially registered member of the tribe.” [4] There is much discussion in the Indigenous community about what constitutes a Native American person. GreyEyes’s mixed heritage has become a frequent thought in his mind. 

One of GreyEyes’s most special trips was going to Holbrook, Arizona with his classmates at Upper Columbia Academy to perform music at Holbrook Indian School, a school that serves children in the Navajo nation. It was a different experience for GreyEyes than for his classmates, but he felt that it was a special trip to connect with his heritage and meet more Navajo people. 

GreyEyes’s grandfather grew up on a reservation but died just after GreyEyes was born. “According to my dad, my grandpa was the second Navajo to graduate with an MD.” [5] His grandfather was influential in his community and inspired many other members to pursue higher education. 

 GreyEyes’s experience at Walla Walla University hasn’t changed his perspective on his heritage. Last year, Walla Walla University started an Indigenous People’s club, but it is no longer in operation because two of the founders have now graduated. GreyEyes expressed curiosity in joining the Indigenous People’s Club if it were to restart. Although GreyEyes hasn’t had many chances to pursue his heritage and traditions, his identity is special to him, and he wants to continue to learn about it throughout his life.  

 

References 

  1. Becenti, A. (2021, April 29). Diné enrolled population increases to 399,494. Navajo Times. https://navajotimes.com/reznews/dine-enrolled-population-increases-to-399494/ 
  2. The Navajo Nation Quick Facts. (2008). The University of Arizona. https://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1471.pdf  
  1. Interview with Kole GreyEyes, 11/17/22. 

      4-5. Ibid. 

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