Navajo warriors, men & women - fight domestic violence

  1. Victim becomes abuser
    Domestic violence is a growing problem, Tsosie said - one that has gone unchecked and unnoticed for a long time. As a former victim and perpetrator of domestic violence, Tsosie said that it is up to abusers to take a stand and stay strong in an effort to break the cycle.
    Tsosie painted a frightening picture of his father as an abuser - an abuser of alcohol, of his wife, and sadly, of his own children. When he grew up and became involved in his own relationship, he became an abuser himself.

    "I came to a point in my life where I had to make a decision," Tsosie said. "My fianc gave me an ultimatum. God gave me an ultimatum. It was up to me to make a better life for myself, for my family and for my people. It was a difficult climb to the top."
    "I wasn't always a drinker or an abuser," Tsosie continue. "I had to find myself again."
    Tsosie's memories of childhood included his father yelling, arguing and drinking. He grew up with the fear of what was going to happen next, and where he and the family would be sleeping that night.
    "My mother always made me promise never to drink, to never use drugs, never to abuse a woman," Tsosie said. "I used to tell her, 'Don't cry, I'll take care of you.'"
    Sadly, he eventually broke all three promises to his mother.
    He advised fellow parents to be careful what they say and do in front of their children.
    "What we are shouts louder than anything we can say," Tsosie said.

    The cycle continues
    Ernie Tsosie Jr. confirmed the frightening image his youngest son remembered of him - so different than the image he presents today. Sadly, he too had been the victim of domestic violence - and his actions as he grew older ensured that his own wife and children would be drawn into the cycle.

    "When my son tells the stories of what I used to be like, it hurts me," Ernie Tsosie said. "I should never have put my family through those things. But one day I gave it up. I came home, and my whole family was gone. I got scared, I thought I'd chased them off."
    He remembers this day being a Sunday, as he'd just come off a Saturday night binge.
    "I got down on my knees and prayed hard. He heard me."
    Tsosie said that everyone must find their own way to support their effort to break the cycle of abuse.
    "It must come from the heart. It must have spirit and culture. You have to have your own way," Tsosie said.
    "I remember when my son Ernie (Ernie Tsosie III, of James and Ernie fame) was a little boy, I was yelling at my wife. She went to the side of the house and got a big rock and threw it at me. I started towards her, but Ernie stood in front of her with his little fist up like this, with tears running down his face. He was just a little boy, but he wanted to protect his mom.
    "I hurt him in his heart and soul," Tsosie said. "He's the one I almost lost. He began drinking and doing drugs. He'd come home and want to fight me. 'It's you're fault I'm like this,' he would tell me. After one such argument, he took off, and I went to the front of the trailer and sat on the porch, with my head down, thinking, 'why did this happen?' I felt a little arm go around my shoulder. It was my grandson, Ernie's son. 'I'm sorry for what my dad did,' he told me, and I realized that he too was caught in the vicious cycle."
    As Ernie the Third talks about after every performance, he too found release in prayer.
    "Just by looking at him, hearing what he says and does [as a comedian], you wouldn't know he had a problem," Tsosie said. "I am proud of all my kids--they are all working against domestic violence in their own way. My daughter, Leanne
    Guy, runs a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
    "Women are the most sacred thing," Tsosie said. "I always apologize to women as a man. I want to say I'm sorry that you were hurt by a man."

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  3. by   tencat
    Wow, this is an article that should be running in newspapers in and around the Navajo Nation. It's not just a 'Navajo' issue. The other tribes in our area also battle the same demons (as do the Hispanic and White populations around New Mexico). Thanks for sharing!
  4. by   ElvishDNP
    Very very touching article.
    As tencat said, this is a big battle in the Hispanic community, and nobody likes to talk about it. I think it is not far in coming, though. I hope not.
    Thanks for sharing.