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Marian Newman posing in desert landscape in New Mexico

A lady warrior

“Yá’át’ééh. I am called Marian Newman. I am Bitterwater clan, born for Sleeping Rock. My maternal grandfather is Salt. My paternal grandfather’s clan is Towering House.”

For the Navajo people, introducing yourself means more than just sharing your name. It’s about sharing where and how you belong—your kinship or K’é. In this matrilineal society, you do so by sharing your four clans, beginning with your mother’s.

Perhaps this traditional greeting was among the first words Marian heard. She was born in 1933, in Naschitti, N.M., at the base of the Chuska Mountains. It was lambing season, and her pregnant mother had taken the lambs out before it got hot. “Pain came, and I came,” says Marian. “Mother caught me with her skirt. Aunt came and cut the cord.” Marian’s given name is Has-tsa’-hazbaa’, which translates to “sudden birth of a lady warrior.” The government assigned her the name Marian Henry—and a birthday of May 14, based on the season she was born.

Marian has known her whole life how she fits in, but for her, belonging isn’t only about her clans. It’s about her kinship with Jesus.
My Christian Life women with sheep and grandchild
1) Marian and her mother tending to their herd at Black Springs in the Chuska Mountains, N.M., in the summer of 1984. 2) Marian and her granddaughter (also Marian) tending to a spring lamb in Naschitti, N.M., in April 2001.

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