The Traveling Native // Navajo Nation

On a Friday evening driving back from Window Rock, we stopped and parked our car after finding some roaming burros/donkeys in the middle of this field. During this time, we met Derrick Yazzi, who told us he stopped to talk to us because 'something inside him was curious why these people were on side of the road". A few jokes in and discussion of riding horses, we were invited to come out to Derrick's house the following day to hang out with him and his family. The next day would be a day we would never forget.

We arrived to Derrick's house after picking up a pastry to give as a gift for having us over. With no clear address, we relied on calling Derrick and looking for landmarks, like a church and going left to pass another church, in order to find his home. We arrived to dogs running out to our cars and seeing his two sons chopping wood to the left. We went inside and offered him the almond cheese danishes we bought and then were surprised by a gift that was offered from Derrick to David. It was a Navajo sandstone painting made by his friend about the Rainbow People. It was incredible to receive such a gift.

The rest of the day was filled with spending time with his son Jeremiah at his brother-in-law's ranch. We were taught about the horses and lifestyle of living on the ranch. "The horses have spirits, they need to be free" was something Derrick had shared with us that resonated with me on various levels. We had the opportunity to ride some of the horses, interact with the sheep, dogs and other animals on the ranch.

My favorite picture of Derrick above.

The white stallion that 'could not be tamed'. Derrick and Jeremiah shared with us that no one has been able to ride this horse.

We then left the ranch and was taken by Derrick into the heart of Navajo Nation on a dirt trail to look for the water that rises from beneath the red rocks. Hiking around the mountain, we spent time talking about about life and the boys ended up shooting guns overlooking all of the reservation. Derrick also shared with us the history about the 4 sacred mountains through using rocks and drawing with his finger on the ground the outline of what is considered Navajo Nation. It was that moment I knew we were given an amazing gift of learning about his life, his history and his people through witnessing the expression of what Derrick was sharing with us. It was truly amazing to be taken out to the middle of Navajo Nation with a local and be able to experience the beauty that is their backyard.

We ended the night driving out to Derrick's favorite location for photos and enjoyed the time taking pictures together and making plans to reconnect one day. The experience we had...unplanned, open-hearted and a connection of strangers both being at the right place at the right time, was one of those days we will always cherish.


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