Shenay Atene (Diné)
My Jingle Dress
I wore this dress throughout my childhood. I used to dance, it went with me from different states to different schools and it was my favorite. I took it out from the storage because it needs as much healing as I do. I have a deep connection with it, as it has been where I have been and knows the pain and happiness I have felt. As the story goes, those who wear this dress are meant to heal others through their dances. I feel that this time, I am meant to heal myself and find closure for my inner child. I hope this dress is a symbol for all those who didn’t make it home. For my sisters and brothers from my boarding school who didn’t make it here with me. Those who passed, from my time and those before me. I hope this helps anyone who has experienced childhoods similar to mine.
My necklace and belt
This necklace and belt went with a dress. I wore these when I first started dancing around the age of 5. The dress was also orange, but it is currentlymissing. Thankfully, this is what is left. Something from nalí lady Lilly Atene. There isn’t much that I remember from that age, but I do remember my hair being short, and dancing in the dirt with these items. They mean the world to me because this is all I have from when my nalí was still alive. I hope you can appreciate them as much as I do.
Whenever I think about my childhood in my boarding school, I always think of the very back of the wing. I was a child; I had a wild imagination and an unreasonable fear of the door. It had a glass window; my bed was also under a window. I always had nightmares of being watched at night or being taken in my sleep by a stranger or something paranormal. There were always girls that cried through the night, but we never spoke about it with each other. It wasn’t until after a few months of being in Peewee Hall that I accepted that this was my life. This was our life. Me and the other girls sleeping around me. It was hard, being so young and alone. Reading became my source of comfort and really fed my imagination. Maybe a little too much because after reading a scary story, the door became a tangible nightmare.
There were nights in the warmer months when we could play outside in the evenings. I was already an overly sensitive child, I was a quiet child, and these nights when all the kids were playing tag, I would sit on the red slide and watch the sun set. This happened more often than it should have and made me dislike sunsets overall. It was very lonely because all I could think of was, how is my family? I would often wonder what they ate for dinner and if it was good because my mother made it. It was a very hard experience to go through alone. Especially as a child. This painting is something from my memory, an Arizona sunset.
The Path We Used to Walk
There was a path behind the dorms that led to the buttes in the back of the town. After school during the spring and hotter months, we would drop our bags off in our cubicles, and the dorm aids would take us out for an hour to get some exercise. Some of us would run, walk, and talk but we all had to walk that path. It was not until recently that I started to miss it. Those girls were all my sisters. For some of us, we were all each other had. For many of us, the dorm aids were our mother and grandmother figures. That is what I miss the most; the slow walks and hearing Mrs. Big tell her stories. Being 12 running as fast as I could then slowing down to talk to one of my friends. Then heading to dinner with sweat in my hair, sand in my shoes and the excitement of the boarding school dinner. You can’t get dinner like that anymore.