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Humans of Scott: Adrienne Jackson, Navajo Heritage

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mark Sulaica
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing

Adrienne Jackson, the Air Force Exchange Services recruiting manager, is deeply connected to Navajo traditions and firmly rooted in the soil of her heritage. Her upbringing on the reservation instilled Navajo culture into her life, making her who she is today. Originally from Chinle, Arizona, at the age of 9, her life took a notable twist when her father, a U.S. Army serviceman, received orders to move her family to Germany.

Adrienne said, “I guess I didn't fully appreciate it when I was a child; it was just a part of our everyday life. We'd go there [Canyon de Chell] often, but now, when I see it in pictures, I'm struck by its beauty. It's hard to believe I once called that place home. The canyons, the sprawling dirt, the mesas standing tall – it's all incredibly beautiful.”
As Adrienne continued to reflect on her childhood, she shared fond memories of playing traditional games with her family, and one memory that particularly stuck with her was of her grandmother.

"I grew up on the Navajo reservation, surrounded by its distinctive way of life," Adrienne reminisces, her voice sounding nostalgic. "My grandmother's morning rituals are etched in my memory. She'd rise early, around four or five, filling our home with the comforting scent of freshly brewed coffee. She'd tune in to KCN, the Navajo radio station, and, despite my limited understanding of the language, I could sense her deep connection to her roots. It was as if she was savoring the beauty of each moment."
Recalling her early life on the Navajo reservation, she described her home as Nizhóní, the word for beauty in the Navajo language.

"I believe,' 'Nizhóní' carries a great meaning in Navajo culture, signifying beauty. Navajos, across generations, embrace the concept of 'Walking in beauty,' which acts as a cultural slogan. It reminds us that, irrespective of life's challenges or circumstances, there is always beauty around and within us. I try to keep this in mind, especially during difficult times, and I draw inspiration from my elders.”

Adrienne shared that Navajo elders hold a significant role within their respected clans. "In Navajo families, your grandmother, your grandfather, your great aunt—these are the keepers of wisdom and tradition. Holidays, birthdays, and gatherings are more than events. We are bound by an unbreakable bond. Cousins are not distant relatives; they are brothers and sisters."

As Adrienne further unfolds her deep respect for her elders, it becomes increasingly clear that Navajo culture places immense value on tradition, unity, and family bonds. She looks up to her grandmother, who served as a powerful role model, selflessly prioritizing her children and grandchildren above herself. Inspired by her grandmother's strength and love, Adrienne aspires to carry forward her legacy, striving to instill her Navajo identity in her daughter.

"I've always encouraged my 12-year-old to take pride in her heritage. She's Navajo Diné and African American, a fusion of two powerful lineages. It's essential to embrace her identity.

Adrienne and her daughter often find themselves in situations where they are the first Native Americans others have encountered. In these moments, she proudly reminds her daughter.

"Carry this heritage with pride and be its representative."