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Lamont Works in Multiple Realities

August 14, 2020 | Common Ground | 0 Comments

“Sometimes doing more is less stressful.”


Lamont is a passionate, driven scholar with boundless energy. Personable, with an easy laugh, talking with Lamont was not only a pleasure, it was an education.


A citizen of the Navajo Nation where he was born and raised, Lamont has a doctoral degree in educational systems and is pursuing a PhD in Social Justice focusing on Navajo research methodology at Arizona State. He currently works as a technical specialist assisting American Indian/Alaska Native tribes and communities throughout the U.S.

“To outsiders we’re known as Navajo, but Diné is how we recognize ourselves; it’s a Navajo term for ‘the people.’ A lot of how I’d describe myself ties back to my Diné world view and our philosophy of respect for our relationships, including the expectation to help others, but also our relationship with the land and things beyond our human presence.

 

We’re Part of a Larger Web of Relationships so We’re
Never Alone

I’m 44 years old, I don’t have a wife, but I have parents, grandparents, siblings… From a  Diné world view, my siblings’ children are also my children, my aunties and uncles like junior moms and dads. Even our grandparents, like if I say my grandma, it would be my grandma and all her sisters because of our clan-ship. We don’t limit ourselves or label it.

The work that I do is a reflection of those relationships and philosophies. Recentering indigenous research is how we ensure it’s conducive to our goals. For example, #NODAL talks about oil transport and development through Indian country in North Dakota and how water is life – not just to the Dakota communities, but its impact on the world in terms of risks taken in the name of capitalism. It’s understanding that part of our world view is informed by our relationship with nature.

The conversation completely changes when those who are being researched, i.e. indigenous people, become the researchers. We can create our own tools and remove the colonial myth that our stories are just ‘folklore’ and not tied to larger constructs. Decolonization is often misunderstood to say we’re rejecting everything western – no, the nature of reality is that there are multiple realities in terms of the worlds we come from and the values that we bring. Juxtaposing those world views is really exciting, and in itself like a kind of therapy for me. It’s like, wow, it’s not binary anymore, I can deconstruct it and add my own lived experience.

 

Indigenous Peoples have a Self-Sustaining World View

Our ancestors were masters of cultivating and living off of and with the land, having that reciprocal relationship. My family has an organic farm, so like many indigenous communities we’ve always provided for ourselves. In Navajo terms it would be ‘prepare yourself and be fit, because there will come a time that you’ll be called upon to do something.’

Because I’m working and going to school, I do a lot of virtual meetings from my home office, but being home means I can walk up and down the canyon. From the outside it would probably be considered hiking, but for me it’s more like going to check on your grandma down the canyon! It’s part of your responsibility, so then fitness becomes naturally integrated – which is good since there are no gyms here!

 

Am I an optimist? Well it’s kind of a choice, right?
That in itself is a 
gift.”

What I’d like to ask people is to consider how we’ve interned as generations; what life was like before us and what life will be like after us and the consequences of our actions. Many indigenous communities use the 7 generation theory – if we posit ourselves right in the middle to understand the theories and philosophies of generations before us and synthesize that to offer future generations, we can all take responsibility for our part in that process and make a better world.

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Laine Valentino

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