Alejandra Rubio (Yavapai-Apache): Why I’m proud of my Native travel marks
First Nation’s Focus
To illustrate her story, Alejandra Rubio attended the 2018 Stewart Father’s Day Powwow this past June in Carson City, where she took the images of traditional moccasins seen on this page.
CARSON CITY, Nev. — I didn’t receive my first pair of Apache boots until I was 14 years old, and it was the greatest day of my life.These beautiful boots were made and beaded by my grandmother, Elizabeth. They were white with yellow and green beading that wrapped around the top foot and around the top the boot. I was running for Miss Teen for the Yavapai-Apache Nation and was given these boots, along with a beautiful white buckskin dress that also had yellow and green beading. My grandmother was very talented and had also beaded my T-Necklace to go along with my attire.
I won the title for Miss Teen, allowing me to travel to other tribes to help represent my nation — and that put a lot of stress on my attire. I would lose beads, buckles and strands, and my clothing had holes in it. My grandmother, who loves to travel, took me to all the events that I had to attend. She would help and show me how to repair my attire. As for my boots, they were getting too worn out, and we didn’t have time to repair them. You can see how much I had traveled with them, and see all the love I have given them.
When I told my grandma that they were starting to get holes in them, she just smiled and told me, “Those are not holes — those are travel marks. Each mark tells a story of how much you love yourself and your culture. These marks show how much time and effort you have put into your heart for your ancestors. They are very proud of you right now. “
As I got older, I learned more about my nation’s culture, from both the Yavapai and the Apache sides. I learned the language, as well as how to bead, sew dresses and cook. But it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I learned how to make my first set of Apache boots. After completing them, the feeling that came over me was like no other — I felt proud, and most of all I felt complete.
Learning how to make moccasins was the best gift that I could ever have in life. As my daughter got older, I taught her how to make her own pair of Apache boots, so she could be able to run for Miss Princess for our nation — and she won!
As she came to me one day, she has told me, “My boots has holes in them.” My reply: “Those are not holes — those are travel marks. Each mark tells a story of how much you love yourself and your culture. These marks show how much time and effort you have put into your heart for your ancestors. They are very proud of you right now.”
Now, when I’m out gathering, I’m always catching myself looking at everyone’s moccasins. I can see how many travel marks they have. I see socks and toes coming out; I see beads missing, strands missing; I can see the color of the beads fading. Most of all, I can see all the love that was put into their boots.
My advice is to love your moccasins and boots, and don’t be embarrassed to show them just because they have holes and they are torn up. Be proud of your travel marks, because they show how much you’re proud to be a Native American. O
Alejandra Rubio (Yavapai-Apache) is a graphic design artist for Swift Communications, which publishes First Nation’s Focus.