When the dried kernels burst open, like a love that cannot be silenced, they release a special powder that feeds us and teaches how to think.
Her love sounds like dried corn cracking beneath the weight of stone, snapping open like prickly pear blossoms in the summertime.
She is teaching us without speaking that you only need two stones to feed a nation.
For hours the women would grind corn together. Not for themselves, but for others. To resuscitate a failing economy these are the only words you need to know: For others. For others. For others.
Selflessness: The foundation of the traditional Navajo economy.
Out in the cornfields, the plants are reaching up to the sky, like poets drunk on love. Swaying in the wind. Laughing and singing to all the humans about beauty and providence.
We sing back.
We sing back.
I am asking you to sing back to them with me. No matter what color of skin you have, or what language you speak, or where you are from: Us humans, we were made to play in the dirt. Us humans, we were made to love the earth. We were made, to sing, to corn.
It’s not always yellow like Monsanto tells you it’s supposed to be. Sometimes it’s red. Sometimes it’s dark blue. Sometimes it’s white. Sometimes it is speckled.
To me corn is proof of the Creator’s love. It is love that you can hold in your hand. Divine. Providence.
The corn plants tell us about economics. They teach us how to be a brave little seed, that travels out into the open, with no shield and no arrow, armed with nothing but a mission, to give our fruit to the world. They teach us how to be brave, how to surrender our tender bodies to the elements with complete vulnerability, to trust the sun will take care of you, against all odds. They speak in colors. They teach through taste. They have minds that travel into the earth. They are people like you and me, but smarter.
This is how Grandma Bessy learned indigenomics. She is Hopi, but we raised her as a Navajo. She is older than me, but she plants more corn than I do. She’s is one of the greatest business women of all time:
She has no credit. And yet her people will build her a new home for free. She has no social security. And yet she is never afraid. There is no word for career in her language. And yet her belly is always full. She keeps giving all her corn away. But she never runs out. She doesn’t have any money. And yet she has everything she needs. She doesn’t own any real estate. And yet all around Dine Tah, anywhere she goes, she has a home. She works seven days a week for her people and even works overtime in the evenings! And yet she can’t wait to get up and do it again the next day…
Wall Street is scratching its head, wondering where Grandma Bessy gets it… And yet the answer is so simple.
One day I walked to her hogan as if it was the office of Charles Schwab himself. I needed some sound economic advice. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. And so I said to her:
“Shimasani, I feel like Robin Williams: I have so much money, but, I’m still sad…”
She looked at me, lovingly and said: “Shi yazhi you need to deposit a little bit of naada’ałgai [white corn meal] on the ground. Your account is running low. You haven’t been praying much. But when you make this deposit, do it at dawn, when the Holy People are watching. And when you do it raise your hand to the east. Pray for those you love to be blessed. Pray for those you hate, to be blessed.
“Do this and I promise you, shi yazhi, the return on your investment will be staggering. One prayer to the Holy People can save an entire family! Just as one kernel of corn holds the potential to feed an entire nation!
“But you have to remain accountable to your shareholders, shi yazhi. The ones who made you what you are today: Sis Naajini, Tzoodził, Doo’ko’oosłííd, Dibe Nitsaa: The four sacred mountains. Haashch’eełt’í’i, Asdzaan Naglehe: Don’t forget the ones who gave you all of this.
“Out there they are playing a game. It’s a game called profit maximization. And in this game, no matter how hard you play, or for how long, you never win.
“We play games too out here in the desert. But our game is called, ‘Be Generous.’ And the interesting thing about this game we play, is the more you win, the more I win. And the more you win, the more he wins, and the more he wins, the more she wins, and the more we win, the more our children win. In this game, shi yazhi, nobody loses.
“Now, I know what you are going to ask next, shi yazhi: How are we going to get everyone else to stop playing that game, which is destroying the world, and start playing our game? The answer is simple. I didn’t say it was easy. I said it was simple: When they point the gun barrel at you and your family, do not point a gun back at them. Just keep singing your song of love. Only then will they ever lower their weapons and sing with you.”
I am asking you to sing with me. No matter what color of skin you have, no matter what language you speak or where you are from, you are my family. When we remember this, we will finally come upon the wealth of our ancestors: the wealth of joy, the wealth of love, the wealth of fulfillment, the wealth of laughter and the wealth of health. Human beings, we were made
Lyla June is a descendant of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages. She is a co-founder of The Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council, which works to heal intergenerational trauma and ethnic division in the northern New Mexico. She is a walker within the Nihigaal Bee Iiná Movement, and is the lead organizer of the Black Hill Unity Concert. She is the also the founder of Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration of children that occurs in 13 countries around the world every September. In 2012, she graduated with honors from Stanford University with a degree in environmental anthropology. She is a musician, public speaker, and internationally recognized performance poet, who recently appeared in the film The Voice of Water. She attributes her achievements to the Creator who gave her the tools and resources she uses to serve humanity.