San Juan Chapter hosts community healing day

Noel Lyn Smith
San Juan Chapter President Rick Nez speaks during a community healing day on Thursday at the San Juan Chapter house.

LOWER FRUITLAND – Members of the San Juan Chapter took steps today to help people begin to heal after the tragic death of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike.

Throughout a two-hour event, residents gathered underneath a white tent south of the chapter house and shared words that focused on building resilience, strength and healing.

They also gathered to continue supporting Gary Mike, Ashlynne's father, who sat with the girl's older siblings, 14-year-old Asa Mike and 12-year-old and Gracelynne Mike.

Phillip James, a preacher at the Hogback Church of Christ, was among those who provided messages of spiritual guidance.

"From different areas, counties and states, it seems like we knew Ashlynne. Even though we never shook hands with her or said, 'Hi' to her, she's so close to our hearts," James said.

He added the Bible teaches that when death occurs, a person's physical form stops functioning, but the spiritual form lives on.

With a yellow ribbon fastened to his shirt, James said it was Ashlynne's favorite color and can serve as a reminder of her life.

"Yellow is a word that is visible, a color that is very visible," James said. "It also represents sunshine. It also means happiness. It also means warmth. You've seen that all in Ashlynne. It should be a comfort for us."

Alice B. Sims, a medicine woman from the Nenahnezad Chapter, talks about the benefits of traditional healing during a community healing day on Thursday at the San Juan Chapter house.

Alice B. Sims, a medicine woman from the Nenahnezad Chapter, talked about how Navajo ceremonies, prayers and songs carry messages of positive behavior, living and thinking. When a person needs help, there is no harm in traditional healing, she said.

"There are songs for good life, good ways. ... Psychologically, it helps that way," Sims said.

State Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, was among the local officials who spoke at the event.

She said although Ashlynne died at a young age, her death taught people lessons beyond her years.

Ashlynne Mike's friend, Zeandra Arthur, 8 left,; brother, Asa Mike, 14; father, Gary Mike; friend, Dakota Begay, 11; and sister, Gracelynne Mike, 12; attend a community healing day on Thursday at the San Juan Chapter house.

"We've learned the importance of Amber Alert. We learned how to come together as a community. Look at the power of that, and this 11-year-old girl did that," Clahchischilliage said.

As Clahchishilliage looked at the Mike family, she told them Ashlynne is receiving rewards in heaven for sharing those lessons, and her spirit has healed.

"The outpouring on the death of Ashlynne (carries) a tremendous amount of responsibility for us too," she said, adding part of the task includes continuing to comfort the family.

Representatives from the tribe's Office of the Speaker and the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President read statements of support, but it was Navajo Nation Council Delegate Tom Chee who said, as a leader, he fears the momentum and calls for change will fade.

"My question to you today is, what do we do with this energy that this tragedy brought into our community? How do we capture the energy that you saw the days after the tragedy?" Chee said.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Tom Chee says he fears the momentum and calls for change that emerged in the wake of Ashlynne Mike's death will fade.

Chee also called on Gary Mike to lend his voice to restructuring the system that failed his daughter.

"You are the rightful person to do that. I think you owe it to your daughter to say, 'I'm not going to let this energy of the community dissipate. It's my job, it's my duty, my obligation in remembrance of my child to move forward,'" he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.