Growing up on the Rez

Alejandra Rubio shares how it was for her growing up on the Yavapai-Apache Reservation in Verde Valley, Arizona.

Alejandra Rubio with her group of cousins getting ready to head down to a community center.

As I slept in the roll-way bed that sat in my grandmother’s living room, her ferrates had climbed up under the covers and bitten my foot.

Every morning my grandmother Cecilia would let her babies out to wake my brother and me in the mornings. My mom yells from the kitchen, “breakfast is ready!” My brother and I jump up and run into the kitchen to welcome her.

It’s Saturday, and everyone will be gathering at the tribal community center, so we devour our food to meet up with our cousins and friends.

Members of the community will gather to socialize, cook, and celebrate that we are all alive and happy. As the family starts to show up to help cook or bring a dish, we kids are running and climbing around the community center.

As dirt painted our faces, clothes, and hair all messy, you could find my brother and me hanging out with a big group of kids and exploring the reservation. At the time, you would find us at one of our cousin’s houses or at someone’s grandmother’s house, but most of the time, we would be down at the river daring each other to touch the monster that lived at the bottom of the river.

Growing up on the Middle Verde reservation, we had no limits (well, except for the caves that hide underneath the cliff that overlooked the Verde River. These caves were our ancestors, and they were off-limits), we went everywhere.

Overlooking the Verde River. Photo by Alejandra Rubio

As kids, we didn’t care or realize what people beyond the limits of the reservation thought of us. We knew that we were living the best time of our lives.

Middle Verde Reservation is one of four reservations part of the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation is located in the upper Verde Valley of Arizona, and it is 90 miles north of Phoenix and 50 miles south of Flagstaff.

As the years progress, the Nation has gone through many facelifts to help make the Nation a better place to live. With the help of the casino, the Nation can help give funding to many departments and new upcoming programs.

The Nation also helps with its surrounding communities. This past year to help fight against COVID-19, the Nation partnered with the National Guard. Also, anyone that was not a member of the Nation was welcome to get their vaccine. The Nation is always helping and keeping a good reputation with its neighbors.

A new administrative building on the Middle Verde Reservation. Photo by Darlene Rubio

On the other hand, the Nation doesn’t hold up to that good reputation by word of mouth.

If one visited the Nation’s lands, they would see lands trying to survive in a world trying to make it obsolete.

One would see homes run by individuals who are drug addicts or are selling drugs.

Another would see overtaken tall grass, weeds, and garbage in front of some of the Nation’s homes.

Some would say that the Nation’s people are lazy, drunks, and drug addicts, but the one thing that they don’t see that runs deep in these lands is the ones that have pride in who they are, the ones who take time out of their day to show how much they love their lands and culture — the ones who keep their culture alive and ancestors proud.

Proud members who won’t let others define them as lazy Indians, we are the ones who won’t let the typical stereo idea of what a Native American is. We are the Future who will overcome what is trying to destroy us. We are the ones who will carry on what our ancestors have started.

We will wear our hair long, speak our language, and always overcome what life brings us. We are the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

1st Person Essay by Alejandra Rubio shared with the Reynolds Sandbox

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.