Sharing Your Knowledge

Do you enjoy teaching others? Talk about a time you taught someone how to do something.

I have never claimed outright that I am an expert at anything but there are many instances that I have stood up, raised my voice and said, “I have experience in this area and I am willing to take this on.” Having said that it has been quite a journey into adulthood, and I recall the turbulent navigation called my late teens and early 20s. It was not pretty, it was not always fun but most of it was worth it, because it helped shaped the person I am today. I say “most of it” because I made some terrible decisions like smoking and drinking too much, and the one instance where I was rude or mean to someone because someone else was or rather I was just in a foul mood. In those cases, I regret my actions and attitude.

I have ultimately benefited from others sharing their knowledge or their teachings, and most have shared willingly and enthusiastically. Again, I say “most” because I have worked a job where some folks who had been there longer were not always so generous with their time, patience and knowledge. I know what it is like to be treated like and made to feel like you are at the bottom or you are the “new person” therefore you cannot do or say certain things. This might be in large part due to my Navajo upbringing where being humble is an important trait of a Navajo man, woman, boy and girl. I do not like to brag about myself but I do appreciate when people recognize my hard work. It is also important to share your knowledge or teach others things that will benefit them in their personal and professional lives. Of course, that is to say that there is a fine line we must all be aware of when we offer personal and/or professional advice to someone, because they may not want it or may not like what you have to say.

To answer the question, I love to teach or share my knowledge! As I said before, I benefited from others teaching me what they know and without their generosity I would still be trudging up the sand dune in my 30s. I remember many instances where something just clicked and I went, “Ohhhh, that’s what they mean,” or “That’s how it’s done!” It is a very gratifying feeling when you accomplish a short or long term goal.

For example, I delved into the world river rafting or in my case, river guiding, when I was 19 years young, and I worked as an assistant on a Grand Canyon river trip. There I met river guides that are still my friends and mentors today, but I didn’t know that back then. In the years that followed river running became an annual adventure where I would do one or two trips a year until I graduated and the summers were filled with 5+ trips. I was hooked. I loved and dreaded being on a digital sabbatical or on just a plain sabbatical from the world I was so familiar with. Down in the Grand Canyon, you are away from “civilization” for 1-3 weeks at a time, and you are treading waters that can be unpredictable based on weather conditions or unforeseen physical accidents. And if you are a river guide, you are working 12-14 hours a day with 2-6 other guides/assistants in 100+degree heat cooking, cleaning, hiking, rowing and entertaining clients. You know what? That part is easy…for me at least. I am proud to say I am a people person. I love being around people, meeting new and old friends, and sharing with them a place so wonderful, spiritual and grand. This is not the case for all river guides…trust me!

In the beginning of my river guiding career, I had to literally learn to navigate the strong currents of the Colorado River including pulling into shore for camp or avoiding strong eddy currents that wants to take you for repeated spins. And the rapids, oh the rapids. They are beautiful but unforgiving if you do not respect the power of water. Navigating through rapids is not always easy but it is very much doable with patience, respect and determination. Imagine, trying to steer 18 foot rubber rafts loaded down with food, gear and people through rapids! Daunting but doable! Fortunately, I had the guidance of many river guides including a tall blond, cheeky Australian woman I’ll called Fazy, who would yell tips or instructions right before going into mouth of rapid. Although she was taller, stronger and more of an advanced boater than I was, she treated me like an equal, and gave me tips that will last a lifetime. And then there is my lovely friend, Kris, who would perch behind me and guide me through a rapid, and would discuss what I could improve on or what I did good. She and I are the same height with a fairly similar build although I am not as petite as she is.

All of their teachings and sharing of knowledge led me to co-found the Native American River Guide Training Program where we recruited students, a majority of whom were Native American and Indigenous to Canada, who wanted to learn about the river rafting world. We taught them the very basics of a river trip, the fundamentals of being a good river guide and all while maintaining and sharing traditional cultural knowledge from each other and our elders. To date, we have helped train over 40 Native and non-native folks and hope to do more in the near future. I love sharing what I know with people who are eager to learn something they never would have otherwise had the opportunity to. Now it is I, who perches behind someone at the helm of a raft and visually and orally guide them through a rapid or even a stretch of the river. It is an honor to share my knowledge. I love to teach in hopes they will do the same for someone in the future.

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One of my very first female Navajo students now an accomplished river guide in her own right.

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