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  • Writer's pictureTSANGE' Magazine

Brianne Wilson | Interview - Issue #5

- Brianne Wilson -

43 - Native American

Which culture or sub-culture did you grow up in? More Traditional Indigenous, Traditional Mexican, Chicano/Lowrider, Reservation, or More American-esque? Or a different culture/sub-culture?

I grew up on the Navajo Nation Reservation, near the Four Corners in New Mexico, in a spot called Upper Fruitland. I grew up on a farm with my brothers, sister, mother, and father. Technically I grew up on the reservation, but Walmart and the movie theater were only 5 miles down the highway. A cattle guard and a barb wire fence were the border separating the rez from town. I grew up sneaking over to my cousins house because they had the good popsicles and cable with MTV and I was obsessed with Weezer, Tool, Pantera, and The Cure. I grew up helping irrigate alfalfa fields and feeding horses and cows. I played in the river and irrigation canal. I learned to drive stick shift on a tractor and bucked hay in the summers. My grandparents lived further on the rez and I would go visit them often. I loved waking up to the smell of my grandma making fresh bread and the sound of my grandpa stirring his tea with a spoon. I loved the smell of my clothes after they dried on the clothes line in the clean mountain air. I would go on walks with my grandma and she would show me how to make dolls out of wildflowers or puzzles out of reed grass. My grandpa would pray for our food, friends, and for our future. I can look back on those times fondly now, but as a child I wanted to be like Ripley from Aliens and fly space ships, or sing like Phil Anselmo in front of crowds of people. When I was 18, the day after graduating high school, I left the rez to go find my adventures and what I found was toxic relationships, drug and alcohol addiction, arrest warrants, and jail time. I was lost for long time. I reached a point were I believed that there was no future. It was incomprehensible pain to know that I had no future. I had no direction, I was a ghost. I was homeless, jobless, worthless, on two kinds of probation, I was an absent mother, sister, and daughter. It was then that I believe God spoke to me and told me that I was his daughter and that I was going to be alright. I felt an overwhelming peace fill me and I knew the next steps I was taking were the beginning of the path. I shortly after, got into rehab in Anaheim, California. My cousin, that I used to sneak popsicles from, bought me a ticket so I could get there. That was almost 8 years ago and I've been sober ever since. I've worked to build a life rich with love and with hope for a future.

What are your favorite parts of that culture and community?

My mother, everything that is good in me I learned from her. One of the greatest lessons I learned from her is if you are in a position to help, you are obligated to help.

How did growing up in that culture effect your current style, and point of view of life?

Navajo culture is matriarchal culture, the women are the leaders, the heads of the household. We take the clan of our mothers. I am Tsenabahilnii, like my mother. I learned that whether I like it or not when I walk in a room, people notice. Growing up on the farm, I was definitely a tom boy. I'm also almost 6-foot and I've always weighed around 200 pounds. I grew up wearing band tees, cargo shorts, and converse. So there's been a few times that I've scared the you-know-what out of a few women walking into the ladies restroom. I've always felt like a giant. I tried all my life to try and make others feel comfortable or reassure them I don't need to be feared. But I'm at an age now where I feel like maybe if someone is scared of me then it says more about them than it does me. After all, I am a giant and I could squish you if I wanted, so be good and be good to others.

As an adult now, have you learned about other Indigenous or Mexican sub-cultures?

One thing I noticed since living in So-Cal is that native out here celebrate their culture. They are proud to be native. Growing up where I did, I remember the kids that grew up more on the rez or more traditionally were teased a lot harsher and treated less than. When I grew up, it was my experience and my perspective that being native was a bad thing. I love that I am witnessing times changing to be more inclusive and that natives are getting more representation and more of a voice.

What are your favorite parts of that culture and community?

I love that there is so much support and love for each other out here.

How has it effected your style and point of view of life now?

When I got to California, after rehab I lived in sober living with some awesome women. They took the time to encourage me to be more feminine. They reassured me when I felt silly dressing a little more girly. It was there that I developed the mash up of tom boy Bri with beach babe Bri. Now I have grown quite fond of my androgynous vibe. It's ok to be tough and soft at the same time, there will be times in life when the two will compliment each other and be the perfect combination to increase new territory and authority.

As an indigenous woman, do you mind sharing what tribe(s) you are part of? Did you grow up on the reservation or outside of it?

Navajo, and both.

Please tell us about the work that you do within your culture(s)'s community. Or the work that you are doing to continue educating yourself or others about your culture(s).

Currently, my work is as a drug and alcohol counselor. I have noticed there are a lot of natives coming to California to get treatment, just like I did. When I first came out here, it was a culture shock. I felt like an alien. In the first few weeks out here, I seriously considered leaving because I couldn't relate. I felt alone. I prayed for a friend, and shortly after another native show up, I stayed. So, I know how important it is to see another native. So I wanted to be that face for other natives trying to get sober. I want to be there to welcome them,, to guide them, to connect them so that we can stay and get the help we need. Hopefully, they can return home to their families and show others that it is possible to heal and overcome addiction and they will want the same for themselves and it will be the new revolution.

Instagram: @briwibear Tiktok: @bribear727 "Could't do this without my bestie and biggest fan, Dawn. Thank you for being my friend even when I was still super crazy and a little bit strange. You are the kindest soul I know." - Brianne Wilson Dawn's Instagram - @dawn.gallerito


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Model and Interviewee - Brianne Wilson | @briwibear Tiktok: @bribear727

Editor in Chief - Alvinita Gonzales Production Assistant - Berlinda Gomez Photography - Alvinita Gonzales

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