Meet Our March Featured Artist
Grew Up In: Navajo Nation
Creative Focus: Seamstress
Yá'át'ééh (Hello in Navajo)
Shí éí Mandi White yinishyé. (My name is Mandi White) My clans are Tábąąhá (Water's Edge clan) nishłį́. Naakai dine'é (The Mexican clan) bashishchiin.Tótsohnii (Big Water clan) dashicheii. Dibéłzhíní (Black Sheep clan) dashinalí
Your Navajo homegirl grew up within the Navajo Nation. When I was a little girl my paternal grandfather Johnnie E. Smith noticed my love for adventure and backpacks. My Cheii (grandpa in Navajo) gave me my forever Navajo name. I was called Asdzáá Bí Yelí which translates to “bag woman.” Since that moment, I have only added to its meaning. This little rez kid tread all over the reservation in jelly shoes and laced socks.
My upbringing was blissful indeed. My mother was in nursing school while my father was working full time for the Navajo Nation Police Department. I grew up with one brother who always gave me money for snow cones and school popcorn. My brother was busy with his skateboarding life so I would always get dropped off at my Cheii’s house. When I look back to this time of my life, I'm grateful my parents made the right choice. I know my late cheii’s voice, the softness of my masaní’s velveteen skirt, and my place around the table.
When I reached the age of puberty I had celebrated with all the women in my life. The puberty ceremony is called a Kinaaldá. I blossomed into a Navajo woman who learned to be resilient just like my mother, grandmothers and the women before them. As soon as I graduated from high school I attended my local college while working part-time. Throughout my life I struggled with back pain which eventually led to back surgery. As soon as I healed I prepared to serve an honorable mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was called to labor in the Des Moines, Iowa Mission. I completely fell in love with the area and the people. I had a blast carrying my backpack and wearing a nametag that read “SISTER WHITE” .
As soon as I got home from serving a full time mission I was immediately accepted to Brigham Young University-Hawaii. After a few weeks into school I had to drop out because of health complications. After months of testing and countless spinal taps I was diagnosed with a rare brain condition called “Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension”. After another few years of healing I beat idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Then again I packed my backpack and headed north to Utah.
My Utah adventure started with me keeping an instagram story diary. Instagram allowed me to tell my story as well as share adventures with my family back home. Today I am attending Utah Valley University with a dream of becoming a Navajo nurse. I hope to learn the healer's art through further education. My good medicine consists of recording my family history through video and photography. My dream is to capture my relatives as they are, so the future generations can know them as well. All this led to me starting my Navajo seamstress business which helps me to pay for school. My love for the old style clothing has empowered me to wear my tribe's regalia everyday just like my ancestors. I taught myself to make Navajo three tier skirts with a little bit of modernization. My skirts have an elastic waist, pockets and a sewn in liner. Sewing has taught me that we are not just a past tense people, we are a present tense as well as future tense people. I am grateful and blessed for my life experiences because it has led me to who I am today. I strive everyday to live a life that would make me a loved ancestor whose name is spoken frequently.