April Chavez

April Chavez is half Pueblo and half Navajo and all-American. A senior at the Santa Fe Indian School, April's Indian name is "Woman Who Comes Back from War." With one foot in her culture and one foot on the slam stage, 18-year-old April is bringing her Native American perspective to the slam community. "I write so I can keep my ancestors alive," April says. "The stories they had were so powerful and I want to share that with all my brothers and sisters, all my relatives and just the people of the world."

In their poetry, April and Team Santa Fe are concerned about keeping indigenous languages alive. "We're writing about language loss," she says. "We may be losing our Navajo language, but there's also people in Africa who are losing their language. There's people in Hawaii who are losing their language." She explains the issue's importance, saying "there is a lot of tension between the young people and the elders, because of cultural separation that's growing each day due to the language loss."

Embodying what she calls the "circular mentality" of Native Americans, April embraces the connectedness of things—of the land and the people, the past and the future, of action and belief. Determined to give back by improving life on the reservation, she is going to Stanford, even though some on the reservation might consider her disloyal for leaving the Native community. She hopes to return to the reservation with a law degree and become a "briefcase warrior." She wants to be an environmental advocate. April's used to Native skepticism about deviating from customs—her family was the first on her pueblo to vote in "the white man's government"—but she believes that real world change comes through political action. That's why she's helping her dad in his campaign for the New Mexico State Senate.

April feels that her rich cultural heritage gives the real world meaning, so she keeps her culture alive, studying its language and lore, learning to weave and even to herd goats. And, of course, April loves performing poetry to express her identity and share stories of the traditional life on pueblo and reservation. She also uses poetry to confront America about its treatment of Native peoples. For April, slamming in DC will mean exchanging messages with the outside world. And then she'll come home, bringing a piece of that world back to her people.

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