My Heritage
November 1974

“My Heritage,” New Era, Nov. 1974, 35

My Heritage

I am going to talk to you about my Indian heritage. I’ll begin by telling you my name. My name is Tonapah. This is the name that I am known by to my Indian relatives. My other name is Angela Martinez. This is my English name. There was a time when my ancestors were only known by their Indian names. Since the passage of time, we have to have two names. My Indian name means “The One Who Gets Involved.” My English name doesn’t mean anything. It is just a name that was given to me by my parents because it is customary for the present culture that I have such a name.

My heart belongs on the reservation, a beautiful place. The air is fresh; there is no pollution. My spirit is free and happy there. I can sit on top of a mesa and look for miles and miles. It is beautiful. I cannot do that here in the city. There is too much noise. There is no place you can sit and be completely alone and talk to your Heavenly Father. Out on the reservation you can do this. It is a place where the smell of the sage brush and the earth mingle with the whisper of the breeze. It is a place where you can see God’s creatures at work and play. It is there that I feel I am at home. It is there I can pray to my Heavenly Father while surrounded by the things he has placed on this earth for my enjoyment.

In the city I cannot enjoy these things. There is no place like my heritage home, the reservation, to help me really understand what it must have been like before civilization came. It is so peaceful.

So I live in two worlds. I like my Indian world because life is so simple. I also like my other world because it teaches me things that I should learn, for this is why I left my Father’s side to come to earth to learn and be tested. I hope that I pass the test.

The food storage program in our church is not new to my ancestors. It is not new to my grandfather, because he has been practicing this program since before my father was born. For them this program was a must because during the winter months when there was snow and rain they couldn’t go to town for long periods of time. If it hadn’t been for their storage program my ancestors would have perished.

There is no generation gap between my family and me. I have learned the customs and traditions of my two worlds and put them together so that I may be a better person. I am glad to have come from two worlds, because some of the things that are taught to me in the Indian world make more sense than some of the things that are taught to me in the white man’s world. My parents have always taught me to have respect for my elders whether they be my parents or others around me, to fear and worship my Maker, to stand upright before my Maker, never to do anything of which I may be ashamed, to help those in need, always to have respect for my Heavenly Father’s house, always to have my home open to the poor and needy, and to be unselfish with food or anything that I may have, because if you are generous with all things, you will always have plenty. They taught me to work and to accept responsibilities and to do all things to the best of my ability. These things are important to me. I feel that obedience to these things will help get me back to my Heavenly Father’s eternal home.

I have some friends whose interests are in the material things of this earth. These interests include drinking alcohol, smoking pot, and other such evil things. These things are not important to me. These things cannot get me back to my Heavenly Father’s house.

So, you can see why there is no generation gap between me and my family. I can speak to my parents about anything and everything. I can tell them what everybody is doing at school, and they generally know everything about me. They also advise me if I need help. But most of my help comes from my guardian, the Holy Ghost, who was given to me when I was baptized.

So, my brothers and sisters, this is my heritage. My heritage is not in material things; it is in the wisdom handed down from parent to child from generation to generation.

I would also like to bear my testimony: I know that this is the true church, and it combines the best of my two worlds. I know that we have a prophet here today. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and so brought this church back to us in these the latter days.

I am thankful for my brother, my mother, my father, and my grandparents. I am thankful to be a member of this church.

Illustrated by Jeanne Lindorff