Friday, September 05, 2008

Injured Native American Jingle Dress Dancer Graduates

During May's graduation at Haskell Indian Nations University, Willow Jack Abrahamson was the first student to cross the stage and receive her bachelor’s degree. That honor was bestowed upon her by the cheering crowd of students, teachers and family who call her a leader and  inspiration. Three years ago, Willow lost her husband and 4-year-old daughter in a car accident. Willow and her 6-year old son, Nakeezaka, survived, but Willow suffered head, spine, and pelvic injuries.  

Doctors told the award-winning Native American jingle dress dancer that she would need a wheelchair or walker. “I was feeling like the whole world was caving in. It was like I was living a real-life nightmare, something I would never want to see anybody go through,” Willow said.  What kept her going was a visit by the Dalai Lama, who heard her story and wanted to meet her. His Holiness reminded Willow that she still had a son and happiness to share. 

“I decided I can’t be sitting there acting like a crybaby," Willow remembers. " I am the mother and the father now. I have a child to raise. I’ve got to quit this road of self pity.”  In  2006, Willow returned to Haskell.  But tragedy struck again in 2007 when she and Nakeezaka were in another rollover accident.  Nakeezaka broke his arm and femur. Willow shattered her pelvic area. Again, doctors told said she'd need a wheelchair or walker. Willow said she often thought of the passage: “This too shall pass.”  

Once again, Willow overcame these challenges, then went on to finish college by graduating magna cum laude. She dedicated her graduation to her daughter and son. Willow was also honored as the head lady dancer at Haskell' powwow -- a high honor. 

To see what this type of dance is all about, see the video at Native American Jingle Dress Dance.

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