Rhianna Deschinny, age 21

Thoreau, New Mexico

“Dezbah Going off to War”


Being Dine, to me, means I have to live up to the women before me.

Strong, Independent, Loving and Kind.

I grew up with the mentality, “No boy is going to push me around.”

With that I had to be better than them, I had to be strong. I can’t look weak. Never.

Being a “girly girl” meant I was weak, so I wore baggy clothes and my long hair was always tied back.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that I needed to wear all the pink clothes so no one would mistake me as a boy.

I wore pink as if I had no knowledge of other colors.

Losing my hair and seeing my friends grow boobs and complain about cramps, made me hate myself.

I found myself cursing at God, “Why me? Why did you take my hair? Why can’t I walk? Why the pain?”

I found myself regretting all the hairstyles and cute clothes I could have worn when I had hair.

I ripped out my hair and cried thinking it will never grow back.

I went through all of the treatments and all of the surgeries.

“Bald and beautiful” everyone kept telling me.

I would go back to school always wearing a bandana or a hat or a wig, worried that someone would say something. They never did, but the voices didn’t hesitate.

I carried these voices through high school, eventually to college.

I never really felt like a woman. I knew I’ll always be a few steps behind others. Always overlooked. An afterthought.

Though there were times when I felt I needed to experience this, in order to evolve.

Eventually, I grew in love with myself. I found her, the woman molding through my art. Realizing I’m her. She holds shima, shiadi, doo shima yazhi with an embrace. I have become the sum of my experiences. I have a voice and I want to tell people about the women who influenced my upbringing. Dine women are made from the red dirt and the rough wind. Molded and evolved.

I come from Strong Women.

The phrase I chose is D E Z B A H

This is my grandmother’s Dine name

It translates, “going off to war”

She is no longer with us but is deeply rooted in my family

I never met her but I feel her love as my grandmother through my family

Dine is a matriarchy but its forgotten to be this

In today’s western society it is not respected. I’ve had multiple experiences of men projecting their idealistic views of what being a woman is. No matter, I’ve persevered and I’ll continue to do so.

I AM A DINE ASDZAA and I will carry myself the way Dezbah did.