Honoring Native American Heritage Month: Eugenio Yazzie

November 07, 2023

It’s Native American Heritage Month and Compass Group is celebrating the enriching culture and heritage of Indigenous Peoples. Meet Eugenio Yazzie, an Area Manager for Food Distribution for Chartwells Higher Education in Arizona, who grew up speaking the language of the Navajo Nation.

“The traditional greeting is yá’át’ééh, which is pronounced yah-ah-Teh,” he explained and then added:

Yá’át’ééh, shik’éí dóó shidine’é. Eugenio Yazzie, yinishyé. Todích’íí’nii nishłį́. Áshįįhi báshíshchíín. Deeshchii’nii dashicheii (mother’s father’s clan). Naakai dine’é dashinali (father’s father’s clan). ákótʼéego dine nishli.”

In other words: “Hello, my family/people and friends! My name is Eugenio Yazzie. I am of the Bitterwater People (mother’s clan), born for The Salt People clan. My grandfather is Start of the Red Streak People clan, and my father’s father is The Mexican People clan. By this way, I am Diné (Navajo).”

Eugenio and his two younger sisters were raised by their parents on a reservation in Tuba City, one hour outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. There were challenges growing up, like no running water or electricity in their home. These were not necessarily hardships, just a way of life. “We used a community well or got our water from a natural spring nearby my grandmother’s house,” Eugenio said. “As kids, we built different things on our own and tried to make things easier for ourselves.”

Eugenio values the traditions he inherited from his grandmother, Lucinda. “She rose early in the morning, offering prayers, being thankful for what we have and where we come from. She lived off the land, growing corn and raising livestock,” he noted.

His grandmother also sheered sheep and either sold the wool or wove rugs with it. “The meat of the animal was used for ceremonial purposes and also provided our daily nutrition,” Eugenio said. Steamed corn mutton stew is a personal favorite as is cornbread baked in the corn husk.

History is important to Eugenio, and he looks up to prominent chiefs of Southern and Southwest tribes. “Manuelito and Geronimo are men of great honor who knew how to lead people, and Buu Nygren is our current sitting president of the Navajo Nation.”

Although Eugenio has not lived on the reservation in many years, his family still has their homestead in Tuba, where they gather for holidays and family get-togethers. “We’re like everyone else, part of many communities, but we’re Diné – Navajo – first.”