Dulce, New Mexico, located on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation is where I called home for twenty years. I was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but when I was six months old, my parents relocated to Dulce. My father received a job offer from the tribe for an accounting position. Because my mother had been working in Cheyenne as a nurse, it was no trouble for her to find work in the medical field working for the Indian Health Services and later as the director of the EMT's.
As of the 2010 census, the population of Dulce was 2,743, which is almost entirely made up of Native Americans. It is the largest community and tribal headquarters of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation.
I will be taking you on a visual walk-through to show you some of the scenic views around my hometown before getting into how my life was on the reservation.
It is very hard to capture the real essence and beauty of this place. The natives have an immense love and respect for their home. They are blessed to own such beautiful land. Growing up here gave me a real appreciation for vast, wide open skies and the ability to absorb the beauty of nature and the peace it brings.
Now, I am going to take you into my time and experience living in Dulce, NM. Since there were very few people that lived on the reservation that weren't native, my family was definitely the minority. It was an interesting childhood. As privacy for my friends and their families, I am choosing not to use any photographs with any faces other than my immediate family. I will instead give you a vivid description of how it felt for me to be so very different from everyone I saw each day.
This is me when I was about seven years old. Notice, I am a chubby white girl with blue eyes and freckles. I have naturally curly brown hair. For the next few years, I gained even more weight. Then, adding insult to injury, I had to have glasses and braces, too. Boy, did I feel ugly!
This is a recipe for disaster in a predominantly white town, but imagine my identity crisis having to be the only one that looked like me amongst all my friends. All the girls I went to school with were dark-skinned with long, straight, black hair and dark brown eyes. Most of them were thin or at least had an athletic build. And even if they had to wear glasses and/or braces, they still somehow made them look good.
Although I spent many days self-loathing, I somehow managed to accept who I was and eventually turned every negative into a positive. The most positive experience I still have from my childhood are the relationships I created. I cherish all the friendships that I have made. I truly love and care for those who looked past my outer appearance and recognized who I was on the inside. Forever I am grateful for those individuals.
Here are two family photographs of our family after my sister was born. The first one was Easter, 1995 and this second one was the last family portrait we took together in 2002. These pictures clearly show the changes and growth that can happen over a span of eight years.
My parents grew up in church and wanted me to have to same grounded foundation they had. The church they chose for us to go to was Good News Baptist Church. This church was founded by missionaries in 1984 and the church building was built in 1986 right outside of the reservation.
The missionaries also started a school using the A.C.E. homeschooling curriculum called Good News Christian Academy. The school offered education from kindergarten through the twelfth grade.
The church building was used for both the church and the school. The upper level of the building held the sanctuary. It was mostly used for church services on Sunday and Wednesday evening services.
The lower level of the church building was where the schooling took place. On average, the school had about 30 students enrolled in an academic year. It was a private school, so there was tuition. However, my parents thought it would be the best option for me and my education.
I was the first and possibly the only student who attended Good News Christian Academy for the whole thirteen years of grade school. I started with the Learning to Read program at four years old in 1985 and graduated from Good News in 1999.
I have seen the church change so much over the years. There have been several different pastors and their families come and go. Since I have been gone, the leaders of the church have added another building making that the sanctuary and transforming the whole original church/school building into a schoolhouse, making more room for the students.
We are now going to take a look at the places we have lived on the reservation. Once my father accepted the position with the tribe, they had to find a place to live. There was only the three of us, and I was a little baby, so this tiny two bedroom, one bathroom house would suffice. This would be our home for the next twelve years. It was small, but we were content living there. Then, all of a sudden it seemed, my parents surprised us with news of an addition to our family. After twelve years of being an only child, I now had a little sister. My parents decided it was time for an upgrade.
This house was a much welcome change and gave us all more space since we were still a growing family. My parents lived here for the next ten years, but I left after eight years of living here, I decided to move to North Carolina in 2001 to start a new life there.
A couple of years after I left home, my parents and sister moved into this home. It was another upgrade for sure. This house was newly built and it was specific housing for Indian Health Service employees. My parents and sister lived there until my father retired from the tribe in 2007. At that time my family's tenure on the reservation came to an end.
I can't say that I have had the most conventional upbringing, but I can tell you that my childhood was full of wonderful memories. I am proud of where I came from and I am happy to call Dulce, New Mexico my hometown.
About the Creator
Long ago, a little girl loved to write. She loved to explore the depths of her mind and create the impossible. That little girl still sits in the back of my mind waiting to pursue those dreams. I am now 39, a wife, and a mother of three.