An Interview with Ms. Kaze Gadway
Lay Diocesan Youth Minister
Episcopal Church of St. George
Holbrook to Winslow, AZ
by Sue Reynolds
Ms. Kaze Gadway works with at-risk Native youth ages 12-18 from several parishes in Arizona’s Northeastern high plateau country. It’s an area of dying towns. The economy’s railroad lifeblood has drained away, leaving an already-challenged Native population struggling with deepening poverty, domestic violence, addiction and continuing racism.
She observes, “Native ceremonies give an important spiritual connection to the whole community.”
The youth Gadway works with are in Probation Court, or Juvenile Detention, or they’re calling her for a ride home from the hospital after a severe beating from a relative, because their parents are drunk, broke or both.
The youth are mainly Navajo, Hopi, Kiowa. They are from St. Paul’s in Winslow and St.George’s in Holbrook.
50 are in a recovery addiction program Gadway runs. About 40 come to events – hikes, retreats and music jams – she organizes.
In charge of the only Native American program in the Diocese of Arizona, Gadway believes meeting Native people’s challenges begins with programs, not donations.
Reservation retreats connect youth separated from their Native identity with traditions that rebuild it. Kids visiting the all-Navajo Church of the Good Shepherd see Native culture everywhere in parish life there, and they’re impressed.
Gadway has integrated storytelling – a skill at the heart of Native life – with today’s video and computer technology that teens love.
The result: a grant-funded program put video tools and training in the hands of Native youth who need to discover – and tell – their tribal and personal stories. The movie they made of Native, Hispanic and White “tribes” may not be ready for Sundance, but it’s made a world of difference in how these young Native filmmakers see themselves.
Their new sense of self and growing confidence is powerful medicine. They hope to tell more video stories to heal, about what they know too well: addiction and suicide.
A recent trip sent Native youth to serve the homeless in Southern California soup kitchens. It changed how they see themselves, for the good.
“We’re Native Americans and we’re giving something to someone else,” is how Gadway puts it. They’ve gained dignity from realizing that homelessness isn’t a disease, and that, for some, it’s not a disaster either.
Racism in this region, Gadway says, is unbelievable.
Even today, a high school graduation rite of passage – 30-plus years after the American Indian Movement held Alcatraz and Wounded Knee and got America’s collective attention – is white teens beating up drunken Natives in alleys.
But Gadway looks ahead, gathering music and sound equipment so her kids can jam in the new Drop In center when it’s finished. It will have crafts – like tagging (graffiti) in a safe place – and maybe the tutoring parents want for their kids.
She says, “We take lots of trips. We go to Diocesan Convention, National Convention, so the kids can see alternatives to their own lives.”
About the Author: Sue Reynolds is a documentary photographer based in the San Francisco Bay area. Since 2005, she has photographed and interviewed Native people across the West. Her “Proud People: Nations within a Nation” book, “On the Powwow Trail” article, and slide lectures have touched many and received enthusiastic reviews.
On View: Blurring Drum Beats, Montana, photograph by Sue Reynolds. This image and two dozen others, are on view at Gallery 1055 through July 24, 2009. Gallery 1055, 1055 Taylor Steret, San Francisco.