Maxine Wildcat Barnett • zOyaha
“The One Who Gives Us Breath, the Creator, is good because I got done what was important to me in this life”
The Spirit Aligned Leadership Program expresses our love and condolences to all of you who gathered to celebrate the meaningful life of our dear sister, Maxine Wildcat Barnett.
Grandmother Wildcat asked us to call her gOlaha bOshET@ in her beloved Yuchi language. That’s the name she asked us to inscribe on the Spirit Aligned Leadership Award. We are deeply honored that she was a Legacy Leader of the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program.
We attended Maxine’s 94th birthday celebration. We appreciate your gracious hospitality and special opportunity to meet her family and loved ones, who came from near and far. And the food was delicious, especially the wild onions!
Maxine is an international leader in revitalizing indigenous languages. As the last fluent speaker of the Yuchi language, we realize that this was not an easy journey for Maxine.
Maxine was born 96 years ago and grew up in a time when the federal government took control of our lives as native people. We now understand that the purpose was to destroy our Tribes and take our homelands under the guise of assimilating us into the American melting pot. Indeed, we are still reckoning with the impacts of this federal policy in many ways.
Like many or our tribal elders in the United States and Canada, Maxine was sent to a federal Indian boarding school, Chilocco Indian School. She could not speak Yuchi at this boarding school and Maxine had to adapt to a different way of thinking and a new life.
When Maxine came out of the boarding school, she could not speak the Yuchi language anymore…the language that she grew up with and that her grandmother told her to never lose.
Maxine said that she would stand in front of a mirror to speak the Yuchi language that she could clearly hear in her heart and head but could not get the words out. Over and over Maxine stood in front of a mirror until the Yuchi words came. From then on, there was no stopping her. Yuchi children and young people are now speaking Yuchi…the language is alive but there is much work ahead.
Grandmother Wildcat has left us a beautiful and important legacy. Her life exemplifies the importance of knowing who you are. Maxine said it is important to live your culture, speak your language, and to pass on your thinking to younger generations. Listen to our stories she said because they have deep meaning.
Today, we celebrate the life of gOlaha bOshET@, surrounded by love. We encourage you to continue her important legacy.