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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Project Peace Train
by Noel Lyn Smith - Navajo Times

Educating Navajo youth about the dangers of substance abuse, domestic violence, bullying and other social issues is at the heart of Project Peace Train.

Project Peace Train, a group of Native American entertainers dedicated to spreading the message about making the right choices in life, is a side project of Walking the Healing Path. Healing Path is the organization founded by father-son team Ernest Tsosie Jr. and John Tsosie, best known for their annual long-distance walk to end domestic violence.

Project Peace Train debuted Monday at Ganado High School, delivering a mixture of entertainment and serious discussion to students gathered inside the gymnasium.

They listened to the personal experiences of comedians Ernest Tsosie III, Pax Harvey, Tatanka Means and Adrianne Chalepah; singer Jay Begaye; and martial artists Reginald and Bronson Mitchell.

Each grew up in hard circumstances but was able to overcome the resulting personal problems and build a good life.

Chalepah touched on her days as a high school cheerleader in her home state of Oklahoma, and spoke about overcoming childhood experiences that included attending 10 schools by the 10th grade.

"My parents didn't do the best job raising me. They know that and they're working on it," she said. "You know what? I still made it."

Part of "making it" includes starting a business and developing her comedic talents. Along the way, Chalepah said she learned to be her own person and to stick to the choices she made.

"I would not be where I am today if I was not drug and alcohol free," she said. "Draw that line for yourself. If you want to be drug and alcohol free, do it. If you want to be domestic violence free, don't let anybody hurt you."

In between sets, masters of ceremonies Ernest Tsosie III and Harvey joked about family members, personal experiences, and life on the Navajo Nation.

Through the laughter, Tsosie and Harvey continued to mention the social issues that Project Peace Train is targeting.

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," Tsosie said, asking students to think about his statement.

Harvey reminded the teens that it is OK to be an individual and resist peer pressure to do what the group is doing when you know it's not right.

One of the more serious moments came when Ernest Tsosie Jr., John and Ernest III's father, spoke about the alcoholism and domestic violence that he had inflicted on his family.

As a parent, Tsosie said, it was hard to watch his boys head down the same path, with Ernest III abusing drugs and alcohol and John involved in domestic violence.

But taking a wrong turn did not mean they had to stay on the wrong path, and both sons found the courage to overcome their mistakes. Ernest III has been clean and sober for 10 years, while John sought counseling and grew into one of the Navajo Nation's leading advocates on the issue of domestic violence.

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