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Friday, May 7, 2021

This 100-year-old man is proud to be Navajo

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Ivan Diaz doesn’t look his age. He’s very skinny and pale, his gaze focused firmly on the ground as he pauses at a blind stoplight, pulling his white Ford Explorer to a stop as he struggles to steady his grip on the steering wheel. Behind him, Ivan’s truck is locked into gear as he takes the wheel. But not even his years of driving experience can staunch the pounding of the medicine wheel. Ivan stumbles off to the right of the left turn circle in his hometown of Wreathing Springs, Utah. From the other direction, a lone pickup trucks on a ranch sits in an eerily vacant lot, its headlights reflecting off the snow on the ground.

It is Ivan’s way of honoring Elder Juan Carlos Rangel, the founder of the Monument of Honor. Each year Ivan wheels his rolling memorial to his home on Mount Timpanogos in Utah, where Rangel was born and raised by his extended family of Paiute.

Rangel made his name fighting for Paiute rights, organizing a strong resistance to the “Soldiers of the Monarchy” in the 1800s, and later leading a bloody anti-Indian occupation at Gallipoli. He was shot in the back in 1920 after he rejected offers of safe passage to Oklahoma, where he wanted to work with the U.S. government, an offer he had received before he was offered safe passage in 1919 to return to his tribal homeland, Wounded Knee. Rangel and his 300 followers were imprisoned for the next five years before he and other Indians were deported to the Tlingit homeland of Alaska.

As Ivan and his friends and relatives carefully disassemble the monument, his hands shake and his fingers tremble. He says he is trying to get on with his life, which includes a regular schedule of chicken fry Wednesdays in Salt Lake City where he works at a fast-food restaurant. But after the monument came down this year, its memory was forever lost.

Watch the video here.

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