As members of the Sky View 1969 graduating class gather for their 50th reunion this weekend, one woman wants to share her gratitude with her classmates
“I’ve had really a wonderful, exciting life where I grew up in Hyrum,” said Rose Johnson-Tsosie.
Johnson-Tsosie and her twin sister were adopted by a couple from Hyrum when they were nine months old. Being Navajo, the girls were a minority in the community, but Johnson Tsosie said she never experienced discrimination growing up.
“When we grew up we never knew what negative words were from Hyrumites. We grew up in a really wonderful society that accepted us,” Johnson-Tsosie said.
It’s something she wants to thank her peers for when she speaks at the Hyrum Civic Center this Thursday on the experience she had of “growing up Navajo living in a white world.”
“They accepted us,” Johnson-Tsosie said. “They gave us the time, the effort, and believing in ourselves to make us successful.”
In an interview with The Herald Journal, Johnson-Tsosie spoke fondly of her time in Hyrum, remembering the adoptive parents who raised her and the community that selected her and her sister to be Hyrum dairy princesses when they were 19.
These happy times, however, did not eliminate the need she had later on to connect with her biological family and better understand her heritage.
At age 33, Johnson-Tsosie served her second mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She went to Arizona and worked on the Navajo reservation, where she was able to connect with her biological mother and meet her 14 biological siblings.
“It was wonderful,” Johnson-Tsosie said of meeting her Navajo family. “It was an answer to my prayer. And little did I know it was an answer to her prayer.”
In an effort to learn more about her Navajo identity, Johnson-Tsosie attended the University of Utah and earned a degree in Native American studies.
It was here that she took a writing class that became the basis for her book “Finding Helen: A Navajo Miracle,” which details her journey to her biological mother and to better understanding her culture.
“My adoptive parents always told us that we needed to be proud of our heritage, be proud of who we are, being proud of being Native American and Navajo, and so we grew up that way, but at the same time we lived in the white world. And the white world is quite different than the Navajo way,” Johnson-Tsosie said.
Museum Director Jami Van Huss said she is very excited for community members to learn more about Johnson-Tsosie and her story on Thursday evening.
“Part of the museum’s mission is to really be a place for the community to come and learn together and to learn about the community, the heritage and also the diversity within the community,” Van Huss said.
Van Huss also said it is important to her that people hear stories like Johnson-Tsosie’s from the primary source.
“We are not in the business of telling other people’s stories; we like to invite people to come and tell their stories,” Van Huss said.
Johnson-Tsosie will speak at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Hyrum Civic Center, 83 W. Main St.