Everyone worked hard, but after the work was done we relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. While my parents were quiet people, there always seemed to be a lot of conversation and laughter going on especially around mealtime. We were never embarrassed about making fun of ourselves. Both of my parents always seemed to be humming songs -- my mother humming soft church hymns, my dad humming traditional songs translated into Keresan, our tribal dialect. In the winter, he would sit by the stove and sing and me and my younger brother would dance the traditional Pueblo deer dance. While it was very rare that all eight children would be home at the same time, Christmas was often the exception. At midnight on Christmas Eve, traditional social dances were held at the village Catholic church. My parents rarely attended them, but we children always did. When we returned home, mother and father would be waiting with food on the table for us to eat before bed. This was the best part of Christmas -- the reminder that our parents would always be there for us.
My parents had fourth and sixth grade educations. Their only income came from selling lambs and wool, and their vegetable gardens supplemented our food supply. But they managed to give us a good life and show us their love for each other and us in so many ways. They taught us about personal responsibility, primarily by the example they set. They shared responsibilities for our care, watching us in each other's absence. My fondest memories are of my father holding our hands as we herded sheep or my mother as we helped with household chores.
And they made sure we went to school. Despite their meager income, they sent us to a Presbyterian boarding school in Arizona instead of the government boarding school in Albuquerque. (There were no high schools on the Laguna reservation until the 1960s.) As we got older, we worked to pay our own way. Four of us eventually graduated from college, two with master's degrees.
My parents also taught us that life could be hard at times, but we could overcome whatever challenges we faced. They never let anything get in the way of giving their children a stable and loving environment, teaching us that we were always worthy and always capable.
When I was eighteen years old, I traveled by train to begin my freshman year at a small Midwestern college. I slept through my stop and ended up in Topeka, Kansas, where I got off the train and went to eat breakfast at a local diner. They told me I couldn't be served. And in that moment, I realized what a profound impact my parents had had on me. I wasn't scared; I didn't want to run back to the safety and security of the reservation. I thought of my parents, of what they would do, and what they would expect me to do. And so I got back on the train and went to school.
I like to think that I've put their good values to good use -- I've been a social work administrator working with Native Americans for most of my adult life. In our home, whichever house it was, you respected people and you helped people without expecting anything in return. That's how a village works, and that's how I've tried to live my life. -- ROBERT CARR, Social worker
Hometown: Pueblo of Laguna Indian Reservation, New Mexico