TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Representative Christina Haswood went viral on social media, after posting a video of her swearing into the Kansas House of Representatives last week, wearing a traditional Navajo dress.
In an interview with Kansas’ Capitol Bureau on Monday, she said she made the decision to wear the traditional attire not just to honor her culture, but to also share it with others.
“I think just the representation of it matters,” said Haswood, the newly-elected democratic representative for Douglas County. “I look into my own social media inboxes, and there are 13-year-old’s, and 15-year-old’s that aren’t even 18 years old, and they’re saying ‘how can I run for office’ and I’m just more than happy to share my own story.”
The video now has more than 1.1 million views on Tik Tok, with more than 11,000 shares. The video is flooded with comments applauding Haswood for her win and shedding light on the Native American representation in Kansas.
Haswood, a public health professional, said one of the hardest moments in her life was being afraid to acknowledge her culture in her community. Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood with little diversity, she said she felt pressure to hide her culture, failing to meet European beauty standards, like having fair skin, blonde hair or blue eyes.
“For a long time when I was younger, I grew up embarrassed of who I was, and my cultural identity,” Haswood said.
But that changed when she went to Haskell Indian Nations University, a federally operated tribal university in Lawrence. There, Haswood said she found herself among people who shared in her culture and empowered her to embrace it with pride. She said before protective legislation was passed, the traditional Native American garb she wore during the opening week for the legislative session, was once forbidden to wear along with wearing a feather in graduation caps during ceremonies.
Now, she shares her culture with other lawmakers, and fellow Native American House members, like LGBTQ champion and newly-elected House member, Stephanie Byers, and longstanding House representative, Dr. Ponka We.
Haswood said We helped coordinate the color scheme for her traditional regalia worn during her swearing-in ceremony, a Native American outfit usually worn during indigenous dances or ceremonies. The regalia was bright red to bring attention to an issue that she holds dear, representing the missing and murdered indigenous people movement.
“It really shows that we wear these types of outfits to pay respect to our ancestors, and to the struggle that happened just to be here,” Haswood said.
Haswood will be providing testimony during a hearing on Tuesday for bill H.B. 2008, to help set up law enforcement training for missing and murdered indigenous people.