AMBUSH! Arts & Culture
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
― Émile Zola
― Émile Zola
Interview with Ernie Tsosie
by Sage Addington '18
Wednesday students were on assembly schedule and there was chit chat of a drug seminar. Ernie Tsosie, a Navajo comedian famous for James & Ernie, gave a presentation in the Kenneth Holloway Performing Arts Auditorium on April 4th. The presentation opened with jokes and was ultimately about substance abuse from alcohol and cigarettes to energy drinks. As a student I realized students quieted down a lot faster than we normally do for assemblies, and we tried our best to quietly hang on to the end when the final bell was about to ring. I was able to speak with Ernie Tsosie an hour after school, after he had finished taking selfies and writing autographs for nearly 50 kids.
When I was finally able to speak to Tsosie, we sat in the orchestra pit of the auditorium. In his presentation he said he is a Gallup High alumni so my first question was asking what year he graduated from Gallup High. I was told Ernie is from the class of 1985. I inquired on whether or not he chose to come to GHS to present, but the question was misunderstood; it was understood as whether or not he chose to attend as a student. “I was sent by my mom,” Tsosie said. He called himself “troubled teen” living in Window Rock and said his mom wanted to get him out of a bad environment, so she sent him to Gallup.
As far as whether or not Ernie chose to present at Gallup high, the answer is sorta. I was told he chose Gallup High because he is from the area, but ultimately Gallup High was part of a school tour scheduled by the Oso Vista Ranch Project. According to the Osa Vista Ranch Project website, the goal of the non-profit organization is to provide commercial tobacco prevention, youth leadership, and entrepreneurship programs for New Mexican Native American communities. Five other schools including Gallup High were booked along with 20 other dates. Tsosie also presented at Rehoboth Christian School in early April.
When asked if he thought comedy was an efficient tool for discussing serious topics and educating youth, Tsosie commented, “Yes. It’s not… It’s not the best way, but it’s a good way. It’s a good ice breaker, it gets people comfortable.” Tsosie referenced making students laugh at the beginning of his presentation before getting a little more serious later on. My final question asked Tsosie if he believed it’s important to talk to children about issues such as substance abuse and he said, “Yes, I’m a big believer.” He told me he has a 12 year old and a 6 year old, and all you can do is start young and make them aware so that, “Hopefully they’ll have a better chance of avoiding it” on their own.