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This is What I was Told to Do

This award winning essay was written by Joseph Austin for the 18th Annual Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition.

Dedicated to those young Native warriors who carry the torch of a forgotten people, the light in the darkness, the hope of generations past, and the vision of a better future. It has been passed to us. Now, where do we take it? Where do we go from here? Don't be afraid of these questions because the answers lie within ourselves, our identity and way of life.


…and so the lands of the Glittering World, our world, became filled with monsters that the first people thought they left behind. A once beautiful world was being destroyed and reduced to ruins. If the monsters were left to roam and continued to wreak havoc, it would only be a matter of time before the people were exterminated. And so the search for a hero began and this song came into being:

This is what I was told to do

I saw your light in the darkness and so I searched

I searched the whole world for you

I searched for you in the forests

I searched for you in the rivers

I searched for you in the mountains

I searched for you in the sky

I traveled on the rainbow

I searched for you with the crystal

I searched for you with the water

I searched for you with the fire

I searched everywhere for you

This is what I was told to do

This is what I was told to do

This is what I was told to do

This is what I was told to do

-Retelling Part of the Navajo Creation Story, “The Search for a Hero Begins”

I arrived at the airport an hour before my plane left. I got out of the car, grabbed my suitcase, shut the door, and waved goodbye to my Uber driver. I walked through the airport doors and found the check-in counters. I went to the back of the line. Fifteen people were ahead of me, and a lady was arguing with the customer service representative. It would take some time before I got to the counter, perfect opportunity to check some emails.

I unlocked my phone and scrolled through my work account. I saw too many emails with nerdy subject lines from senders I barely recognized. It was too late in the day for that, so I switched over to my UofA email. I began to scroll. There were the usual emails: Nancy Stanley’s Day-at-a-Glance, Bernadette Wilkinson telling us to RSVP for something, and Netflix asking if it was really me who signed in Friday night at 8 pm to watch episodes of Friends. I looked up from my phone; still more people in line ahead of me. I took a few steps and continued to scroll. There was an email from one of my favorite professors asking if I was still alive, and one about The Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition.

I opened the email, wondering what the topic was this year. I took a few more steps forward in line and quickly glanced through the prompt. Something about explaining what it means to live generously and give back to the community as a lawyer? I closed my email, put my phone away, and walked up to the check-in counter.