Published October 9, 2016
SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO – Six months after her untimely death Mike’s classmates, teachers, and principal were at the fair this year to perform again, and to also be present at the unveiling of the Healing Wall, an art installation dedicated to Mike and all young victims of violence and abuse.A year ago, 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike performed with her Ojo Amarillo Elementary classmates during Kids Day at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair.
This dedication was to uncover the mural of Mike, which was painted by Salt Lake City artist and businessman Cal Nez, originally of Sanostee, New Mexico.
In May, Mike and her younger brother Ian Mike were abducted and driven to the Shiprock Pinnacle. Ian was allowed to go, but Ashlynne’s body was later found in the area. The wall was constructed in hopes of bringing some form of healing after the devastating event shook the local community.
“I call it the Healing Wall,” said Nez. “Unfortunately, Ashlynne has started an awareness. She has become a symbol, for all of us to remember our children.”
Mike’s principal Abena McNeely was present at the dedication. In an emotional address, McNeely wiped away her tears, and said how she loved all her students and remembered when Mike had played the xylophone at the fair the previous year.
“Last year, Ashlynne was here with us. She played the xylophone here with us,” said McNeely. “As a principal, I just love all my students.”
McNeely was not the only one who was overcome with emotion that day; students felt it as well. Young girls still mourning the loss of Mike began to openly cry at which point their chaperones took them from the crowd to be consoled.
Before the mural was revealed, students sang and played instruments, dedicating their performances to Mike’s memory. Finally, when the mural was revealed, everyone standing around started clapping to see Mike’s likeness. The young girl was depicted standing straight, wearing a bright red shirt, with her right hand placed on her hip.
“This picture, I can just feel her spirit,” said McNeely, cutting her address short as she was again overwhelmed with emotion.
This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.