Thursday, March 22, 2007

Navajo Nation, Arizona


I watched the sun come up this morning from the top of Second Mesa, Hopi Territory, which is located within the Navajo Nation in NE Arizona. I started out at 7 towards Window Rock, not knowing what to expect with the college in Tsaile where I was supposed to be teaching a self-publishing workshop and doing a demonstration of the vegetable oil system.

As I was driving across the reservation I noticed that unlike on highways in the rest of the country, almost every car here carries multiple passengers. I realized that I should have put up a notice at the grocery store last night to offer rides to Window Rock, which is 75 miles from Second Mesa. Just as I was thinking that I saw a family standing on the road, looking for a ride. I picked up Darren, and Teancujm who turned three on March fourth. I told them about the demonstrations and workshop and we talked a bit as I drove them 13 miles to Ganado so they could borrow Darren’s uncle’s truck to move their stuff out of their moldy apartment there and into Darren’s mom’s place.

Less than a mile later I picked up a man who told me that he used to herd sheep across the reservation as a 7 year old back in 1941. He said his Grandmother would follow him in the wagon. Back then the highest part of the country which is now covered with cedar and pine was all barren. The Cedar is more similar to the kind from the Middle east than the western red cedar I see at home. We talked a little bit and then he asked me what my nationality is I said “Canadian” and he raised his eyebrow a bit, then I told him that my mom is Cree and my dad was Irish. That seemed to make a bit more sense to him. He paused a moment and then said “I’m Navajo”. I laughed and said “Ya, I figured that.”

I would have love to have a voice recording of this man but even if he had given me permission and if I’d asked, he spoke so quietly that I wouldn’t have gotten much. He had a beautiful accent and white hair just down to his shoulders with a black “Native Pride” ball cap and a cast on his right leg from a recent operation. I dropped him at the Bank of America in Window Rock and then proceeded to the Navajo Nation Library.

Sitting in the lobby of the library this morning I met David Fanman who is a Cheyenne man married to a Navajo woman. We talked a while and he told me some things about Cheyenne history. His grandfather was Tall Bull, last of the Cheyenne dog soldiers. David teaches at risk teenagers and tutors them every day here at the Library.

I went to the local Chinese restaurant, China West Bufffet, and the owner was familiar with WVO as fuel and agreed to put his oil into clean containers for me to pick up on Friday.

Wednesday night I went back to the Hopi reservation so I could take a look around the villages in the morning. At about 2 am I woke up to pretty heavy rain falling. In the morning I talked to 21 year old Sahmie Lalo of the Coyote Clan at the Cultural center. I Thought the museum would be open but forgot that not only was I on Hopi time, I was on Indian time as well. Sahmie is plenty knowledgable about local history and told me about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the ancient prophecy that the Hopi would eventually settle in the area that is now their reservation, completely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation, which is the largest reservation in the country. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Window Rock on the New Mexico border to Second Mesa, in the middle of the Hopi Reservation. If you visit please drive carefully and courteously, there is a lot of dogs and livestock on the roads. Also, people pass frequently so heads up when there are cars coming towards you. The Museum was supposed to open at 8:00 but by 8:45 no one had shown up to open it so I headed down to First Mesa to see the Villages. For those that don’t know, photography is strictly forbidden on the Hopi Reservation. In fact, all forms of recording are forbidden, even sketching, so don’t even ask.

I headed up to First Mesa and checked into the visitor center where I was greeted by Loretta, my tour guide. Before The tour began Loretta showed me some paper thin Hopi corn bread and let me comb my hair with a bundle of dried grass. A tour guide is required to visit the First Mesa Village of Waalpi. The Hopi are said to be secretive and reserved and you are not allowed to touch anything on your tour.

After touring the stone village I stopped in on Lawrence Namoki and checked out his pottery and bought a small amount of tobacco. Lawrence had lots to tell me but I can’t share what he said because he told me it’s a secret.

On my way back east Through Navajo territory I picked up a young hitch hiker named Tony and I asked him if he had any good Hopi jokes. He was reluctant to share them because "they're kind of dirty" but I got this one out of him:
Q- What Does a Hopi man give his wife on his wedding night that's long and hard?
A- His name

This morning I walked the 2.5 miles to the White House as the sun was coming up over the Canyon de Chelly. Three quarters of the way down there was thunder and lightning and rain. I can’t even show you my photo of the white house because it doesn’t do it justice. I Didn’t take any photos of people, as much as I wanted to, while I was visiting the reservation but I did take some pictures of dogs. Here are two I met at the White house overlook.


After my walk I went to Diné College to give a demonstration of the Vegetable oil system. Several of the faculty and staff came out on a wet, chilly day to learn about the system and processes of collecting and filtering the oil.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Jay River said...

Squeaky:

After reading your writings I thought you might be interested in the following:

Here is a film clip laced with history from Canyon De Chelly. The dvd mentioned (below) also covers Walpi, via the accounts from ES Curtis, 1911.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKJJnBsWbNs

It's from a dvd on Edward S. Curtis, which bears on other Indian lands as well.

More info:


ES Curtis Film Clip

The Indian Picture Opera

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Amazon link:


The Indian Picture Opera

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September 4, 2007 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Nativeartist said...

I was looking for more on Namoki, I know that he told you the he had a secret, but could you possibly shed some light on man, since you've met him?
All I know comes from this article.

August 6, 2008 4:23 PM  

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