Saturday, May 25, 2013

Learning about the Pueblos and Navahos

Some of things I learned

  • Pueblos and Navahos are separate groups.

  • Navahos seem more organized and united.

  • There were times when Navaho and Apache raiders plundered the Pueblos.

  • The two tribes had some legends that sometime, important, maybe holy visitors would come from the east bearing a cross.  When the Spanish conquistadors showed up from the east, bearing a cross wearing armor and having swords and muskets, they seemed godly.  Over time, the Catholicism in the two groups has, for some, lessened and an interest in their own religious practices and beliefs has re-emerged.

  • Our Navaho guide, having been a student at Stanford, Wellesley and Johns Hopkins, gave us personal examples of her piety and facility in praying to the spirits of the four key directions. She said a prayer aloud at the beginning of each day and what she said was poetic, beautiful, evocative and powerful.  

  • Even though the Pueblos do not all speak the same language, they were able to plan and execute the "Pueblo revolt" in 1680 when they made clear their displeasure with Spanish rule.  They were independent of the Spaniards for 12 years but were then reconquered later.  The Spaniards and the tribes managed slightly better relations as time went on.  

  • There have been times when Catholic priests tried to eradicate the native religions, by such means as finding and destroying all religious objects and forbidding all religious activities, such as dances.  There have been times when Pueblo leaders attempted to return their people to non-Catholic practice and belief by essentially the same methods.  Neither group was totally successful.

  • Both Pueblo and Navaho were non-literate societies.  Living in such a society is very different from what most current Americans are used to.  We may tend to think that writing and reading are not all that important in our lives but such a thought underestimates the reading involved in signs, buttons, switches, ads, instructions, directions, etc.The subject of writing and the maintenance of written records and documents is a big one and again, it is easy to underestimate how much the writings of those now deceased affect our daily lives.  Socrates warned against the incursion of writing as a skill and tool on the grounds that its use would deteriorate human memory skills.  It probably has done so but on the other hand, as a person who has taken great comfort in making lists, using email, making notes, I can see that I lead a life intimately connected to writing.  It may be worthwhile to note how much you actually write in any form these days.  Modern tools, not available to me in childhood, include multiple ways to record both voice and pictures, still or moving, and they constitute a new sort of record that is used very much in our lives.

  • There are young people who are interested in tribal matters and their heritage and using modern media to tell about them.  The movie "Turquoise Rose" (2007) is an example of serious Native American cinematographic art.

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