Monday, May 20, 2013

Pueblo and Navaho beauty

Lynn gets many catalogs and at Christmas, 2011, she saw an ad in the catalog for St. Michael Indian School in Window Rock, Arizona for a tour of the Pueblo and Navaho lands, conducted by St. Michael School.  That is the tour we just returned home from.  We are both feeling great, over all sicknesses and no longer trying to make flights, pass thru security, etc.  We are home and well rested.

I have quite a few notes about what we say and learned but here is a sampling. 

There are about 19 separate Pueblos in the US.  The word is Spanish for "village" and the people in them live in the characteristic adobe houses, often of multiple levels.  There are fewer languages spoken in the Pueblos than 19 since some groups speak the same language.  They have been living there since about the year 1000 AD.  The current people are aware of the still more ancient Anasazi peoples who migrated into the area from the north.

The Navaho nation is much larger in both area and population and the Navahos are well-organized.  They tend to live in a very different way than the Pueblo people, on spread-out ranch-like separate family holdings.  Our guide is a graduate of Wellesley College and has a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins.  Her son is a graduate of Yale, just to give an example of Navaho familiarity with higher education.

We heard a great deal about the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a part of the Federal government.  This agency has had a tremendous influence on the lives of all native American peoples and much of it has not been good.  I am very far from expert in the subject but it does seem to have puzzled the non-Natives that many Natives seem to have resisted their gracious invitation to accept Christianity in place of their own religions, spiritual practices, world philosophies and concepts of nature and life.  Over 600 separate tribes are recognized by the Federal government and in both historical and current casinos times, the exact definition of a tribe can be a puzzle.

Some things stand out as especially beautiful ideas, practices and language.  Both Pueblo and Navaho give great honor to women, we learned.  It was clear that women are the source of life.  Navaho girls have a special four-day puberty rite that is held when a girl has her first menses.  She must go on a run each morning to strengthen her and increase stamina.  There is a culmination ceremony that involves special dress and hair preparation.

Babies are given a special recognition on the occasion of the first time the baby laughs.  Whoever makes the baby laugh first is obligated to hold a party for the family and relatives. We heard that "How this baby laughed yet?" is a common question among the family and relatives.

It is great to be back online, to be home and healthy.  The weather here is lovely and the spring is springing all over.

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