Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scary Season: Dark Highways

Painted Man
From Gallup you must take former U.S. Highway 666 to get to Crownpoint

He had a lot of stuff to do in Gallup one night and was on his way home to Crownpoint at around 3 a.m. That’s about an hour’s drive and one route, Navajo Route 9 — intersecting U.S. Highway 666 — is a lonely and dark highway with an occasional house and two tiny communities. There are no gas stations and no street lights. On this particular night, the stars shine extra bright through the crisp cold air.
His diesel truck is speeding along at about 70 miles an hour on the 55-mile highway. He needs to make it to a bathroom – and fast.
It’s dark and deserted around so he decides to make a stop on the side of the road. He pulls over and makes sure all the lights on his truck are extra bright because he’s kind of afraid of this kind of intense black.
His truck rumbles on but it seems the quiet pushes in on him. He turns the radio on and quickly does his business on the passenger side.
On his way back around the truck he hears faint footsteps – slow at first and then they accelerate towards him. He looks to the back of the truck and in the red taillights is a man, painted white, running towards him. He runs, bent forward, with his hands and arms stiff to his sides.
He scrambles as fast as humanly possible back into his truck. While he gets the truck going, fear builds and builds because all that time he’s thinking that the painted man will reach his window and knock on it. He shifts gears so quick and he’s doing 80 in about 10 seconds.

Devil’s Canyon
I think it’s kind of ominous when you have to drive through Devil’s Canyon and Dead Man’s Curve to get to Crownpoint (no joke, that’s what those landmarks are called). Maybe this is why they call it that:
On a very snowy night she’s is at the edge of her seat squinting into the blizzard through her windshield. The road signs pass by slower than they usually would. It seems like she’s the only one on the road that thought maybe the weather guys were lying.
The road wines and rises. At the peak is the top of Devil’s Canyon. Once you get through Devil’s Canyon you’ve made it. She takes a deep breath and readies herself for the ominous road down the canyon.
“What?” she says.
Automatically she slows down to pick up an elderly lady who is walking on the side of the road. She’s wearing skirts, a hair scarf and a sweater. Some of her gray hair blows around in the snow and her billowing skirts reveal a pair of skinny and weak ankles.
As she pulls over to give the old lady a ride she tries to get a look at her hitchhiker’s face but the snow and hair hide every feature.
“Hey grandma! Let me give you a ride, I’m going to Crownpoint,” she yelled out the window.
The old woman stops. The driver gets out of her car and opens the door for the old woman.
Once they’re both inside she starts driving into Devil’s Canyon. From what she could see from her peripheral, the old woman was brushing her hair from her face and straitening her skirts. The driver was about 95 percent focused on the white road and 5 percent concerned about this old woman on the road in the middle of a blizzard.
“Where are you going? Why were you walking? Are you in trouble?”
The old woman didn’t answer because she was gone. Disappeared. Vanished.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Scary Season: Mesa Monster

There is a whole different genre of evil on the reservation. Growing up on the Navajo reservation left me with an extreme fear of the dark. Sometimes when I have to get something outside at night I often do it very quick and just when I’m almost back in the house I feel that overwhelming surge of fear that has me hopping and scrambling through the door. I’m not scared of the dark while in the city or in a different town, I’m scared of the dark when I’m on the reservation. There are far scarier things out there than demons, ghosts and goblins — those are tinker toys. I’m talking about skinwalkers, witches and a monster my sister and I call the “mesa monster.”


My aunt, Nat, was home for the Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t there, but news about this spread fast. My mom texted me and my grandma called to say that Nat and my uncle Rob heard something in the mesas.
Now, she’s not one to believe in the supernatural, but after she heard that howl, she could not describe or explain it.
It wasn’t an animal and it wasn’t a man. But the sound was like a low pitched and raspy growl that ended like a grown man yelling, Nat said. She also says she will never forget that sound.

They heard something like this.

It wasn’t just my family that heard it; there were neighbors from all over telling the same story and trying to describe the same sound.
There have been several sightings of a creature like “bigfoot” seen around the reservation. When people tell their stories they always say that the creature has a very bad smell, it’s hairy with long, ugly hair and the dogs bark and behave wildly when it’s near.
See, Crownpoint is like this:
There are mesas all over. The north part of town is raised some feet above the rest and one long stretch brings you down into the middle community. To the west and south are mesas with the east opened up to rolling hills. There are pockets of neighborhoods where there are no hills and mesas. My grandma’s neighborhood is at the edge where the mesas are her back yard.
Somewhere in those mesas is the cemetery and a road flanked by several churches. It’s ironic that I think this part of town is the most creepy. That is where the howl came from.
As word got out about this, the Navajo Times newspaper wrote a story about the eerie noise. Official sources said they didn’t hear anything and are not going to do anything more about it.

Read the story here.

Just recently, in the last two weeks, my mom called and said that a Navajo Police Officer and his wife heard the noise too. I guess there is your official source.
I wish I was there to hear the howl. Then again, I’m such a scardy cat. There is never any or enough evidence for stuff like this, but I guess if you hear rumors coming from your own family you start to believe and become unbearably curious.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our Health

I hear people complain about the Indian Health care system. The waits are too long and the doctors are no good. I hear even more about how unfriendly the staff are and how people would rather stay home and die. That’s a joke but there’s truth in it.
I want to say two things about the health care systems; both Native and non-Native health care.
Native Health Care.
First, we complain about the free health care we get. I don’t think we should complain about this because it’s free. My family and all my relatives have never had to pay for giving birth to any of us at a hospital, they never paid for a single broken bone or a single dose of insulin. Sure we have to wait for a long time in a tacky waiting room, and sure the service can be terrible, but it’s free. There is a place far, far away where they have to pay for their doctor’s visits and medications and fill out loads of paperwork for every visit and purchase. I think we should be thankful that we don’t have any idea what an emergency room visit costs.
Second, we complain about the health care not being up to par. That is true. In Crownpoint, you never see the same doctor twice because they are all young interns from Georgia or Maine who are forced to stick it out at Indian health center for a year and then they high-tail it out of there. No doctor wants to stay in Crownpoint because there are no businesses and entertainment around. There are no specialists either for those same reasons. We always have to travel to the nearest city for specialty treatment.
There is a need to dedicate more funds to Indian health care.
Non-Native health care.
I have gotten free health care all my life. A few years after I moved away from the reservation I was lucky to not need any doctor’s visits or medications. Between semesters in college I got regular eye and teeth check-ups at home where it’s free.
And then two months ago I punched a machine really hard and threw out my back – I should clarify that it was a punching machine.
Things are unbelievable out there.
I had to go to the emergency room here in Las Cruces because I was in so much pain. An emergency crew was called and they told me a ride in their emergency unit would be about $200. That’s about $100 per mile. I turned it down and my boyfriend drove me to the emergency room. It was a painful hell to get in his Jeep.
I was taken care of. They made me pay $50 before I left. They pumped me full of morphine and vicoden. Then the pharmacy visit cost me about $20 for painkillers that I only needed for two and a half days. They don’t give you painkillers at an Indian Health Service hospital – not even when I nearly broke my ankle in high school – and I think that’s where they cut some of the costs.
That happened two months ago and now they’re trying to bill me for it: all $1,000 worth of sitting in the emergency room because certain pieces of paperwork got lost in the shuffle. Hopefully paperwork gets to where it needs to be. This process is so confusing and it makes no sense to me.
I think it sucks that non-Natives have to pay for health care. I think it sucks that my health is all based on technicalities and paperwork. I think it sucks that I went around worrying about where I can and can’t go to be seen for strep throat. It sucks to immediately get my bill in the mail – which usually says $0 because my tribe pays for it – and then weeks later get my test results.
Can’t everyone visit an Indian Health Service hospital where you can book your eye appointment, dental appointment and Pap test all in one building and then get your meds across the hall and not pay for any of it?

For any Native students off the reservation reading this, I learned the process when I made my visit. I wish I would have did a little research before I got sick. Though I’m no expert, here are some tips:
·         Talk to your parents and see if they have some kind of health insurance through your tribe. You wouldn’t want to get in an accident and then be billed.
·         See if you qualify for a very cheap or free insurance, just in case.
·         Once you find out that you are covered by your tribe in some way, call up the insurance company and ask them where you can visit and find out what kinds of rates do apply if you have to make a medical visit anywhere.
·         Be prepared. Ask questions even though you are not sick. Make sure you have some kind of proof of insurance when you visit, especially the first time.
·         You don’t have to drive all the way home to visit a doctor. Get yourself familiar with the system.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In The Name of "Discovery"

… I, the president of the United States, sign this day, the second Monday in October, to be Christopher Columbus Day. Let all my ignorant constituents hail the man who did genocide and slavery the right way. He raped and plundered like no other. He and his men carried the most potent diseases. They had good teamwork and ran the sex trade like champs. They raped Native women and children like gladiators and still had the stamina for a good ole’ beheading when the day was done. He was some terrorist. He’s our country’s hero.

I hope school-age kids are reading this.
I didn’t know this when I was in boarding school. I attended Crownpoint Community School where the Native student population was about 99.5 percent — and then onto Crownpoint High School where the Native student population was about 98 percent. As a kid I remember fighting other kids for the “Peach” Crayon in the Crayon box so I can get the right shade of pale for his face. We colored pictures of Columbus and his Spanish ships and proudly displayed them in the hallway with other celebratory Columbus Day stuff.
We never really used the brown Crayon for holiday/historical pictures in school. Historical figures didn’t look like us. Even our Santa and Easter bunnies were white.
It’s like the ultimate betrayal to be taught that Christopher Columbus was a great person. I didn’t learn about the real monster until I was a teenager, probably in my first semester of college. I felt betrayed and angry.
Why do we still celebrate this awful man?
It’s the American way to hide certain facts in history because it would otherwise put a giant bloodstain on the flag — in this case a couple of flags. Why can’t we accept that our past is not as great as we are told? Because so much was unacceptable and unimaginable.
The Taino people go the worst of it because they were living on some gold. They were America’s first slaves who were worked to death for gold, killed for sport, raped, sold, bought as dog food and infected. They were not human because Columbus’s men refused to baptize them or teach them God’s good ways — because if they did, they wouldn’t have the right to rape and murder.

Read the facts here.

How can men do such things in the name of a country and in the name of God? Surely everything that happened in the 1490’s was financed by some church or priest.
I can’t imagine. It’s unacceptable. Let’s hide it and pretend it never happened.
It’s unacceptable to have Columbus recognized for anything he did. It’s unacceptable to teach kids about him because it hurts to know the truth later. It hurts even worst to see these kids grow up and refuse to acknowledge the truth and then come up with patriotically charged arguments to defend him.
This morning the first thing I heard, literally, when I turned on the radio was “it’s Columbus Day!” It immediately made me angry and offended. I felt I had to hop on Facebook and leave a message on the station’s wall. I wrote, “Columbus made Hitler look like a prank caller. He was a master at genocide.” They responded with: “Of course he did. No one cares about the truth.” That last statement is killing this country.
Read another blog here.

A song about the truth.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hank Would Cry ... Again

Anyone who knows me would know that I hate new country music. I hate these blonde ninnies with bleached teeth and squinty-eyed jacks with torn jeans and fragrances in the bank. They ruined country music and turned it into raggedy pop nonsense.
Is it fitting I’m posting this while Las Cruces is going crazy for Chris Young right now? (Oct. 6)
I like the old guys, here’s proof, I have a Waylon Jennings sticker on my car. I like how their tours across the country didn’t come with t-shirts, cups, stickers and over priced albums and concert tickets. I like how they performed anywhere they were wanted instead of the most lucrative locations. Of course I have an old soul and sadly I grow up in this time when beer is $8 at the concert and I can only afford to sit in the nosebleed section.
Conway Twitty came to Crownpoint, where I am from on the Navajo reservation. He rocked the roof off the Crownpoint (tribal) college cafeteria. Twitty kissed my grandma and made my grandpa mad for a while.  Those were the good ole days – and I have more stories about Crownpoint’s good ole days that unfortunately I wasn’t witness to either.  I bet tickets were $1, if any admission price.
Don’t you notice old country songs frequently had references to Native Americans? Waylon sang “America” where “the red man is right to expect a little from you, promise and then follow through, America.” I heard he was into the American Indian Movement around the early 1970’s.  Even Elton John wrote a song about us. That’s gone now.

"America" by Waylon Jennings

Johnny Cash came to Crownpoint too. He loved my hometown so much he wrote a song, called “Navajo.” In that song he says he watched an artist painting. That painter was Jimmy Abeyta, a neighbor of another famous painter, Willie Murphy, who is my grandpa – but I like to think he was singing about my grandpa.

"Navajo" by Johnny Cash

Cash also made an album, “Bitter Tears” all about Natives: injustice, hardships and pride. He includes himself as a Native and sings, “in our losing we found proudness, in your winning you found shame.” Where is that album? Have you heard of it? I certainly never heard about it until I was thinking about this blog. Maybe the big music people heard the lyrics and thought they would hide it and never include any of those songs about Natives in any of Cash’s ‘Greatest Hits’ albums. They decided to do the same thing with U.S. history text books, but that’s another blog – that will tie into my next blog about the famous terrorist, Christopher Columbus.

"A Native American Tribute" by Johnny Cash about forced assimilation and bording schools. From "Bitter Tears."

You know who also came from Crownpoint and sometimes plays in Crownpoint? Tim Murphy and The Outlaws! These guys play all the old country hits. And if you didn’t make the connection, Tim Murphy is my dad and I did grow up on a good supply of real country because of him – though in my teens I rebelled and said "no to country" for a while. There are a lot of these ‘rez bands’ on the reservation and they do covers of a lot of the old stuff. I’m going to be biased and say my dad’s band is the best – why do you think NMSU would invite them here twice to a packed house? Unfortunately a lot of people have a bad taste in music and these bands are now trying to cover the new crud.
Take it how you will. Please come back for my future blog about the man who Hitler was inspired by, due on Columbus Day.