Sunday, March 25, 2012

Yo! We're Here

In a city there are clashes of cultures and mixes of people. One of the smaller populations that make up a city is Native Americans. There are 1,618 Natives living in Las Cruces N.M., which has a population of 97,618, according to the 2010 census. This is a lot, probably about 2 percent.
I watched a couple of muralist from the American Indian Mural Krew spray paint a mural onto the side of a building at the Court Youth Center, 402 W. Court Ave. in Las Cruces. They are Jaque Fragua, Jemez Pueblo, and Saba, Navajo/Jemez.
The first mural honored Native women; their strength, beauty and obvious importance and necessity to their culture. It’s beautiful.

The second mural is located next to Delicia’s Café, 1413 E. Amador Ave. or the corner of Solano Drive and Amador Avenue.  This is a big one and, to me, it’s a little more impressive and it speaks a little louder. 
Graffiti art, or aerosol art, is a direct message to the community. This one is letting everyone know that Natives are still here so everyone should recognize that. Don’t speak about us or treat us like we’re extinct or something from the past.

Natives dressed in a mix of traditional and current attire. 

Below the black horse is a Spanish conquistador’s helmet. Despite the Spanish’s attempted genocide of southwest Natives, we’re still here. The arrow through the helmet equals victory. And I think the Native in yellow is giving the bird… Defiance, I like that.

The man holding the rope; he may be Pueblo. His rope has three knots in it and it’s not tied to the blue horse. Let me explain: The Pueblo Revolt, Popé’s Revolt, happened in 1680 against the Spanish. Pueblo messengers sent out ropes, all with the same number of knots on them, to all the Pueblos. Each day every Pueblo would untie a knot. When there were no more knots that meant they would all rise against the Spanish together.  Although their plan was figured out, they drove the Spanish back down south.

It’s challenging to live in the city, especially if you’re like me and you grew up on the reservation. It’s easy to get lost and forget your promise to your tribe (or the promises you write on your tribal scholarship applications).
The Navajo reservation and any city are so different. It’s different in culture, population and aesthetics – what “aesthetics?” one might ask. It’s a different country.
In Crownpoint, which is on the Navajo reservation, there is no grass or landscaping, unless it’s in front of a brand new building which will lose its green beauty in about three years. There are no leash laws or laws that say ugly houses and yards will result in fines or jail-time – if there are, they have never been enforced in my lifetime. There are no ghettos, upscale parts of town and there are no gated communities. In Crownpoint all the houses look the same and look like they cost about $10,000 to make. There are no recreation centers, there are no gyms, there are no restaurants, no pools or stores. For a tribal college town with a population of 3,000 or so, there is nothing there except: two tribal colleges, two elementary schools, one high school and a hospital.
 In the city, say, one like Las Cruces, there’s everything. They have leash laws, grass laws, noise laws and traffic. There are people of different cultures and colors. There are country clubs, parks, stores, restaurants, swimming pools, bars, clubs and movie theaters. And there are jobs.
Jobs are the No. 1 reason why Natives have moved into cities. That, and the relocation program of 1956. This happened during the termination era in Native history (1953 to 1968), one of the last times the U.S. tried to get rid of tribes, and end the obligations of a federal relationship to save tax dollars. The purpose of this relocation program was to get Natives in urban areas to further whitewash and assimilate them.  They offered job training, jobs and housing to thousands of Natives (sounds like a good deal until you find out that they only trained you for dead end jobs. Do you think they would have Native doctors and businessmen at that time? Yeah right. Not on America’s tax dollars.). That is why my mom was born in Los Angeles and we still have family there.
From the description of Crownpoint you can see there are very few jobs outside the hospital, schools and the grocery store. There is no room for park rangers, writers, chefs or musicians. So we must leave for the city. I left for school. Even though I can literally see two accredited tribal college from my front door in Crownpoint, I felt the need to leave and experience the outside.
I had to get used to all of the differences, which wasn’t that big of a deal with the support of my family and the fun of the city. I will go home someday, but not anytime soon. I love it in Las Cruces.
Yesterday my sister was at Wal-Mart in Gallup which is filled with tons of Navajos on a Saturday. She saw two women dressed very traditionally and looking very lost, like they just came off a horse and don’t speak English. She called me right away and said that it was very cool to see these women because they’re rare. Even Navajos are urban enough to think traditional Navajos, as traditional as those two women, were such a beautiful, rare sight to see.


  1. It's so nice to know that pictures are being painted in Las Cruces to remind people that Native Americans are still here! Andi, you're blogs are always so interesting to read. I love to hear about your personal experiences on Native Views. Someday you have to write a book!

  2. Thank you, as always, for this post. I probably always say the same thing, but your voice is a unique and important one.