Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Red Paint

The 8th Annual Red Paint Powwow was held in Silver City at the Western New Mexico University intramural gym Jan. 20 to 22. I went on the 21st.
The gourd dance was happening right when I got there. It’s a dance to honor the veterans. These veterans usually wear a type of shawl that is blue and red and they all have rattles and step to the same beat. I was surprised to see so many of them there, even a bunch of women were honored as warriors.
The grand entry brought out all the dancers in all the categories:
The traditional dancers stepped slowly. The women’s shawls whipped back and forth to the drum. The men stomped around the floor. The traditional dancers wore a more traditional outfit, no flashy bead designs and no outrageous colors.
The fancy men dancers stomped and twirled around while nodding their heads. These guys wear the large fan of feathers on their upper and lower backs. They are flashy, colorful and take up a lot of room. The fancy women are equally as flashy with leather, beaded moccasins up to their knees and intricate and colorful shawls across their shoulders.
The jingle dress dancers added another sound to the drums and singers.
The grass dance men are somewhere between the fancy men and the traditional men, their outfit is usually decorated with hundreds of strands of string, yarn or thin material.
The chicken dancers stood a little taller than most dancers because they usually have two long feathers coming from their heads.
The tots, fancy and jingle, got most of the attention. They have just as many feathers as their large counterparts, but are 10 times cuter. Some of them already have some nice steps.
Somewhere in the middle of the powwow, the Apache Devil Dancers, or Crown Dancers came out and performed.  These guys are sort of scary. They have black hoods all the way around their heads, covering their eyes and faces completely with a large white crown on their head decorated with colored symbols. On the bottom they have a belt made of loud bells holding up the leather wrapped around their waists. They are painted white with black smears.
This is Apache land and that was a protection dance.
All day the dancers danced hard. I thought it was over around 5 p.m. but they were taking a break for dinner and would start up again that night and again on Sunday morning.
It was a good experience. I saw a lot of familiar brown faces and a Hopi from Gallup who jokingly put up her fists to fight my sister and I when she found out we were Navajo and we found out she was Hopi. “Aye!”

There are four dancers representing the four directions and one in the middle representing life

Apache Devil Dancers (at the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In your own county, state and country

I always did wonder why people take off to Africa or Mexico to help the starving population or the illiterate kids there. It’s some righteous mission from God to help those less fortunate in other countries because other countries are the “third world.” People in other countries live in poverty, they have no electricity, no clean water and they just can’t seem to help themselves because of their governments and lack of funds and productivity.
Maybe these righteous missionaries didn’t grow up where I come from.
At anytime, my tiny house is filled with 15 people; my grandparents, my parents, my aunt, my uncles, my siblings and my cousins. I share a bedroom with four of my cousins and sometimes during the summer, we sleep in the bed of my uncle’s truck.
My neighbors never have electricity and we thought it was just for fun that they always used candles and ceresin lamps. My other neighbors haul water three times a week to bath and cook.
Disease ravages the people too. Many legs have been lost and many eyes have been rendered useless. The mortality rate where I come from is easily higher than those who live in the United States. The crime, suicide, poverty and other rates are higher too.
Our government is very one-sided too, and that side is usually their own. Many officials are greedy and uneducated and don’t know how to do what’s best for 600 to 300,000 people.
 Invisible borderlines and boundaries keep American businesses away from our foreign land. There are no stores. There is no fun. From the inside, our government and land systems are a mess. Nothing gets done and no one can ever say, “I have a business.”
Where I’m from you need a passport to live there but you don’t need anything to get out. I live in every one of the United States. My  foreign land is surrounded by America and Americans. I’m American.
Maybe it’s because we have “American” attached to our name. “American” makes it sound like we live a good life full of HD TV’s, nice clothes, good health and full refrigerators. It makes it sound like we don’t need help because we live in this great country.
We need lots of help and ideas.
And my thinking is: we should help the people in our own country, especially those who had everything stolen from them, before we go off across the globe on some righteous mission to feed and educate the world. Take a look at your neighbors, take a look at the tribes and find out what you can do.