Copyright © 2000 Calumet Consulting
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Slot Canyons can be places of extraordinary beauty and danger. Even at mid-day the bottoms can be a maze of shadows accented infrequently by a shaft of sunlight that is able to penetrate all the way to the bottom. Often an explorer can touch both walls of the canyons with hands on outstretched arms.
The fast changing weather of the West provides the greatest danger to explorers of the places. Since it is not normally possible to see the sky from the bottoms of the canyons, thunderstorms that deliver a great amount of rain in a short time must be considered. Even rains miles away can fill up the narrow slots with raging water when there is no hint of rain in the immediate area. Hikers who choose to ignore these cautions routinely are noted in news articles in local papers announcing another victim.
To help avoid further fatalities (bad for business) the Navajo tribe now regulates access to Antelope and Slot canyons. It assesses a charge on visitors to dissipate the administrative costs.
During a healing ceremony, the sand-painting is used by the healer to tell a story of the Holy Ones and invoke certain "tools" that have been given to us to assist in healing infirmities. The sand paintings are only a small part of a process. They serve the same purpose as an overhead projector used to enhance the presentation. The human mind is a very powerful force. There are many infirmities that must have more conventional treatment, but getting the mind to believe treatments can work can be a decisive force in the total healing process. Unless the patient has the conviction that what is being done can help, is supposed to have efficacious results and will help, the actions alone are of little consequence.
To take one of the parts of the whole and try and make sense of the actions alone, can defy reason. In the movie "Gandhi", a Hindu asks an Englishman if it is true Christians practice cannibalism. The questioner's literal understanding of the sacrament common in most Christian churches is equivalent to most non-Navajo's lack of comprehension of Navajo ceremonies and the framework surrounding one's life. Reproducing sand paintings to emulate their original use holds as much meaning as lighting the candles on a Menorah without knowing that story.
Back to the reason for your question. Skip the healing. Explain that painting with sand has also become a very marketable art form. With practice, very fine features can be drawn by sand released between the thumb and the index finger from fine, multi-colored sands held in the cupped fingers. Non-religious portrayals of Father Sky and Mother Earth, (Chinle schools main page- chinleusd.k12.az.us) other stories and name placards for desks have become popular. If you don't have access to naturally colored sands, commercial artists do use aniline dyes on quartz sand. Quarter inch thick particle board painted with white glue and covered with sand is an inexpensive backing when the surplus sand is shaken free.. Once the design with colored sand is completed, spraying the design with a wet coat of acrylic spray fixes the design in time. Ben Hunt many years ago produced a book on "Indian Arts and Crafts." It is still in print and has some motifs your students could use.
Like the Star Wars movies, there is a bright and a dark side to everything. This web site and her book are about a dark side that few choose to travel. Local reaction spans a range from "some people will do anything for money!" to "if there are those who will buy it and she can sell it, why not?" As to the question of whether there are Navajo Medicine Women: Joanie thinks the is at least one, but it was her brother-in-law who provided the answer to the previous question before Joanie and her husband went public with their book.
The Tribe is attempting to reverse this trend. Fellowships for individuals wishing to learn the skills are being offered. The trade requires dedication and extensive study and training. Several years of an apprenticeship are required. While there is no certification program, there is an association of healers who are united throughout the region. Health insurance policies from local employers support the use of Native Healers and pays for their services on the same scale as conventional health care providers.
Peach (Definition from Excite Reference)Fruit tree (Prunus persica) of the family Rosaceae (rose family) having decorative pink blossoms and a juicy, sweet drupe fruit. The peach appears to have originated in China, where it was mentioned in literature several centuries before Christ. It was introduced into Persia before Christian times and was spread by the Romans throughout Europe. Several of its horticultural varieties were brought by the Spanish to North America, where it became naturalized as far north as Pennsylvania by the late 17th cent. Peaches are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae.
The significance of this took only milliseconds to sink in. If peaches did originate in China, but had been in the southwest for hundreds, if not thousands of years, they still had to be transported here with man's help. Not only did someone other than the Spanish have to bring them, but the same someones had to have a knowledge of how to transport seeds or cuttings to survive a journey across salt water, as well as the knowledge to plant them in orchards. In other words, the people who brought these peaches to America probably had a good foundation in agriculture before they left Asia, the foresight to pack and care for them on the journey and knowledge about how to plant them in America. This gives a lot more credence to a planned migration from Asia. If there was not an intent to settle in the new world, then why would the cuttings or seeds have been cared for in such a way as to ensure their survival? This also tends to negate the concept of the Dine' migrating across the Bering Strait during the last Ice Age. In a time of massive glaciers, which imply heavy snows and cold weather, I think it less likely for cuttings to survive if the nomads who would make such a journey would even have them to begin with! The presence of the peach, if not from the Spanish, tells a much greater story. It will be some time before I can confirm or deny the who, but if it turns out not to be the Spanish a much greater story will be confirmed.
There are also some who be lieve that the Emergence story is not as figurative as it might seem, but an allegorical tale of a passage through different climatic changes. The first world being a description of where the Dineh originated, the water world being the ocean voyage, the World of Grasshoppers the initial landing in the summer on the Alaskan coast, where the insects are legendary both in size and number.......and the Fourth world where we all live today with the Pueblo people and the Four Mountains.... We can only wonder....
Other observations made at this same time included the interchange between Pueblo People and the Dineh, where the Dineh provided Peaches and the Pueblo folk provided corn.
I caution against trying to understand anything about Navajo teachings based on a peek here and a peek there. Everything is tied together like a spider's web. It interacts and interlinks. I am reminded of the old story about the elephant and the six blind men. Each perceived its nature as different depending on what he touched. None was "wrong", but none was right either.
Collecting yucca root is prohibited. It kills the plant.
In the wild, with little water, yucca can take five to seven years to mature to a harvestable size plant. It is unknown how long it will take to mature, if it gets water on a regular basis. Saguaro cacti common in southern Arizona deserts, show very accelerated growth when they get additional water.
Keep the unused root refrigerated or frozen. As organic material without preservatives, it can be subject to mold, if stored at room temperature.
NOTE 3/25/2000 : I have started seeing some yucca root in larger supermarkets with diverse produce departments. I understand it should work as well as the local varieties.
Ernie Zamudio, the Vocational Agriculture teacher for Chinle High School confirmed these impressions.
As anywhere else, there are exceptions, but the core of the culture should not be judged by the exceptions. If one encounters alcoholics and panhandlers who have discovered tourists as easy prey, do not believe they represent in anyway, the bulk of the Dineh. They are considered individuals who lacked grandparents to teach them how to behave. Give these individuals your permission to be as they choose and continue your visit free of prejudice.
Another common practice is to ensure that the dead have at least one small piece of turquoise with them. Some who would not have normally worn jewelry while alive, may only have a small tie-tack of the stone on their collar. Others, who may have owned and worn many pieces while living, may wear it to the grave.
The origins of the "Book of Mormon" remain in question. This has not been denied by the Salt Lake Church. Brigham Roberts, an 20th century General Authority, wrote that he believed Joseph Smith may have borrowed the underlying concept of the Book of Mormon from Ethan Smith's (no relation) "View of the Hebrews" which was published in the early 19th century.
Presented as an historical as well as ecumenical document, the volume tells of a family that fled Jerusalem, then built a boat and sailed east across the Indian and Pacific Oceans to Central America, where their descendants formed a large civilization. The Book of Mormon also "documents" the visit of Christ in the Americas. Eventually, the people split into two factions. One group was white and pure, symbolizing their goodness, while the other group was given dark skin because of their wickedness so others might know them. The people with white skin were eventually eradicated, the victors, it was long taught as fact, becoming the source of America's Indian peoples.
It is this connection with the past that missionaries used to gain acceptance by today's Navajo people. Times may be changing.
Recent DNA studies of American Indians by several universities show no patterns relating any American Indians to Mid-Eastern peoples, but instead confirms a primarily Asiatic ancestry. No archeological evidence supports the claim either. While there are ruins in Meso-America, they come from a far different time period than is outlined in the document. The lack of evidence for archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon prompted no less an entity than the Smithsonian Institution to compose a letter stating this.
(In December 2000, in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Church revealed that it was moving away from this concept that ALL Native Americans were remnants of people of the Book of Mormon.)
The story of the Book of Mormon's appearance is remarkable. It first appeared in western New York state, where Smith claimed he dug it from a stone vault, with divine direction.Originally claimed to be composed of engraved gold-colored plates, embossed in "reformed" Egyptian characters, "translation" to English was not done on a line for line basis, but was dictated by Smith to a scribe, while his face was buried in the crown of a hat. Supposedly a condensation of many previous accounts by an ancient prophet named Mormon, the book is commonly known as the "Book of Mormon. In the front of the Book of Mormon are testimonies of "witnesses" who claim to have seen the gold plate from whence they came. Close reading of documents in the Church's history reveals however, that the Gold Plates were only seen in a "Spiritual Sense."
Originally, members of other churches did not take kindly to these new and often clannish, pious congregations who often expanded to form whole communities. As a result of hostility from others, the members were forced out of several states Finally, after developing swamp land along the Mississippi river to a city larger than Chicago and the leader's subsequent death, while in jail for ordering the destruction of a newspaper that was planning on printing an expose' showing him to be a polygamist, the Church fragmented. One faction, commanded by Brigham Young, its self-appointed leader, traveled west to Salt Lake City. George Strang, who had a paper stating he was Smith's choice as a successor, led his fold to an island in Lake Michigan. Another group, led by his Smith's wife and son was the largest of many fragments claiming Nauvoo origins. In the end, it was the "Brighamites" that became the Church the world knows best today. There increase has been meteoric, growing from a population of one hundred and fifty thousand in 1950 to a membership of over ten million fifty years later.
The migration of the Mormons westward has been identified as the largest single movement of people in America's history. After establishing the center of their theocratic government in Salt Lake city, Utah, members were sent to establish hundreds of communities in Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming. Universities were founded in Utah, Idaho, New Zealand and Hawaii. People to man this expansion were obtained by sending missionaries to northern European countries where the promise of spiritual and physical opportunities in America brought, emigrants by the boatload, across the Atlantic. A "Perpetual Emigration Fund" was established to assist the new converts with expenses. Once in America, early pioneers traveled to the Mountain West by wagon train. Those too poor to afford teams and wagons, walked and pulled handcarts. Eventually, wagons departed eastward from Utah each Spring to pick up that year's bounty from foreign missionary efforts, returning before the first snows in the Fall. When the transcontinental railroad was completed, its cars carried even more Saints westward. It is a fascinating story.
Part of the LDS theology is the teaching of marriage for "time and eternity," rather than "until death do us part." This "Temple Marriage" must be sanctified in a "Temple". This was the reason so many Saints in Arizona and Mexico made the trek north on the "Honeymoon Trail" across Navajo Land to the closest of the Church's temples in south-east Utah at St. George, until the Mesa, Arizona Temple was constructed in a cotton field after the First World War.
The Mormons actively courted the Indians from the moment of their arrival in the region. A monument to Jacob Hamblin, who did much work with the tribes in the Four Corner States is located in St. Micheals, Arizona on State Route 264, just east of the Two-story Trading Post by the new Navajoland Day's Inn hotel. Because of the Churches opposition to the Federal government's campaign to eliminate their practice of polygamy, often the Church perceived their American Indian neighbors more as allies, than as enemies. The Church made concerted efforts to develop Navajoland. They tried to bring in industry. The walls of a large wool processing factory and mill still stand without a roof in Tuba City. John D. Lee, who fled Utah with his wives to the northwest part of Navajoland has left many Dineh bearing his name. He was later returned to Utah and executed for taking part in the murder of over 120 men, women and children of the California bound Francher wagon train while it was in the highlands of south central Utah at Mountain Meadows. (Mormon men from a nearby community came to the "rescue" of this group of immigrants from Missouri, a State where early Mormons had suffered severe persecution. The Mormon men paired up with the survivors on a one on one basis and on command, murdered all but the youngest children. Lee, once regarded as a son of Brigham Young the church's leader is regarded as having been a scape goat.)
Persistent missionary efforts with the Indians since the end of the 1800's
has resulted in a pool of more baptized members than any other faith on the
Navajo Nation. Unfortunately, baptism does not equate to activity. There are
also the greatest number of inactive Mormons than any other Church membership,
according to a doctoral thesis completed by Dr. Steve Pavlik at Northern
Arizona University. Until the late 1980's, the reservation was still considered
to be a mission, without enough active families to be autonomous. Various
regions were affiliated with LDS communities in border towns. Eventually, the
entire area was made one jurisdiction, or Stake, centered in Chinle. Since
then, it has been divided into two, the other centered in Tuba City.
Charismatic young men and women within the Mormon Church commit two years of their lives, at age nineteen (21 for women) , to spread the gospel here. Older couples, in the early years of retirement, also often commit time from their life and family to come and support the teaching, or come in roles of social workers. The missionary effort continues in strength. In spite of a very low proportion of activity to baptisms. Because of a very effective welfare program to assist its members in need, Dr. Pavlik conjectured as to whether membership in the Mormon Church was considered unconsciously, by some of the Navajo people to be insurance against hard times.
There are many elements similar between the concepts of Mormonism and the traditional teachings of the Navajo People. With the presentation that there is both a Father and Mother in Heaven, this relates strongly to the Mother Earth/Father Sky pairing and teachings that Holy Ones prepared this world for the Dineh. It is certainly an easier transition for some than to the monotheistic omnipotence of "God" that is marketed elsewhere.Rather than insisting that the Bible is the absolute "word of God", Latter-day Saints profess only to accept it as is "translated correctly".
Ultimately the question of whether the LDS gospel is the best choice available is made on an individual basis through personal "conversion". The familiarity of many teachings with the emphasis on family, is easily related to as a start. Eventually however, the demands that one completely abandon their heritage makes adhering to the requirements difficult at best. Easing this loss is the belief among Mormons that they are God's Chosen Ones, and have something all others lack, which is a Prophet who communicates directly with the Lord and the only hope at salvation.
Gordon B. Hinkley, recently stated on national television that there are, as far as he is concerned, no such thing as "Mormon Fundamentalists" (Kingdom of Zion, for example.) In deference to his statement, most of the 100,000 practicing polygamists in Utah and the Mountain West, claim themselves to be adhering to the Church's original tenets - after the Salt Lake Mormons" abandoned them. Even though the Salt Lake Mormons are the dominating force in Utah, enforcement of anti-polygamy laws is rarely done, except in very visible cases, such as Tom Greene, who with his five wives appeared on national television and touted the Governor about Utah's supposed hypocrisy.
In the United States during the mid-1800's polygamy and slavery were seen as "the twin relic's of barbarism". Lincoln signed the Anti-Bigamy Act of !862 into law to deal with the "Mormon Problem". It was tested in court in 1878 and found to be "good law" with statements that polygamy was incompatible with the American system of government because, polygamy as then practiced led to paternalism. The penalty was five years at hard labor and a five hundred dollar fine. This was a small fortune at the time. This law and others passed that encumbered church properties soon sent church leaders into hiding.
It is unknown what percentage of the Church members embraced polygamy. (Estimates are in the neighborhood of 5%, however, since "living the law" was necessary to rise in Church leadership positions, this was a very visible 5%!)
In General Church Conference in 1888, the Church affirmed that polygamy was central and essential to its practice. By 1891, in response to increased pressure from Federal Marshals who were hunting down and jailing Church leaders, as well as seizing church assets, Church President Wilfred Woodruff, who himself had been hiding in the mountains of southern Utah, posing as a woman dressed in a mother-hubbard to avoid federal agents, announced that the practice was to be discontinued. Shortly thereafter, Utah was granted the long sought after statehood. Some contend that this announcement was done more for appearance sake than an actual change in practiced doctrine, since records indicate that polygamous marriages still continued, although not openly, into the next century.
In 1906 Church president Smith pleaded guilty to the practice on federal charges and another "Manefesto" was issued. After the 1891 Manefesto, an independent Salt Lake City newspaper of the era, the Tribune, confirmed the "Saints" printed that the saints had no intend of abandoning the program, but that the "Manifesto"bannin