New Mexico travel journal

Two weeks in New Mexico and Arizona | 2013-11-02–2013-11-16

Detta är en bildtext
 

Before it's too late..

First of all - please – excuse my limited English! This is not my first language, but I'll try to write in English so that some of the people mentioned in this text can actually read it, follow our project, and correct me if I'm wrong – not only in spelling.

This is a short account of the 2 weeks we traveled to get interviews and photos. You won´t get to read the interviews here. This is just a ”travel-diary” for those of you who are curious or even would have wanted to come! The pictures are my own tourist-photos.

Please do also visit the photo galleries to have a look at Hasses photos taken for the purpose of exhibitions and a book!

/ Åsa

 
El Bosque  Rio Grande

El Bosque  Rio Grande

 

New Mexico

We flew from Stockholm through Chicago – and got to experience how the bad economy has hit the old industrial towns of the US. At O´Hair, the worlds largest airport – they had obviously turned down the heating system in a way that made me shiver for the 6 hour layover. Brrrrr.

We arrived late at night in Albuquerque and were met by my old friend Charlotte Walters, whom I met years ago in Central America. I've stayed in her little casita in the South Valley before, but this time the house was under construction, so we all stayed in the neighbors house.

Dean, whom I also met before, had sadly passed away and the house was empty. Charlotte not only housed us, but also cooked for us, took us out to eat, drove us around and let us use her car for 2 weeks while she drove a rental!

Dear Charlotte – come visit us soon..!

The first day she started out by mas o menos shocking us into the timezone, climate and culture – first with a walk along the mighty Rio Grande – the river of so many old movies..

...and then by taking us to a ”Dia de los Muertos-parade” in the South Valley where she lives. The Mexican American version of our ”alla helgons dag” is a bit more, how should I put it, – lively...

Lots of the messages were political – protests against domestic voiolence, civil rights for immigrants, sin papeles etc. Some were just for fun – like the low-riders...

Monday – Tuesday Charlotte took us for a ride up to Taos, and the Rio Grande Gorge. A sort of mini-Grand Canyon, very hard to photograph in a way that really shows the depth of the gorge where the river flows.

In the evening we came to Ojos Caliente, the magic hot springs up in the mountains southwest of Taos. The first time I was there it was a very low-key place with an old hotel and the hot pools. The people bathing seemed to be mostly locals—Hispanics, Anglos, and a Native American with impressive Sundance-scars along his back.

Now there was a new entrance-building in front of the wells. A big reception desk and a tourist-gift-shop... Thank God the old hotel was still the same, with the long porch with the rockingchairs!

Spending the evening in the pools was a very nice way of treating the jet-lag. My favorite is the soda-pool, indoors in a dark and beautiful cave. I feel like Gollum, in a positive way...

Tuesday morning we took a walk in the hills and another swim in the pools before heading out.

We drove trough Los Alamos on our way back – and I got to once more see how close the fires came a couple of years ago. Very close to the research-facilities. The remains of the burned forrest is litterally just on the other side of the narrow road. It was a controlled burn that got out of hand.

For Hasse, who have spent lots of time contemplating nuclear weapons and atomic bombs in his art, this was no less than a visit to Mordor...

On our way down we got to see the long, beautiful Valle Caldera a valley hidden in between the snow clad mountains, and we visited the hot springs in Jemez.

Just outside Jemez pueblo we stopped at a little jewelery shop – and found the most sweet old Dutch lady, Andrée Moen, owner and artist. Hasse almost fell in love with her, and bought a lot...

Wednesday we took a trip to the old mining-towns up in the Sandias Mountains just east of Albuquerque. The towns lived trough the gold and silver rush and then slowly died out when the mines closed. One landlord tried to sell a whole town without sucsess for about 20 years. When he finally gave up and sold it house by house, the hippies of the 1970s moved in – and Madrid went for a new period of glory – as a hippie-refuge, artist studios and galleries. It is now a tourist-town.

But first in line was the city of Golden. Almost a ghostown with a lot of tumble-down houses, where the owners obvioulsy left in a hurry.

...if not for the Tourist office, run by the Mayor of Golden – Leroy Gonzales, a friendly guy who told us that he still sees people heading up into the mountains to dig for gold, and then they return in expensive cars... So who knows, the gold-rush might not be over. At least not accordning to the Mayor of Golden, now a city of 10 inhabitants.

Cerrillos is mostly known for its still standing old-style houses along the mainstreet. A favourite site for shooting western-movies

It was a little tempting to buy a building and start a new life in this quiet little town with a nice riding stable. But probably too hot in the summer for my beautiful Irish hunter horse...

Madrid was all a returning tourist could hope for – The bar served Buffalo-Burgers and offered to take care of any unattended kids and the coffeshop Java Junction was still there!

The bumpersticker BAD COFFE SUCKS – will now be on my car again...

And Jeffrey and his wife still tend the wonderful rug-store. My old Mexican blanket now has a new colorful companion. It was as expensive as the first one, but didn't give me as big a ”what have I done-panic” as the first one. Since I now know how warm it is and how much I used he first one. Now I am a collector!

 

 end of chapter –

 
 

Acoma

Thursday we set of for a trip to Acoma Pueblo. Acoma has the distinction of being the oldest continuous village in North America.  And it is an impressive sight from afar, with the little village on top of the mesa. I think there used to be a total picture-ban in Acoma, but now they have built a new visitors-center, where you book a guided tour and buy a photo-permission! Smart.

We took the tour. The guide started out very cautiously, not straying a single word from the path of not offending a single person or religion... Puuuh. When he realised that the group consisted of only foreigners – he eased up – and spoke more freely to us, Swedish, French, Canadian,

Germans and a Mexican! But, as my Acoma born friend pointed out the next day – he didn't go as far as to point out where they in the old days threw a priest of the cliff!

Well, we'll have to take the alternative tour the next time...

There were some vendors along the way. A kind lady had a beautiful bracelet for sale, that now belongs to Eva, Hasses wife. The lady took my hands and looked into my heart in a way that made me retrieve my hands... We spoke for a while, and then held hands again, looking into each other. She was very kind. She told me that my Swedish name in her language was the name of a herb! One that was good for the heart. I really hope that was true...

Among the vendors I came across an artist with drawings of a type that combined an old style with new almost computer-drawn patterns, and with poetry woven into the pictures. Not my style at all, but for some reason I liked it a lot. I bought a small one. For a gift or maybe for my own wall.

See the work of "Waya" Gary Keene here.

 

The history of Acoma and the pueblo people is amazing. The guide told us about how they went looking for a place to stay, calling out to hear where the echo's came back... First they stayed at Enchanted mesa, which was even more difficult to access then Acoma, but when lightning struck – they moved on.

Read more about Acoma..

It's a fascinating story!

 

Friday we had breakfast at the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque with Manuel Pino. Manny is one of the people who manages to ”live in both worlds”. Both the traditional native world, and the ”white world”. He is a traditional man from Acoma, and an instructor/professor at Scottsdale Community College, in Scottsdale Arizona, where he teaches Indigenous Studies and Sociology. The campus is located at the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and it is the only public institution located on an indian reservation in the US! Manny has a background in American Indian Movement (AIM) and was recently among the people at the Peltier-hearing that gathered together the files and evidence once more, to try and get justice for native lifetime prisoner Leonard Peltier.

But most of all, Manny has spent his time studying the effects of the uranium-mining in the area. In the nearby Laguna Pueblo was once the worlds largest open pit mine for uranium. The Jackpile Mine. The mine is now closed and ”reclaimed”, but the health effects are still grave. There is a little village by the name of Paguate that still lays on a hilltop in the middle of the remains of mine. Many of the inhabitants worked in the mine when it was operative. Manny is now working on getting long term studies for the health effects on the people in the area.

Manuel Pino

Manuel Pino

We had a very tasty breakfast and did an interview for our project, on the subject of the state of the earth. And, we did of course talk a lot about the mining. Manny was the first (but not the last on this journey) to say that the Indigenous knowledge that so many now look towards – is no mystic thing, no rocket science – but rather just some common sense...

After breakfast, we set out for Ghost Ranch, the ranch made famous by Georgia O'Keefe and other artists. It is now a conference facility run by the Methodist church.

 

end of chapter 

 
Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch

 

Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch was this years site for the Two Circles conference, the Ancient Voices Forum. Which was the main goal for our travel. The Ancient Voices Forum is hosted by American Indian Institute – a non profit organisation operating out of Bozeman, Montana. It was founded 1973 by Robert Staffanson who still is the president. The organisation is based on two circles, one made up of native Elders from different Nations, and then one circle of non natives.

Staffanson has an interesting background – he was raised on a cattle ranch and became a conductor of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts. But, after being invited to a native camp one summer he changed his way of looking upon life. He started the American Indian Institute to work with the Elders of different Nations. One of his ideas was to help find financial and administrative support for the work of the Elders.

He had two goals … first, to help preserve Indian spiritual teachings, which can only be preserved by being passed down orally. Second, he wanted to communicate that spiritual vision to the broader world. [...]

Staffanson believes passionately that the white world has a great deal to learn from the native peoples it’s been trying for centuries to wipe out. Indian wisdom, he said, especially about the environment and man’s relationship to the web of life on Earth, could keep us from destroying the planet. “The survival of all of us may depend on that,” he said.
— Interview with Staffanson published by The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Read full article here

The Elders Circle have been meeting for over 30 years in a closed circle, but a couple of years ago the Elders found the time ready to invite non natives to a forum.

We covered the meeting hosted by the Salish and Kootenay at the Flathead Reservation in Montana during 2008 for TV4. One of the TV 4 reportages you can still see at the American Indian Institutes website twocircles.org, navigate to Institute Programs / Ancient Voices Forum / Flathead Report from TV4.

This years meeting at Ghost Ranch was hosted by the local Pueblos, represented by José Lucero from Santa Clara and Vickie Downey from Tesuque. We arrived in the evening and were met by the staff of the Two Circles, Eric Noyes, Lisa Sutton, Galen McKibben and his son Ian. It was really good to see them again.

About 80 people had signed up for the conferense. We had a room in the corral-block – nice beds and shared showers with lots of hot water! The climate up in the beautiful mountains made the days warm and nice but as soon as the sun went down the temperature dropped fast, to below freezing. A desert climate...

Behind the corral-block I found a bunch of Norwegian fjord-horses! Very strange! How they ended up in the mountains of New Mexico I never really found out – but they must be really well suited for the task of carrying tourists into the mountains. Thick coated, foot-sure in the mountains, and can carry riders of heavy weight...

The first night we all assembled in the huge dining hall. Ghost Ranch turned out to have excellent cooks, at least from my point of wiew! Nice basic food, lots of chilli and both oatmeal and pancakes for breakfast. What else can you ask for? I ate my way through the next 3 days... And slept very well in the quietness at Rancho de los Brujos.

The conferense went on from Friday night until Monday night. At this point, I will not attempt to describe everything that took place during the conference. Instead, we plan to present some of the photos and some texts in one or several exhibitions. And, finally, we hope to publish a book with the Elders, photos, interviews, and stories.

But for those who might consider attending a Forum in the future – I will describe some of it.

The days started with a sunrise ceremony – where representatives from different Nations adressed the four directions and gave thanks for the coming new day. Then there was a main Elders-adress every day. Hasse filmed some of them for the archives of the American Indian Institute. Among the speakers were Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Onondaga, Haudenosaunee – Mindahi Munoz, Otomi from Mexico and Leonard Littlefinger, Lakota from Pine Ridge.

Fortunatly, I have had the opportunity to hear Oren Lyons speak several times since 1986. I was so happy and relieved to hear him now say there is still time! The future for us living here on Mother Earth has yet to be decided.

We started out this project under the work-name of ”before it is too late”... Well, at least Oren still has some hope for us. He now says it is up to the common people. We all have to work hard on ”value change for survival”.

During the interview he told the story about how he and his younger brother were called home from a quite comfortable ”white” life in New York by the clan-mothers over 40 years ago – to start working for the traditional Elders. He described how he became ”the runner” for the Elders – and still is.

I can think of no other man that keeps travelling as relentlessly as he does, speaking about climate change, value change for survival, respect for Mother Earth and proper conduct.

We definitely owe it to him, to listen!

The afternoons were spent in discussion groups, led by different Elders. One of the groups was led by Danny Blackgoat in a hogan. He is Diné from Big Mountain/Black Mesa but for many years he lived – as he himself describes it in our interview – as an assimilated Navajo Indian in the white man’s world, working as a teacher in Flagstaff, Arizona. Now he is re-identifying and re-associating himself wiht his relatives and Elders. Going back to the essence of being Diné.

I, from my point of view, still consider him a teacher, but now on the subject of traditional living. 

It turned out that the hogans at Ghost Ranch had been in a terrible state, but in the weeks before the Forum, Danny drove back and forth a couple of times all the way from Winslow, Arizona, (about 6 hour drive one way) to repair them. Now one of the hogans was ready to host the guests, with a fire burning in the stove in the middle. I have a feeling that this was very important. A discussion that takes place in that kind of environment probably goes deeper into the core of things, than if it was held in a different place

DSC_1400.jpg

During the Forum’s three days, we saw a group of visiting dancers and pottery from a nearby Pueblo. Thoughts and ideas were exchanged and we had the opportunity to do several interviews and photo-sessions with the participants.

One new aquaintance for us was ”Uncle” from Greenland. He has such a complicated name (Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq) that everybody just calls him Uncle. And, in a way he is, everybodys’ uncle. A warm and funny person with lots of wisdom and interesting thoughts, hidden behind the smiles and jokes.

We managed to sit down for a short talk with Vickie Downey before she rushed of to cook for the dances and feast-day in Tesuque Pueblo. Among other things, she did talk about food, that it is definitly of great importance for the future in a more balanced world.

Our young friend from the Tulalip of Washington state, Darkfeather, talked about comunication and language in our interview. She is now learning her mothertounge through a smartphone-APP! And taking classes over the internet, on Skype. She is one of the young people that literally grew up in the Elders Circle, she and her sister were taken to the meetings every year by their mother, Lisa Powers. She did admit how boring they found it when they were younger – and how important the work of the circles now has become to them!

Our last interview was with Lakota Elder, Leonard Littlefinger, who came to the Forum with his son John. He has worked for improved health-care at Pine Ridge, South Dakota for almost his entire life. 

He told us that the life expectancy of a male person living at Pine Ridge – is 48 years. Now he and his son works with a Lakota language-school.

During the three days, many stories were shared in many different ways, through films, discussions and ceremonies. One story stuck in my mind. I have a  strong feeling that the things that took place there will be very important for our future. It is a story that is not up to me to tell. It should be told by the ones that were there. However, it is so beautiful that I need to mention it. The Condolence Ceremony was sprung out of a dream of a man up north in Haudenosaunee country. The dream was shared and the place of the dream was found. The ceremony was attended by both people from the north and from the south of the Americas. And, by a group of eagles that showed up along the road when the participants came driving in. So it was told to us, one morning at Ghost Ranch.

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The last day, Monday, there was a closing session where everybody sat in a circle, and shared thoughts of the Forum days. It went on for about three hours. Many beautiful and terrible stories were shared, many of the participants cried, understanding was shared, and some unexpected friendships were formed.

At dusk we left Ghost Ranch.

We drove back to Albuquerque to meet Charlotte again. The last day of the Forum, Danny Blackgoat invited us to visit Big Mountain, an invitation that I felt very honored by and happy to receive.

I visited this disputed area, called Big Mountain the first time in 1986, with a Danish photographer, Tina Enghoff. That was when the conflict of the area had hit mainstream media and the women Elders of the Diné had taken their horses and shotguns out to confront any authorities

 that came there to fence them in, remove their livestock, or relocate them.

There is no word for relocation in our language

..was a headline that went trough many newspapers in many countries. Tina and I did stories for several magazines and daily newspapers in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. We stayed first with Kee Shay and then with the family of Sarah Begay.

The second time I visited Big Mountain was in 2005 with Charlotte. Bahe Katenay was our guide and host. Bahe and I interviewed Pauline Whitesinger for a dvd, that also contained interviews with fx Manny Pino and his friends from ”Acoma and Laguna for a safe environment”.

Before heading to Winslow, Arizona to meet Danny, we went to Jemez Pueblo for the feast day. I attended a Pueblo dance a couple of years ago, but I wasn't really prepared for the size of the dance at Jemez.

We arrived quite early in the day, and walked in towards the singing and drumming. There are no pictures from this event, since cameras and cellphones are strictly forbidden. In the center, of the Pueblo, there is a plaza, made up of a rectangular, quite long open space. It was packed with dancers! 200-300 of dancers, old, young, even small kids. All dressed in traditional dancing-clothes and slowly moving up and down the plaza. When we reached the dance the group of about 40 (!) singers and drummers were just in front of us.

It was like getting dragged into a huge collective trance. Very beautiful and very powerful.

The dance went on all day. After watching for some time, Charlotte and I walked around the ”fair” that was set outside the plaza square with lots of stands.

There was everything from hot food to jewelery, trinkets, art, clothes and all kinds of kids stuff. I met my new favorite artist, "Waya" Gary Keene from Acoma, and bought another small drawing to take home.

In the afternoon, we drove back to Albuquerque, had some food and then took off for Winslow, Arizona. The cellphones didn't work at Jemez, so we had had no contact with Danny.

But, after about an hour of driving along the long, straight I40, we spotted a white pickup-truck that we recognized! We passed it and waved. A couple of miles further down the road Danny texted ”Did you see that?!!” And, we did. We drove under a bridge while an F16-jetfighter was towed by a truck right over our heads! It was kind of a weird experience, I have to admit.

 

 

 end of chapter 

 

Big Mountain

We stopped at a gas station, filled up and arranged with Danny to meet at 9 the next morning. We found a hotel outside Winslow and had a long night’s sleep.

Winslow morning

Winslow morning

The next morning, I have to admit, we did something really stupid. But not intentionally. We are not bad people, just stupid Europeans! And, we didn't realize what we had done until a couple of days later.

We found Dannys house and knocked at the door, and when it opened 3 dogs escaped! I think Danny probably set a new Navajo-record for short distances catching one of the dogs. A very fast one.

He had a beautiful house full of animals, on the outskirts of Winslow. He explained that his wife is an ”animal-person”. We went for breakfast in Winslow, and got to see the statue marking the song!! (”Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona” - The Eagles!)


Not until 3 days later, did we realize that we had passed a time-zone(!), and woken up poor Danny an hour too early. And, after the guy had worked long hard hours for the Forum! He took it very well and didn't even complain!

We drove towards Black Mesa and stopped at a couple of beautiful places Danny showed us. And along the ways, we also heard some some entertaining stories, like the one about the Thief-Tree, a huge tree standing alone on the outskirts of the reservation.

 According to the old stories, the tree was used in the old days when a Navajo-band had raided a heard of cattles. The meat was hidden in the tree and the raiders all took off in different directions to distract the pursuers. A couple of days later, they came back for the hidden meat.

When a discussion group met in one of the hogans at Ghost Ranch I had the chance to ask Danny about the situation at Big Mountain/Black Mesa. It is over 25 years since I was there the first time, reporting with Tina. People in Sweden and Denmark still ask me about what happened with the Navajos that were threatened with relocation? At Ghost Ranch, I got the answer that the struggle is still going on.

The TV cameras and the international media have moved on to new conflicts, some families have given up and relocated, and some of the Elders have died. But, a group of Elders and a few younger people are still resisting. They continue to live on the land that has been their home for generations.

When the conflict started, the authorities claimed it was a land-dispute between Navajo and the neigbouring Hopis. Traditional Navajos and Hopis maintained that the authorities’ real agenda for relocation was because this is one of the largest coal reserves in North America. It also contains uranium.

For a more in depth description of the background and the current situation at Big Mountain please visit the Black Mesa Indigenous Support. There is a short and comprehensible historical background and more if you're interested.

We left the car at Katenays place with a note in the window. A normal car is not suited for travelling further up the mountain. Black Mesa is at 6,600 feet, about 2 000 meters, which is to compare with Kebnekaise, the highest mountain in Sweden. The dirtroads are not acessible in normal cars. Danny took us along the backroads in his pickup truck, through gullys and over huge cracks. Even though I realise that he must have been going up this roads his entire life to visit his mother and relatives, I have to admit I was impressed by the driving!

Danny’s mother Roberta Blackgoat, was one of the outspoken leaders for the resistance, traveling and speaking out to the world on behalf of her people.

She visited Sweden and many other countries. She died a couple of years ago. Now Danny tries to keep her place and her work going.

We passed the well at Sweetwater, and then came by Pauline Whitesingers sheep-herder Jake, walking along the way. We brought some eggs and goods from the store for him. Danny threatned to unload the eggs right there, in the middle of nowhere. Jake looked a bit confused and gave us all a good laugh when he realized that he was beeing teased. The eggs were transported safely up to the house.

On the door, there was a note that said that Pauline was ”Gone chasing escaped cows.” Jake told us she was worried about a paper that came recently, that asked her to reduce her livestock – again.

Danny helped Jake with some waterhauling before we continued on. There is no running water and no electricity, and some of the wells have gone bad, according to the Elders, who have used this water their entire lives. The mining operations have affected the water levels in the area. And, maybe also the quality of the water.

For more on this – check out the web of Black Mesa Water Coalition, a group of young Navajo-enviromemntalists.

The landscape is hard to describe, and even harder to make justice of in photographs. I rememeber the first time I was there, at one point we lay down on the ground, and it was a magnificent feeling of being on top of the world, on a perfectly round place, where the horizon never ends.

I still had that feeling. Danny took us up to a high mesa where you could see very far, almost over to where the Grand Canyon begins. It was that ”round” feeling again. The land looks very flat, even though you know that you are very high up. Even to us coming from the outside, the feeling is very strong, that this is a very special and sacred place.

We continued up to the Goh’s place. We were invited by some of the Elders and had some tasty mutton stew. And fry-bread! ”I could drive a thousand miles for fry-bread... ”(That was a bumpersticker I saw on a car 1980 when I didn't know how true it was...)

Danny took us to see his aunt Louise, but the hogan was empty. She was still out somewhere with her sheep. Some of the Elders have houses, square houses, but choose to continue living in their round hogans.

Owen was there, it was good seeing him again. We met briefly at a Black Mesa Water Coalition gathering in Flagstaff many years ago. I have to admit, at that time, my predjudice made me think that he was just another hippie wanting to be Indian. Today I have to say I am impressed by his support work for the Elders at Black Mesa. Danny told us that Owen now has been coming to help out with the sheep and other farmwork – every winter for 18 years. That guy probably has done more good during those winter weeks than most of us will do for a lifetime!

Danny kept teasing me for making a ”folk-hero” out of Owen, but in a way I think he is.

He found his cause. (Patti Smith once told me – pick a cause, and stick to it!) Owen did. Many of the younger Navajos have left for the cities and a life far away from their Elders. The help Owen, Jake and other supporters provide is not to be looked down upon.

Owen and his friend Dave promised to house us over night, and then to help us find Pauline in the morning. Danny was to spend the night at his mothers old place, which is now his, and then he had to leave early for an appointment in Winslow. But before he took of, he wanted to locate his auntie Louise. And I'm happy he did!

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When we came back, the old hogan was lit up and auntie Louise was sitting in the doorway, cooking at the propane stove. The sheep and goats were in the pen for the night, and four friendly, well fed work dogs were guarding their mistress in and outside the hogan.

 

Coming into Louise Goh's hogan was, for me, like entering the house of one of the old farmers back home in the southern part of Sweden. A warm and welcoming place filled with memories, little keepsakes, and proud pictures of children and grandchildren. Some bread and coffee always ready for visitors – and time to talk and listen. A good life, in other words. A life in deep contact with both Mother Earth and relatives with both two and four legs.

We enjoyed fry bread again. Auntie Louise sat down with us for an interview translated by Danny.

She told us about her life, her traditional way of living with the sheep and dogs. How she just wanted to live her life out in the way she always had lived it, until she was called into the spirit world. She told us how the young people had left, and would probably not come back. And, how the threat of relocation had affected her life. She told us of the immense joy she experienced guarding and interacting with the sheep. How they all have different personalities. She told us how she laughs when the lambs jump around and play. She shared how she used to weave rugs, but now her eyesight had gone too bad for that.

When we spoke there was a brown dog sleeping at her feet, and I got the impression that the dogs were not only guarding the sheep and their mistress, but also carefully helping and guiding her when her eyesight failed her.

We left with a peaceful feeling, and an even stronger determination, and conviction that these people should have the right to live their life the way they want. And, we should try to step back, listen, and learn. We also left with a full stomach.

We spent the night in a hogan with the full moon shining in through the smoke hole in the roof.

The next day, we left after a nice breakfast of coffee and – yes – frybread! Once more, we tried Paulines place but, now there was a new note on the door!! ”Gone to the Post office.”

I was dissapointed not to meet her again, but I guess that in a way it was good news. Pauline Whitesinger is still moving about at a pace that not even we could follow.

Owen took us down to our car again, and then we tried to retrace our steps.

 

Our last goal, was to find one of the most outspoken leaders of the Big Mountain resistance, Pauline’s sister Katherine Smith. The day before we had a chance meeting with her daughter. A huge pickup truck came down the road towards us and Danny stopped and talked to the driver – and then Hasse got out and said - ”I recognise you! You're Mary-Katherine, we interviewed you for the documentary...!”

In 1997 Hasse and Annika Dopping did two documentarys for TV4 ”The Wise Indians.” Mary-Katherine, Katherine Smith’s daughter, was one of the young people interviewed.

We found the purple-colored tire – and turned. 

Driving at Big Mountain is somewhat hard to explain to someone who has not been there. For us, coming from the outside, it's quite easy to get lost. The gullys and hills tend to look alike, and the Black Mesa is huge. I guess if you spend some time there, you'll start recognising the landmarks, like you do in any landscape, even in a city. Anyway, we made it sucessfully to Kathrine Smith’s place.

When the trouble started and the Elders were leading the resistance in defence of their homeland and way of living – Katherine Smith confronted the authorities and intruders on horseback armed with her shotgun. She was even thrown into jail for her actions.

 

Now she is 96. Her body is frail, her hearing is bad but, her mind and wit is as sharp as ever. When we entered the house her daughter Mary-Katheerine had just posted an update on Facebook about some people showing up in the area with big drilling equipment. Sights like that of course cause a lot of worry when you know there is uranium in the ground, and greedy mining companies nearby. You never know what they are drilling for now. We saw them too and took a snapshot.

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Well, the meeting Mary-Katherine was a treat!

For me, she is an important link...!

She uses modern technology to live a traditional life. Outside the house there is a set of solar panels that she bought used, hooked up to a bunch of batteries, and connected for electric power for the house. Enough energy is generated to run a stove for some of the cooking, charging tools, the computer and some extra light when needed.

On the roof, there are pipes that channel the rainwater down into barrels and then into a an underground water cistern where a pump brings the water up again, into the house.

We sat down, had some nice tea, and interviewed Katherine, using Mary-Katherine and Ned Nata  Yazzie as interpreters. Listening to Katherine is always interesting, she is sharp and has a good sense of humor. She told us wise things that we will use in the coming book. She also told us very clearly what she thought about women in trousers – meaning me and her daughter!

After a while, she started asking us questions. She asked about our homeland, what it looked like, what we plant, and what animals we have. If I am ever 96 years, I hope I will still be that curious! I showed her pictures of my horse, and I think she enjoyed that. She told us how she used to ride far away.

Mary-Katherine and Katherine Smith

Mary-Katherine and Katherine Smith

And Mary-Katherine told us how she had lived a comfortable life working in the export business and living in San Fransisco, when she decided to return home to help her mother out for a while, maybe 4-5 years.

Now it's been 13 years, she says, and it's the best thing I've ever done.

She told us how she had a lot of worries in the beginning, but they went away, as she learned to rely on herself and her abilities.

It was a very interesting conversation. She was really the ”missing link” for me. I mean, here is this person – who in age, is in between the Elders and the very young activists – and she is living the way everybody talks about! A traditional, climate friendly life – with internet acess...

The Elders have the knowledge of the old ways, but not always the land and the possibilities to live that way. The young native activists in many cases live in the cities and are as dependant on the whole crazy western system as we are.

Here we finally met someone that had put the old knowledge to use by using modern technology.

Someone proving hands on, that living a traditional life in harmony with Mother Nature don't mean that you have to go back to the stoneage, as some people claim when the debate gets heated.

(And she had a beautiful horse too...)

Mary-Katherines horse

Mary-Katherines horse

It was a very good and hopeful way for us to close our short tour in the Southwest.

We drove back to Albuquerque and had a nice dinner with Charlotte before flying back to the old world.

Is there still hope? Yes, I think so...

 

 end of journey – 

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