View From The Hogan #14 Planting Month. (June 2000)
Somethinga little different this time round.
I'moff on my vacation, and I thought I'd try to take you along with me.
I spendevery day walking over the land, so, for my vacation I plan
to....... walk across the land. With a grandtotal of 65 cents in my pocket,
the luxury cruise to Hawaii will have to wait.For my vacation though, I'll
leave the flock behind.
Myplan is to walk from the hogan to "town", the bustling City of
Flagstaff, a distance of about 100 miles as thecrow flies, though why any
self-respecting crow would want to go to Flagstaffis beyond me. Being on
foot, and taking into consideration canyons andgorges etc, it will be a
little further for me.
Thereare a couple of reasons I risk boring you with my vacation diary.
One being that if possible, by describing theland and what is upon it to you, I may be able to make things a littlemore "real", and in that way maybe shift into action some of you who remainvoyeurs of the situation here. Its a long shot, I know, but worth the chance.Another reason is that I am sure the journey will give me plenty of opportunitiesto add to your understanding of
the background and effects of the continued genocidalrelocation process. My own particular interest in this trip (other thanto get a break from sheep,
corn, emails etc) is in the number of fences/bordersthat I will have to cross. Artificially imposed barriers. I'm interestedto see what differences exist on the differing sides of the fences.
SoI call this piece A Walk Across The Altar.
BlackMesa is an approximately 4,000 square mile chunk of sandstone that risesfrom the surrounding Painted Desert. Apologies if my geology is a
little sketchy, I'm a sheepherder, not a geologist.It is said by geologists that at three different times in the past therehave been oceans here, and that this has caused the 3 different layersof sandstone. The Mesa tilts a little to the south, being closer to a thousandfeet higher at its northern end. Consequently, the water runs off towardsthe south and southwest, and over the centuries has cut drainages in thisdirection. Where these drainages
leave the mesa, a series of "fingers" of highground have been left. These
peninsulas are where the Hopi people now havetheir villages.
Myjourney begins in the westernmost of these drainages, then I head eastover the ridge, whose highest point is called Big Mountain, into the next
drainage which I will then follow southwest inthe direction of Flagstaff,
civilization as we know it.
Fora variety of unimportant reasons I make a late start, not heading off tilllunch-time. No plane to catch, so what the hell. It's mid-May, and hot,
and my pack is heavy, but I console myself withthe knowledge that as time
passes, and I eat and drink, it will get lighter.
Toset the scene for the next few days, I have to tell you how quiet it
is here. It's normal for me, so I guess I takeit for granted, but most visitors comment on it (at least once they stoptalking). Not quite silent, as the wind sometimes whispers (sometimes whistlestoo), the occasional crow caws, and like almost every spot on the planetnow, huge chunks of metal filled with people growl overhead. It's quietenough though that the steady rhythm of the creaking of my pack and thescrunch of my steps is all there is to listen to. Here at 6000 feet, itshigh desert, so my boots are constantly on rock, sand, or dry powdery clay.There's plenty of plant life, but everything is spaced out, a consequenceof the competition for the scant rainfall. Incidentally, this spacing ofthe trees and grasses means there are never any "forest fires", or grassfires. Plenty of single trees get ignited by lightning, but the flamescannot pass from tree to tree. This doesn't stop the Corporate Hopis fromdeclaring "Fire Emergency" whenever the People are planning a gatheringsuch as Sun Dance, and the HTC wishes to discourage support or witnesseson the land.
Withinthe first mile of walking I have seen 3 kinds of grass, snakeweed, sagebrush(aahh what a smell after a rain), yucca, prickly pear cactus, greasewood, juniper, salthbush, ephedra, cholla cactus, navajo tea, hedgehog cactus,and a few bushes I don't have names for. A diverse community of plants.Its been a couple of months since it has rained, so all the annual plantsthat flourished in the snow-melt have died back. Once the summer monsoonsget here, there will be a profusion of new plants.
AsI climb a gentle rise the trees, juniper and pinyon, become more
numerous, so I stop regularly to sit and soakup the shade they offer. It's
hot, though I can't give you a figure, as I don'thave a thermometer. Same
reason I can't tell you what time it is,....don't have a watch. My guess
would be about 80 degrees and 2 o'clock. Another mile or so gently downhill and I come to the canyon. Its a decentsize canyon, deep and wide, and I opt to take the road across rather thanhuff and puff scrambling down the rocks and cliffs.
It'sa hand-made road (used to be a wagon trail), made with picks and
shovels, and sweat, and sometimes horses to movethe big rocks. Technically these are named "unmaintained roads", but thatis a bit of a misnomer. A couple of years ago we had a visitor who camein a brand-spanking-new rented Sport Utility Vehicle. Come time for herto leave, and we couldn't get it to start, so the rental company sent outa flat-bed truck to haul it away. Charged the driver a small fortune, becausein the small print of the rental agreement it said that coverage did notextend to unmaintained roads. (What is the point of renting 4-wheel drivevehicles if you can't take them where you need 4 wheel drive?) I wrotethe company and tried to correct their misinformation. Every Fall, afterthe summer monsoons have scoured the land, w go out with shovels and picksand repair the damage caused by erosion, build little gabbillons to preventfurther erosion, and fill in the low points and pot holes with the woodchips and bark bits from the past winters firewood chopping. ( EVERYTHINGis recycled here). All this work most obviously makes these roads "maintained".The rental company didn't buy it though. (A proof-reader took issue withthe statement that everything gets recycled here, so let me qualify that.Most stuff we use comes from the land. If there is anything left over afterwe have benefited from it, its returned to the land. However, some stuffdoes come in here from outside. Compared to "out there" a very small amount,and most of it is in the form of packaging. Even this stuff gets reusedafter its initial use has been exhausted. As an example, let's take thehumble coffee can. Once emptied of coffee, the can makes an excellent containerfor all manner of things from food to nuts and bolts. The coffee can canbe used to transport material from A to B. I use one this way to take waterfrom the barrel to the plants in the garden. If you make a hole in thebottom of the can, it can be placed over the opening of a water barrel,and function as a funnel when pouring in buckets of water from the spring.If you cut the bottom off the can, it fits perfectly to extend or repairstovepipe. I've seen Hopi farmers use them to protect early corn. If youcut the can down the side, you now have a piece of sheet metal from whichyou can fashion a multitude of things. My stove door is made this way,as is my ash shovel. Eventually though, after a long and useful life, thecan becomes bent and rusty. Then it gets thrown away.) But I digress.
Downin the bottom of the canyon it is a whole different world. A
different ecosystem due to the prevalence ofwater. A profusion of growth,
larger trees and bushes, many of which do notgrow up-top. The sandy floor of the canyon is dry now, though the waterstill runs below the surface, as
evidenced by the Cottonwood trees growing here.Impaled in the sandy floor
are hogan-sized rocks that have come tumblingdown from the eroding walls of the canyon. Come the monsoons, and thiswill be a raging river, if only for a few hours, and gradually these rockswill move inexorably downstream, breaking into smaller pieces as they go.
Climbingout of the canyon (gently,... it's steep), I veer off the road
and take a horsetail. I don't expect any traffic,but I prefer the privacy
away from the road. Also a horse trail is usuallya lot shorter route to
somewhere than a road. Down in the side canyonto the left are some remains of Anasazi dwellings and some petroglyphs.The whole mesa is covered with them. Half the time I'm out with the flockI'm walking on pottery shards. It is said by archeologists that these siteswere abandoned about 800 years ago. Claiming sole descendency from theAnasazi ( a notion that is contradicted by the evidence), the CorporateHTC claims that this therefore makes this land theirs. I don't know,....a lot happens in 800 years,.... it's an awful long time to wait to askfor something back. But then the coal under the land had no value tillthis century.
Toppingout of the canyon, its now a long flat stretch of plain to where
the ridge starts to rise. At least it looks flat,but is in fact ridged and cut by drainages. About a mile across I comeupon a sad and eerie sight. An
abandoned little stone house. Used to be thehome of someone who is now
relocated. This abandoned house is somewhat unusualthough in that it is
still standing. Usually after someone has beenmoved off, the BIA/Corporate
Hopis come in, remove doors, windows, anythingoff value, and then demolish it. Don't know why they haven't done thatto this one. Don't know where the previous inhabitants are now either.Statistically, the chances are that they are dead, Suicide, depression,alcoholism, heartbreak, and a huge increase in the incidence of life-shorteningillnesses are the norm for relocatees. Experts in the matter warned thegovernment that this would be the result, but they went ahead with therelocation program anyway. Can't expect human life to stand in the wayof huge profits.
I moveon, across a couple of washes and a small canyon, and am about
halfway to the ridge when I see a group of horsesrun off. Good looking
horses, a couple of adults and a juvenile. Acasual visitor might think these
were wild horses, but they're not. Just free.Whenever they are needed, one
will be rounded up, worked for a while, thenlet go again. Some years ago I
had a job looking after some horses "out there".They were Arabian, and
apparently very expensive. They were kept inlittle steel cages, and their
food had to be weighed and given to them at specifictimes otherwise "they
get sick". Maybe once a week, if they were lucky,they got to run circles
round a corral for an hour. They were nervousand tetchy. The horses here
have to work hard for their living. When thereis snow on the ground there
isn't a lot of food, and at dry times of theyear like now they have to travel long distances to get water, but thereis no comparison in the look in the eyes of these horses to those expensivearabians. If you can get close enough, you can see the stars in their eyes.
A littlefurther, after 3 or 4 hours of walking I come to an abomination.
The first fence. Steel posts and triple strandsof barbed wire. Your standard
western fence. Like the probably millions ofmiles of such fence that cover
this Turtle Island, the fence exists to controlcows. There never were any
fences on this continent until relatively recently.There were no fences on
the Altar until the feds gave the land to theCorporate Hopis. This particular fence delineates a Hopi Grazing District.On the other side of it, all the people have been moved off. Now thereare just cows owned by the absentee Corporate Hopis. Just across the fenceis a windmill and stock tank. The fence insures that the animals of thepeople who live here cannot get at the water. All around the ground isdenuded of vegetation and covered with cow pats. It stinks. Not far fromhere is where Roberta Blackgoat and others were arrested and jailed fornon-violently resisting the desecration of some grave sites. This wholeland is covered with stories. And songs.
Headingon up the slope the trees become more numerous again. Off in the distanceto the southwest, Doo' ko'o'sliid (San Francisco Peaks), the 12000 foothigh sacred mountain is clearly visible. On the north slopes there is stillsome snow visible. Flagstaff lies just on the other side of the peaks,
so they act as the landmark I head towards. Ishould be there in 3 or 4 days,
though they look an awful long way away.
I passthe remains of a summer shelter. Originally it was a circle of
green boughs set in the ground, now all thatremains is the weather- blackened skeleton. There is no telling how oldthis structure is... In the Dineh way, structures are meant to decomposeslowly back into the earth they came from. The land is covered with theremains of summer shelters, hogans, corrals, sweat lodges, etc. (Thewhole land is overlaid with an complex web of stories, songs , and prayers,ceremonies, history, place. This web does not appear on any map. Warmakercannot see it, but is instinctively afraid. Sometimes the only clue thatanything was there is a subtle change in vegetation. On of the saddestexperiences is driving over the land with an Elder as they point out such-an-suchused to live there, my relatives used to live here, again and again, everyfew miles. The Dineh have been erroneously labeled as nomadic. (The Dinehare "nomadic" ... the Hopis "migrate"?) In the old days the people movedaround the land, following the rainfall and grazing, ensuring that theland stayed healthy. Now they are forced to stay in one place. A coupleof years ago someone sent me an interesting report. Using satellite imageanalysis, scientists studied the state of the land in western asia. Thearea covered was Russia, Mongolia, and China. In Russia and China, theState controlled the grazing, with fences and permits and Science.Sandwiched in-between was Mongolia where the people still followed thetraditional methods of grazing. The evidence was irrefutable. The landin Mongolia was in much better health. The difference is that one systemattempts to "control" the land, the other to work "with" the land. Andso it is here. If the people were allowed to live the traditional way,the land could support much more livestock. A neighbor has just had someof his stock impounded, yet there is plenty of grass around.
Anotherhour or so and I reach the top of the ridge. There is till a
couple of hours of light left, but I decide tostop for the night. I've come
about 12 miles or so today. Along the top ofthe ridge is the fence between
HPL and NPL, and I'd rather stay on this sidefor the night. I've described
this fence as inscribing a prison, but it alsoserves to keep Babble-On out.
I feel safer on this side of the fence...protectedfrom the insanity that
seems to be prevalent "out there". I drop mypack, and instantly feel light
and airy, settle down with my back against atree and savor the fact that
there is not one single thing I have to do, butenjoy the silence and the
Acrossfrom me is a clump of yuccas. It is a plant with many names.
Spanish Bayonet because of its sharp pointedleaves that explode out from its base. These yuccas have stalks risingup 3 or 4 feet from the base. Soon
flowers will appear on the stalk, and then theywill turn into fruit. The
young stalks (looking like asparagus), the flowers,and the fruit are all
edible. The goats go crazy for them. When theyucca is shooting and blooming the goats make a mad dash for them as soonas the corral gate is opened. Nothing will deter them from this delicacy.The yucca has many other uses. The leaves, when pounded into fiber makeexcellent cordage. Sandals and ropes made from it have been found in theold Anasazi ruins. Another name for the yucca is Soapweed. Its root, whenpeeled and pounded in water produces excellent suds. I don't use anythingelse to wash my hair.
Thesun sets to the west over the kaibab plateau north of the Grand Canyon,and the land darkens. As far as the eye can see, and it must be at leastseveral hundred square miles, no lights come on. If you were to fly overhere at night and look down, you'd see one of those black areas. You mightthink there were no people there. That it was wilderness. Wilderness seemsmore and more like a strange idea to me. That Land and People don't belongtogether. When the visitors first came to this continent they saw wilderness.Partly that was because it was inconvenient to see the inhabitants, butpartly, I think, because was the land was not damaged, fenced, plowed.The inhabitants "inhabited" the land. The Visitors had a history of changingthe land.
I alwaysfeel good looking back over the land. It's a little island of
non-USA. Its closer, I think, to places suchas Chiapas, East Timor, the
Amazon, than it is to the U.S. Its free land.Lived on by sovereign people.
When "Sovereignty" is taken to mean asking UncleSam for permission to build casinos, I think the word "sovereignty" isdebased., but the truth is the
people here have never signed any treaty withthe U.S. Sure, some Navajos
east of here got rounded up and put in a concentrationcamp. A few of them
signed a treaty with Uncle Sam, but they couldnot speak for the people here.
Life carried on here in the traditional way.Why do you think it is that few
of the Elders speak English? They never wentto school. They were pretty much left alone until the 1960's when the openingof the mine bought roads.
According to the dominant society, the Peopleshouldn't be here. Not only do
they contradict the notion that the Indians "disappeared"a century ago, they
are also standing in the way of the continuedrape of this sacred Mesa. The
plan is to invade. Reno's Goons and the Men InBlack. Heavily armed of
course. There are little old ladies who don'tspeak english here. Obviously
far more dangerous than a little Cuban boy,
Mythoughts return to the real world, and I watch the stars appear. Just
one at first. Then another. Then they appearfaster than can be counted. The
end of another good day. As I lay in my bag,the night sounds increase. Being
desert, and being summer, most critters roundhere are active in the cool of
the night. In the quiet the sound of their movementsare amplified.... a bug
sound as big as a mouse, a mouse as big as acat, a cat as big as a bear.
What other people share the Altar with the 2-legged, the sheep, the horses
and cows? The sky is ruled by the Eagles. Thereare several kinds of hawks,
owls, and of course, huge crows. Nighthawks,Bluejays and many other species, all the way down to hummingbirds. Amongthe 4-legged, Deer are numerous. How numerous becomes clear after an overnightsnowfall. Deer tracks are very similar to goat and sheep tracks, so itis hard to tell them apart, but going out with the flock after a snowfallwe cross dozens of tracks made during the night. Moving down in scale comethe coyote. You see them rarely as they prefer to keep their distance fromthe dogs and the 2-legged, but many nights their chorus is heard. MountainLion and Bobcat live here too, but they tend to keep even further away.Never seen a skunk, but their unique scent wafts by occasionally. Neverseen a porcupine either, but I know they are there...one time one of thedogs came home looking like Father Christmas...his whole face covered in2 inch white spines. Rabbits there are a plenty, both the big eared Jacks,and the ground-hugging Cottontails. Rodents include species of mouse, squirrels,ground squirrels and prairie dogs. The insects on the ground and in theair are too numerous to list, even if I did know their names. Lizards ofvarious sizes skitter around, and of course there are several species ofsnake.
AsI pass into sleep, I ponder how impossible it is to feel alone in such
a community of life.
Manytimes I wake momentarily though the night, and check the journey of thefull moon across the sky. A reliable timepiece and calendar that needsno batteries. Back home, in the real world, the days are long. Couldn'tget much longer, Solstice will soon be here. Curiously, or not, the choresthat need to be done manage to fill the daylight hours. The flock go outbefore sunrise, taking advantage of the cool of the dawn, then they'reback in the corrall by 9 or 10. Then for the two-legged, there is waterhauling to do. Garden to be watered. Wool washed. At 5 in the evening whenthings are starting to cool down, the flock go back out till sunset. Gota big surprise yesyerday, as I approached the corrall I heard the unmistakeablesound of a little one, and sure enough a new born goat was there. Its beena few months since lambing was over, so I've got to call him Surprise.And then, the next day, he is joined by a new-born lamb. Surprise Too.
Theouthouse got blown over. It was held down with wires, and has stood forover 3 years, but a little trickster/dust devil flipped it right over.
Severaltimes, clouds have built up during the day. Just a few whisps at
first, then the next time you look they are smallclouds, which join together. By the end of the day a dark, heavy mass hasformed itself. Once rain fell, but evaporated long before it could reachthe thirsty ground. Last night I watched the full moon rise from behinda storm to the east. Tendrils of lightning danced below. For months thesky has been a placid blue dome
above, but now the sky is animated. Powers fargreater than my puny self are
at work. It feels improper watching Father Skyand Mother Earth engage in
foreplay, so I come inside. As I now write, thunder,and then spots of rain
come in through the smoke hole.
SoI think I'll close now, and leave you with a quote from the late,
great John Wayne. "I don't feel we did wrongin taking this great country
away from them. There were great numbers of peoplewho needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it forthemselves."
HoHum. Same old, same old.
Butthen, what the hell do I know... I'm just a sheepherder.
"Theonly thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do
Thanksfor giving me your time by reading this
Yourprayers, support, and correspondence are invited
Forall my relations
BeauPeep (in honour of recent European visitors)
Reachablevia [email protected]
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