Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Visiting Local Communities

Most of the 2010 Fellows at the famous Shiprock

The Shiprock and wall
Our Unalaska Team, Char, Jane and Donna

Yummy lunch at one of our community stops

Making fry bread
Working the water station at "Just Move It" 4 mile run/walk

Just Move It!

A traditional male hogan

Marge Bluehorse-Anderson is one of our faculty and staff for the HNCF. We were able to meet her parents--her dad is a Traditional Healer and both are long time community leaders. We were fortunate to be educated and blessed by Mr. Bluehorse while meeting in a traditional hogan.

This is sheep country
Roy, one of our Fellows, in his home town, where he shared a great deal of knowledge with us.

Some of the wool and weavings that come from Teec Nos Pos, one community we visited.

The rest of the week was jam-packed with activities and training. We spent several days on the Navajo Nation, visiting various little communities and interacting with the people there. This was by far my favorite part of the training. Although I realize that the classroom-type learning is important, I am much more of a people-person and enjoy meeting and talking with lots of folks. We were fortunate to meet some community activists, elders and a Traditional Healer, ate with people in several communities, and helped with a "Just Move It" 4 mile walk/run. It was great to see everyone from elders to babies in strollers walking, running, and hanging out with one another. I worked at a water station so had the chance to chat with lots of participants. Afterwards, I walked back to our bus so managed to get in a little bit of exercise myself.

On the down side, I really wanted to learn more about the history, culture, and issues surrounding the Navajo Nation rather than spending so much time in workshops. One of my co-participants recommended some books to me so I will be following up with some reading on my own.

As a white person, I still feel a little out of place with the other participants. There are a few other white people in the Fellowship, but the majority of teams are made up of Native Americans or Alaska Native individuals who have such distinctly different historical and cultural experiences than we do. And there's just no way that we can fully understand that experience. Many of them come from reservation communities, with all of the historical trauma associated with that situation. Many are struggling to preserve their culture and their language--I have been highly impressed with the young people who are reviving their languages and their traditions. We were in group discussions one day and I said I had to admit that I am a little envious that I don't have the strong cultural background that many of them do, that I cannot list my clans on both sides of my family for generations back, that I don't really have any long held traditions or cultural identity. And then I wonder if that is insensitive to say as a person from the majority culture who has had very few problems in life--maybe they are thinking "yes, we are proud of our culture and traditions, but give me a break, white girl--do you really want all the other crap that we've had to deal with??!"

No comments: