Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Drive to Farmington

Church on road toward Jemez pueblo
With the exception of a short jaunt off the interstate, yesterday I drove directly from Bernalilo to Farmington.

The short jaunt was to the Pueblo of the Jemez Nation.  The Jemez museum was full of pictures and stories depicting their schools.  The schools were built and run by Presbyterians and Catholics.  This lead me to think of Canada's residential school problem.  The relationship between the government sponsored Christians schools and the First Nations people of this area seemed very different than the relationship between the Canadian First Nations people and the residential schools.

Red Rock on Jemez Pueblo
I asked about this and got some insight into why there is a difference.

The Jemez people were farmers.  They stayed in one place.  They developed a strong sense of identity.  When white people came these fiercely independent people would not include the foreigners in their sacred ceremonies or way of life.  They wisely protected themselves.

Even today outsiders are not allowed to take photos of their homes, some of which have marvelous outdoor ovens.  Outsiders are allowed to observe only two of their ceremonial dances.  If an outsider is disrespectful they are escorted off the reservation.  Actually reservation is a U.S. government word.  The Jemez woman I spoke to was adamant, unlike many other first nations people, they do not live on a reservation, they live in a Pueblo, she said.

She also said that at first her people did not believe in the education of the white people.  But slowly they came to believe the things white people had to teach wasn't all bad.  But, they would not lose their language and customs in the process of learning what white society had to offer.  Only a few of the children learned English.  The English speaking children would translate to the other children what the teacher was saying.  

Language is an integral part of a nations identity.  I listened to her language.  It is tonal, like Chinese.  We discussed this, she was well aware of how her first language sounded like Chinese.  She was very proud of how the Jemez people were the only people of the New Mexican peblos who had a tonal language.  "We are like the rest of the Pueblos in many of our customs, but our language is unique," she said.

The Red rock in the photo above is on Jemez land.  The Southwest style Catholic church is in a small village outside Jemez land.

I drove to Farmington because that's what I planned, but I'd forgotten why.  When I perused the New Mexico Vacation Guide I discovered why.  I'm in Navajo country.

Farmington exits because of the Animas River, which made farming possible.  Mormons came here and grew apples.  Oil was discovered.  There was business with the Navajo, who remain the majority people.  They Navajo developed an appreciation for manufactured clothing and processed foods  (I think the processed foods were not a good thing.)  Anyway they traded, and continue to trade their beautiful artisan works: rugs, silver and turquoise jewellery, and pottery.

New Mexico is desert.  The rocks form an infinite number of shapes in an infinite number of colours.  I've about 7,000 feet above sea level much of the time.  I feel great.


1 comment:

Christa said...

I hope you'll continue to find the time to write about your adventures...I'm really enjoying reading them!! Have fun and stay safe