Last night I was asked what is the scariest thing that ever happened to me on the Navajo Reservation?
I paused for a long time and thought back through some pretty horrific things that happened to me during my 13 years on the Rez. The prelude to the Ceremony happened the first night I slept in Greasewood, Arizona. I was sleeping in the newly refurbished ranch house in an old bedroom. I had a dream of ancient people who were trapped as if buried alive. It was a woman and her two children and they were terrified trying to escape their dwelling. The fear was palpable and it was as if I were there with them. I woke in a cold sweat and never forgot those native people trapped eons ago below the house – dying.
Fast forward four years and our horses had suffered from witchcraft and were sick. Our good friend and medicine man made the trip to the house with his extended family and I helped dig two pits for two fires, one close to the house and one about 1/4 mile away. The ceremony consisted of some of the family members gathering to rid themselves of the evil of witchcraft and we all sat on the hardwood floor in a circle in our front room. A large metal tray was filled with hot coals from the fire so the medicine man could see into the netherworld and find the evil. We all gave our clans (origins) and talked briefly about the evil that was infecting us. I was quiet because I am non-native and sat respectfully listening.
Hours of prayers, chanting and cedar burned and the smell of fresh cedar washed over all and renewed us. I was pleased the ceremony was going well and love the songs and chants in Navajo. It makes one feel as if they have been transported back to the early days of ceremony and song. My good friend the medicine man asked me to go and tend the second fire with him. He had extracted the evil from the home, horses and relatives and would now burn it in the second fire. I stoked the fire to great height and and the pit roared with fire in the crisp starlit night. The medicine man’s father accompanied us and stood watch with me. I will confess, I was a bit proud to be chosen as the “watcher”. The medicine man told me to watch to the south of us and I diligently complied. He began to chant behind me and the fire roared. In a moment, I saw not 50 feet away as the souls of the dead trapped in the earth – rushed forth. Like wraiths writhing in the starlight I was rooted to the ground, frozen, horrified! The medicine man yelled and told me to turn around – he said lift your feet so I can put ash on them. I was so scared I jumped in the air both feet forward. The medicine man laughed and said one at a time – and he and his father chuckled. They knew what I had seen and knew that they could not bother me.
Skinwalkers came next and watched as he burned the evil and sent it back into the ground. He cast them away with Navajo words and
protected me from their harm. When I re-entered the house everyone looked at me in a strange manner and asked what I saw. I just sat down and waited till the ceremony was over. I had never seen souls released and I still only call them that for lack of a better description. Thousands of souls pouring from the ground – ground I have run cattle over many many times. It still in the cold light of this Montana fall day – scares me to the core of my being.
The best Superintendent I ever tried to work under was without a doubt Carlos Hernandez. Carlos would always joke about being a Mexican – instead of a Mexican’t. He was a “can do” Supe with no fear of spending money on the students! I think really that was his downfall! He thought about the students instead of the board, the corrupt Pentacostal Church, or even the corrupt local politicians. The aforementioned had all been dragging off the tit of the BIA skool for as long as anyone could remember. Let me lay out some demographics before we go any further! Residents with income below the poverty level in 2009:
I think ya get the picture – POOR! with a capital “P”!
In walks Carlos Hernandez, naive – maybe but his heart was in the right place! He secured a tech grant for the kids $187,000,helped raise math and reading scores for two years by letting some teachers go and hiring young fresh teachers! He bought laptops for the students and secured 18 million in funding for a new school. But, here is what he did wrong! He denied the board their “perk” trip to the National Finals Rodeo ie a conference – in favor of laptops for students – he put students first not board members! He denied, denied, denied the board their freebies! They went after Hernandez like a pack of wolves! They ran Hernandez out of town and brought in a man that would pad their pockets with gifts, money, and trips! They fired all the new young teachers and test scores plummeted! Hernandez left Dilkon but had nothing to be ashamed of because Dilkon just went back to the old BIA way! There is no fix for Rez Skools run by uneducated elderly on the the take….
A glonnie is one of the first words I learned in Navajo. I believe it was Zenas Bizahaloni that had me go up to a fellow Navajo teacher and say ” You are such a glonnie!” Of course, I said it to the head of the Math Department at Pinon High School and she was very straightlaced!
She knocked me over the head and I knocked Zenas one! Glonnie – means drunk in Navajo. Not just any drunk – a professional drunk that sat on Ocean Hill ( so named due to all the hairspray cans and bottles that littered the side creating OCEAN – Hairspray and water Not a funny thought) I digress…Pinon, Arizona – Navajo Rez!
So, late Saturday evening (Crow Rez, Lodge Grass, Montana) a Glonnie knocks on the door and asks me if I have any money. Like my hillbilly neighbor says “they figure ur white so ya got money or can get it” (Yes, it magically appears to white folk). I said “no, my wife is in Bozeman and did not leave me any!” I shut the door and go back to writing. The next morning my gas can and duh – gas are gone – stolen out of the back of the Jeep! Great, a crime of opportunity – he is white he can get more!
Monday morning a Glonnie pulls into my driveway! She is driving a red Dodge 1/2 ton and her face is red from drinking. Sitting in the passenger’s seat is an old old man passed out from a night of drinking – cowboy hat askew! She says “I’m checkin self to rehab got $20 for gas to help me get there?” To which I replied – “You are welcome to all the gas in my gas can that was stolen outa my Jeep Saturday night!” She said – ” that happens to white people?” I thought Indians only stole from other Indians here on the Rez – dats not right – what color was your gas can – I will go find it!” – I replied – “red” and I like your line on going to rehab – good one!” She smiled toothless and drove off in search of my gas can!
I wrote this for Cass – because she loves my funny stories! I love all my old students who never cease to amaze me reading my stories and laughing and encouraging me!
And Zenas – creates some of the most beautiful beadwork – hit him up if ya need something!
Is it poaching if you are white on the Navajo Rez and the only guy with a deer rifle not in pawn.
Moving into Pinon, 1998 and I unpack the guns and stash em! I unpack and unpack and finally moved into Teacher Housing, Pinon Arizona – Navajo Reservation. Being a white guy on the Navajo Rez is an experience and the learning curve is steep. From Renee Kevine bringing me frybread at home because I mistakenly said “what’s that?” to Peyote Tea – I was the classic neophyte.
November rolls around and I had gotten to know the janitor Moses Clark pretty well. He drives up to my house and honks his horn (another learning curve – Navajo do not use your doorbell – why, when ya have a horn). I am thinking what glonnie (drunk) or native arts and craft sales lady is it this time? Looking out, I see Moses in his 71 Ford lifted to the sky ! I love the truck and my little Chevy Chiddy (truck) sits sulking in the corner. Moses gets out and asks me to come over and shoot this Mule Deer that is usually in and around his place early morning – tomorrow being Saturday. I look at him and say “how do you know I have a deer rifle?” he smiles and says everyone in Pinon watched you unload your stuff! Duh, town of 400 people on a high mesa and bets on how long I was gonna last were running 6 – 7 months. Moses had a sweet deer rifle just happened to be in pawn…
I said to Moses, ” well, yes, I have a deer rifle but what about a license and tag to shoot the deer?”
Moses looked at me like I was the dumbest white boy that ever hit the reservation and said ” huh? what if you miss?” we will worry about the tag later! ”
I don’t miss and shot a beautiful Muley ! 26″ rack – and field dressed out at 185 – well, that is what I was told later when Moses dropped off my share of venison. No, I never asked to see the tag but I know it was well butchered complete with “Bashas Grocery” stamped on the white packing.
The bet on how long I would stay – well they all lost and gave up after ten years. My old deer rifle is not some sexy cool rifle but was passed down from my father to me – Mauser 8mm with an Ivory Indian head embedded in the stock!
You probably have never had the privilege of teaching on the Navajo Reservation! Fresh out of South Korea, where a teacher could ask his kindergarten class to memorize the first five books of the Bible and 99% of the class would have it rote by morning. (there are two lessons in that – work ethic and religion – teachers were highly respected and highly paid) I digress, I walk into my first day at Pinon High School ! My classroom is sweet. All the latest technology, great white boards, new, clean, perfect! I always start my class greeting kids at the door and funneling them to arbitrarily assigned seats.
The bell rings – round one. “Goodmorning, do you have any questions?” Students are thinking what the heck is this guy talking about? Shane Yazzie, back of the class, raises his hand (I am thinking cool) and he says – ” so, are you just another loser teacher who could not get a job anywhere else?”
So why “For Keelen” because Keelen gave me a journal from her summer that detailed her life as a Navajo young lady. She trusted me to read her private journal and helped me understand a third world country trapped in our “great country. Thank you Keelen – I am forever in your debt!
The next morning, I sent the pictures and a brief report to MUFON (http://www.ufostalker.com/?mufon=true ) and was called at my home within minutes of the report hitting the net! I got a call from a lady at MUFON! – she asked if I would be willing to be interviewed that evening – I said sure – Dominic Mancini, from Phoenix interviewed me for two hours – amazing – they were intrigued by the photos. We talked and exchanged e-mails over the next couple weeks till I got word that some “Navajo Rangers” were coming out to see the site! I thought “yeah right” Dominic said 9:30 on Friday and I thought sure sure… I went down and checked (the butte being about three miles from our home) and sure enough some feds were at Satan’s Butte.
They were driving “Navajo Ranger” vehicles and were very personable. They stated that they were part of a “special ops” paranormal investigation group of 16 Rangers on the Navajo Reservation. They said they did not advertise! Well, I rode up on my atv backed up by two Mormon elders, Ben Gregersen and Jason Rowe that had a two-way radio and binoculars trained on my back. I stopped some ways out and turned on the HD video on my Nikon so I could surreptitiously tape the interview. It was fascinating!I started the interview complaining about cattle and grazing since we have a large grazing permit…the Lt chuckled and said “we both know we are not here about grazing and cattle” He then told me about his “Special Ops” unit…they investigate Skinwalkers, witchcraft, paranormal, archaeology site/theft, and everything in between. They have Gen 4 night equipment, AR15’s, Sat link computers the list goes on….On an interesting side note – the next evening we had more Skinwalkers visit our home than I care to remember!