For more photos by Daniel Harrison please visit the Beauty Way Facebook page.
We did it again. Despite the hard economic times your generosity and compassion have prevailed. The people of the Big Mountain/Black Mesa region once more send their thanks and blessings to all of you who helped bring the food, firewood and solidarity.
I remember reading stories of the rail riding hobos during the depression era who knew if they had no money and needed a meal or a place to rest they would go to the part of town or a rural area where the people didn’t have a whole lot themselves. They knew that’s where they would find the most generous, understanding folks. It would be simple food or accommodations, but it would be given with kindness. This project reminds me of that. We come to you, our fellow members of the 99 percent because we know you to be true of heart. None of our supporters who make the journey or contribute their time, labor, money and energy to produce the shows or come to dance or contribute on line have a whole lot of extra resources, but by combining what we have we make a difference.
When the blanket makes its rounds in each of the communities the Beauty Way tours stops to visit, it is filled with mostly small bills, often crumpled and sweaty from the pockets of people who have been dancing hard.
Some dig real deep or even save up in anticipation of being able to drop the occasional one hundred dollar bill into the pile. That’s the magic of it all-the love the gift is given with. Like loaves and fishes, what always seems to be an amount too small when we start grows into enough to transport all that love in the form of food, blankets, clothing, supplies and firewood all the way to the very remote regions of the Dineh Nation.
By the numbers:
- 93 households served representing approximately 200 people
- Over 5 tons of food distributed
- 100 organic turkeys delivered
- 20 cords of firewood delivered
When we arrived at Dove Springs this year we were blessed with incredible, warm weather, which always makes our task easier. Our camp of 30 people made quick work of dividing the goods. Then we teamed up with the 100 or so activists from Black Mesa Indigenous Support and the Colorado Crew to deliver what we had and get people together to cut even more wood than we could buy from our trusted wood cutter.
I only made one delivery trip, but it was a great one. The families on Coal Mine Mesa were doing well, which was a relief as I had heard some stories to the contrary. It was sad to find out Leo Yellowhair could not grow corn in his canyon last year due to extended drought, but he was in good health and spirits. Anna Begay was her usual feisty self and the smile she broke into when I handed her a beautiful quilt that was donated in Oregon was worth the trip. I don’t really know how old she is- I’ve been told she’s in her 80’s-but she is an amazing example of grace and toughness. Just that morning she had broken up a dogfight and suffered a pretty deep bite on her arm. The public health nurse happened to have a visit that day and bandaged her up. She showed no ill effects and was out in the yard making sure we stacked her wood properly. She was keeping the two young activists who were staying with her very busy and they were happy to be there.
We made the long trip from Coal Mine Mesa to Sand Springs, home of the Yazzie family. It’s been rough for the family since patriarch John Yazzie, a road man, healer, singer, respected elder and successful farmer passed away three years ago. It was great to see his son, Woody in such good spirits. They had a new solar electric system and Woody said they had a good year in the garden, growing corn, squash and melons.
His sister, Angie and her husband Rodger and their children were away at an event to raise funds to cover the expenses of sending Rodger Jr. to a bull riding competition-he’s a champion in his age group.
From there it was onto see the McCabes and the Nez family. These are both elder couples who are now living in new houses, built for them because they signed the accommodation agreement. The agreement grants Navajos 75-year leases for three-acre home sites as well as the right to graze sheep and to pray – as long as they apply for a permit from the Hopi government. If 85 percent or more of the affected Navajos sign the lease, the Hopi tribe will receive $50.2 million and 500,000 acres of land in trust from the federal government. It was nice to see these elders living in relative comfort after so many years of struggling. Mary Nez continues to weave beautiful rugs.
Ida McCabe had to give up weaving a few years ago due to arthritis in her hands. We were back in Dove Springs just after sunset. Other trucks were coming back from delivery runs all across the rez. Stories were mostly positive about the health and well being of many of the families we’ve been seeing for the past 20 years. Every year a few more of the elders pass on. I was particularly saddened to hear of the passing of Jenny Paddock, one of my favorite elders. We are seeing the end of an era. These are some of the last ones who live this close to the old ways. They remember a time before relocation, before cars and cell phones. Some survived boarding school, some managed to escape it. They have lived in the place and in the way the Creator intended their entire lives.
Over the next couple days all the food made it’s way out to the people. Evening fire circles gave way to morning prayer circles. Our hosts Tim and Belinda Johnson made everyone feel welcome. At one of the morning circles Tim reminded us how much the people, especially the elders look forward to and are grateful for the visit. He reminded us to look after each other too. That circle had people of all ages, from many different places, but they all had the same hearts. When we go around the circle it’s beautiful to see the faces shining in the morning sun as each person talks about what it means to be there. Every person is moved, many to tears as they describe why they have come, how much we all get from participating and how being on this land, with these people affects them.
For the week we were there the camp was busy with visitors, wood deliveries, story telling, singing, preparing and sharing meals, friendship, laughter and so much more. I know most people spend time with their families over Thanksgiving and I miss mine when I’m out there, but this is a true human family and community service is our bond. Thank you for helping to make it all possible. See you on the road.
A Bears Eye View
After an amazing series of events beginning with our epic bike music concert at the Port of Oakland during the historic general strike on the 2nd of November, where we witnessed what the San Francisco Chronicle estimated to be 100,000 people shut down the entire city and the fourth largest port in the country, and the ensuing 21st annual Revive the Beauty Way tour, we finally found ourselves in Arizona (Thanks to Keith of Sons and Development, in Grass Valley for filling my tank with biofuel).
A lot of dot connecting was going on for me regarding the relevance of the occupy movement to the ongoing struggle on Black Mesa where human rights are being trampled by multinational corporations extracting the resources so crucial to power the infrastructure of the military industrial machine that is in service to the %1 and massively polluting our biosphere by use of coal and uranium powered technologies of mass destruction.
Although we were pretty fried from the road it was great to be in Flagstaff and playing music at the Taala Hooghan, which is the info shop spearheaded by Klee Benally of the all Dine band "Black Fire". Klee was gracious to speak to us and bring us up to speed on the actions aimed at saving the San Francisco Peaks from being desecrated by developers bent on opening up more room for a ski resort. The Peaks are where the Kachinas that the Dine people pray to for rain abide. It is a sacred place for all the native people of the area and the plans to use sewage water to create artificial snow are an absolutely absurd example of arrogance so extreme as to boggle the mind. Klee has been arrested more than once over the summer and is facing some charges for his courageous actions in following his convictions, at one point chaining himself to a bulldozer to stop the project from going forward. You can learn more about this ongoing struggle at savethepeaks.org . He also filled us in on plans to occupy and disrupt the meeting of ALEC near Scottsdale Arizona beginning on the 28th of November, an action that was attended by some of the very resistors we served and ended up being wildly successful.
The next morning we were up early picking up the food, making connections and rolling on out another 100 miles to our base camp at Dove Springs. On the way we stopped briefly in the town of Leupp where there is an ad hoc open market with Dine people selling out of the backs of trucks and such. I bought some locally harvested, roasted and salted pinion nuts from a man there, and a fat white sage stick from a dreadlock Dine woman who also had other wild crafted herbs for sale, we used the sage in the morning circle. At camp it was yurt up, tarps down, boxes of stuff divided into units, food cooked and consumed, music played, firewood loaded, some days of deliveries driving around in groups of trucks. We have gotten really good at this.
One of the things that stood out for me this year was the nifty new mini, mobile, co-generator modules that were in place at some of the "accommodation" homesteads. They have an ample array of photo voltaic panels, a small wind generator, a bank of batteries, charge controller, and inverter, all in one neat unit that looks like it can be loaded by a forklift into a large pickup truck. I have mixed feelings about the accommodation agreement. On the one hand it certainly looks like at least some of the signers have made a deal that makes it much more doable to live on the remote family home sites scattered on Black Mesa. With the small rectangular, modern modular homes and these power units to provide electricity, these folks are definitely more comfortable and seem to have some breathing room from the oppression of the constant threat of relocation. On the other hand, it is only a 75 year lease, and then what? Tim Johnson expressed that he was feeling like burning the agreement because the conditions were not fully met. Seems to me the signers have given up a measure of sovereignty inferred in the lease to the Hopi tribe. They are confined to three-acre plots with a host of restrictions, including being required to have permits to hold gatherings and ceremonies, as well cut firewood. Also it has proven to be another way of dividing the resistance as non-signers such as Pauline Whitesinger are expressing their disapproval at watching their neighbors enjoying their new homes and power systems while the ones who have stuck to their guns are still toughing it out in grinding poverty unable to maintain their own dwellings and driving in raggedy rez mobiles or waiting for someone to come and help them with transportation needs. They still have little or no electricity or running water while the coal to light up all the southwest is being grabbed from under them. The pressure is tremendous for these holdouts to join with the others, their mood is desperate. Reviews are mixed and the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.
Just a few stories of our friends out there; Last year our intrepid Tzadi H. had paid for and ordered a custom weaving from Mary Nez, but she couldn’t make it because the wild flowers that she needed for the colors did not bloom for lack of rain. So Tzadi will have to wait just like the corn that the desert people hang on to until they feel there will be enough rain to nourish it before they put it in the ground. However, I bought a fine dazzler blanket from her this year. I was stoked that she recognized me, and even more, when she came to give gifts of hand beaded necklaces to us she wordlessly, and with her big smile, gave me an extra one for Somer who, sadly, had to leave the tour after the Ashland show this year to be with her grandmother who was passing over due to cancer. Since Mary doesn’t speak English, she couldn’t tell me in words what she was thinking, but it seemed to me that she somehow understood what was happening and was offering her support for Somer and her family in this difficult time. As we drove away both Mary and Calvin came out of their house to wave us off, they are both very old. Buying their exquisite, world class, art is one of the best ways to support these elders and a person lucky enough to have one of these valuable weavings is enriched in many ways indeed.
For me the significant factor in the success of the Yazzies’ garden this year was that it was largely planted and tended by the young men of the family. Good to see the next generation taking over. These twenty somethings were proud of their melons, corn, and beautiful "Navajo" winter squash which they showed to me. They humbly gave the credit to Woody but he told me he hardly lifted a finger on the project due to some health problems of his own.
On the route up Big Mountain Boulevard it was good to see old friends and catch up on news. Just to give you an idea, here is a short story written by Mary Katherine Smith: "ok a kick in the little butt! i very rarely ask for help, but i kindly asked a couple organizations to assist me with firewood since my chainsaw is in the shop and i don’t see getting it out soon. after asking i was brushed off my wood level wouldn’t last another week at the time, and lo and behold! i believe it was santa. he was in a veggie diesel ford truck with firewood. this man had a long beard and dreadlocks! then another man arrived, this could have been his elf. though they have never met. He knew how to throw an axe, now i’m set for a good two months. Ho Ho Ho.”
There is so much to talk about and you would really have to make the trip to know what I mean by that, and so we have to pick and choose stories in these newsletters. So now I want to shine a light on a woman named Shannon Francis who is half Dine and half Hopi. She is the mother of six and a seemingly tireless activist in support of her people. She seemed to be everywhere at once. She was there helping the Yellowhairs’ with trucking water for their animals, she was there giving Anna Begay a shampoo. She was at the Blackrocks’ where the other supporters were camped. At one point she was going to Hotevilla where one of her children is to be initiated and she asked me if there was anything we need from Hopi. "Piki bread" I said hopefully. There were some new folks with us who have never had a taste, plus I personally can’t seem to get enough of this stuff. The Hopi people make it by using a very thin porridge of blue corn meal toasted to a crispy perfection on a hot rock and then rolled into a delicate, flaky, tube like bread. When we got back to camp after dark there was some waiting for us, she had somehow managed to get the stuff and make it back to Dove Springs before us. The next day there was a whole box of it. The next time I saw her she promised to introduce me to her supplier but because of her water carrying priorities that never happened, so now I have that to look forward to next year. Shannon is much more than a good piki hookup. If you are lucky enough to be on her email list you will be receiving a constant flow of vital information to keep you abreast of happenings in Indian Country. She is a permaculture advocate and an important member of the Colorado support network. She is currently working on, among a host of other things, water issues and other ways to bring Hopi and Dine people together for common goals. Good stuff.
I also want to shine a light on our very own Mr. Mark Dyken. The brother number one had a very rough trip this year as his back had been bothering him before even leaving, and this trip will whoop your butt even when you are feeling your oats. By the time he left the rez he could not walk, stand or even lay down with comfort. Remember he also did most of the bus driving for the whole tour plus playing his usual rock solid best as the drummer for Clan Dyken in all of the nine shows across California, Southern Oregon, and one in Arizona. You will notice he did not mention any of this in his report, which is typical of his too blessed to be stressed style. He gets the purple heart for this year!
I also want to give a shout out to veteran supporter, Mike Gerrel, who couldn’t make it because of his health. Mikey, you are missed and mentioned often by resistors and supporters alike. I hope you can feel the love. Be on the lookout for Mikes short homemade film on the struggle at Black Mesa, which I hear is excellent.
Each year after the gifts are delivered and supporters are ready to leave, there is a gathering, a closing circle, open to all the supporters and resistors. This year it was held at the home of Clarence Blackrock near the coal mine. Food is prepared by the longtime stalwarts, Seeds of Peace, featuring the amazing chef, Grumbles. It’s at this gathering that we get to pray with, and hear from the elders who can make it, one more time. Dine crafters are presenting, contact info is being shared, local foodstuffs such as blue corn meal and cedar ashes, are for sale (which I am always on the lookout for), and upcoming events and projects are talked about. As I looked around the crowd it struck me once again what a diverse, and unlikely group we are. Many languages are being spoken, everyone is feeling welcomed and accepted. The gratitude is palpable. I felt warm and well fed, and I didn’t really want to leave but my adventurous friend, Kern, and I had gotten a ride in the back of Tzadis’ truck with our long bikes as we had ambitiously planned to ride the forty miles back to our camp at Dove Springs. We were prepared to camp somewhere along the route but as we got going through the highlands and the sunset melted into night, we just couldn’t seem to stop, even after I had taken a minor mashup on a hairpin turn. The terrain is rough and rocky with craggy arroyos cutting through here and there. Down the dramatic grade into Wide Ruin Wash and up the other side. It was well past dark by the time we got to the Rocky Ridge School. We were not talking much. We were in a bicycle trance. Just about the time we got to Newspaper Rock, where all the petroglyphs dance on the half circle of high, red walls, we heard the cheering of our comrades rolling by. When we finally made it to camp there was a nice warm fire in the yurt. The pleasant conversation and laughter mixed with my dreams until one by one everyone drifted off to sleep.
In the morning we took down the yurt, packed up everything and zeroed out the camp, trash and all. Tim and Belinda sat in circle with us and shared mountain tobacco and stories one last time. There were some in our group, like Dar, who had been talking about a spring trip this coming year. Stories of friends, families, and issues facing the people were kicked around. Some of the Dine people and supporters were headed for the ALEC actions near Scottsdale. Here is a link to a video of Louise Benally speaking there, listen to her carefully, she is speaking in her second language. If you have any questions about why we have made this trip 21 times and plan to do it again next year, this should answer them:
Spring Planting Anyone?
Last week we received a call from John Yazzie Jr. of Sand Springs. He wanted to know if we would be interested in helping with spring planting and expanding the fields. A new tractor is needed and the family could use labor to put in the crops. He specifically said they don’t just want the financial support, they want to work together to make this happen. This is great news. I know we can manifest a tractor and a good crew. If you are interested in any part of this opportunity please contact us. We’ll keep you updated on this wonderful development.