Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the great divide

They're tearing down the buildings at the Indian school. It's odd the way it's partway done- there's plenty of protest about it, but the school is on Indian land and the city can have no say in what happens there. From what I've read, there's confusion as to why this is happening at all, and it's a big mess over there.

We drove over on Sunday to try to take photos but we got chased away by a very serious looking and burly security guard, so we parked across the street and took some pictures from outside the fence. It's a massive deconstruction and it seems very sad. Also, there's so much construction material just lying in big piles- it's like they just tore into everything all of a sudden. Wrought iron railings, columns, curtains, window screens, tons of brick and concrete in a twisted wreck.

We've had so many residents from New Orleans. Today one of the new residents said he'd lived in 12 places since Katrina, and we watched a rough cut of a film last week that was heartbreaking. It makes the images of the Indian school more affecting somehow- to think this was done on purpose. It seems like they should be able to reclaim more of the material. But maybe I just think of them as being more ecologically aware because that's what I expect of that culture. And as we all know, expectations are dangerous and lead to disillusionment.

Which is a good segue to What I Did Yesterday, which was to go to Feast Day at Santo Domingo pueblo. Thousands, literally, of pueblo residents, probably past and present, doing the corn dance for St. Dominick. It's an interesting mix of Christianity and Native religion. The plaza at the pueblo is quite large- at least the length of a football field (here I'm going out of my experience range somewhat, since I haven't been to a game in many years.) The dancers ranged from about three years old to just below elderly (as in, my age probably.) It was so hot and sunny, and the dancing went on for hours. There were two groups and each danced for over an hour while we were there, and I guess traded off throughout the day.

The men and boys wore a cream colored loin cloth with a fox tail fastened to the back, with a belt of bells and cord, that held pine branches in place. The women wore black dresses with a red belt, and a headdress that was turquoise painted wood that looked like a stepped pyramid. They carried the pine branches and wore either moccasins or were barefoot. A group of maybe 100 men chanted and the dancers hopped from one foot to the other and moved in a line and a formation all around the plaza. Seeing so many of them was quite astonishing. They all wore beautiful jewelry and most of the men (and all of the women) had beautiful long, long hair. There were also a few elders completely covered with white mud, head to toe, with dark mask-like features and a corn headdress. They seemed to keep people in line and help the children when there was a wardrobe malfunction. All were shaking a maracca-like gourd (I have no idea how to spell that) and that plus the drum plus the bells made a pounding rhythm. An interesting thing I noticed is that they all kept their eyes cast downward, or even closed.

Of course you can't take photographs or even sketch. We got a great spot to stand that was shaded and right behind some of the tribal elders, next to the altar of St. Dominick, and all during the dancing women came with food. This was laid on the ground by the altar, which was in a tent that had moose heads (also wearing turquoise jewelry) on the front. I wondered what St. Dominick would do with bottles of Starbuck's frappucinos, but I guess he would distribute it to someone who wants it. He had a lot of food there, that's for sure. Tamales, soups, fruit, sandwiches of all kinds, cake, pastries, and of course bread. All of the pueblo's houses, even the brand new ones in a little subdivision, had outside bread ovens.

The Franciscan monks came along and wished the elders a happy feast day. There were lots of booths with stuff to buy, but they were all people from elsewhere- the people of Santo Domingo were all busy with the real doings of the ceremony.

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