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On the Road with Elaine

The Apache's


By ELAINE LITTLEFIELD
Special to The Desert Independent

Editor’s Note: Elaine Littlefield departed the Inde some time ago to follow her dreams. In her travels about, she has always managed to interact with some interesting folk. She will be sharing some of those stories here.

October 20, 2012

SHOW LOW, Arizona – I was recently bit by a female tarantula at the Hon-dah (meaning welcome) Casino near Pinetop, Arizona. When security wanted to call in the paramedics, I refused as I felt shaky, but otherwise fine. Instead, I went inside to the lounge to listen to the band. I told a couple of people I didn’t feel well enough to dance. A middle aged Apache told me to put salt on my wound to draw out the poison. He was the grandson of Geronimo; and he told me he had gone to Washington D.C. to build a memorial to his grandfather at the Smithsonian. I felt honored to meet a descendent of someone who was a big part of the history of the area.

I was offered a house to live in a couple of weeks ago with lots of history also. It’s in Cibicue, Arizona on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. It is as I picture the Garden of Eden. The house has a creek about 100 feet behind it. The area is very green with wild horses running through the yard. It was foal time and half a dozen newborns were present when I went there in August. There is thousands of years of old burial ground behind it. The woman who offered the house to me told the story of when she was about 6 years old standing on the porch with her grandmother when a woman wearing a turquoise skirt walked down the hill to ask if she could explore the burial ground. She refused because there is a center with relics from the same era in the nearby town. The woman introduced herself as Lady Bird Johnson, wife of the President, although it didn’t impress the 90 year old grandmother.

I have lived with the Apache’s for over two months now and I have discovered their spiritual side, but more on this later. The Apachie’s have a 90% unemployment rate and little help from the government with treaties signed 150 years ago often broken. So much bureaucracy is involved in their daily life it makes it tough sometimes. For young men and women, to only sane way of escaping this life is the military.

I have been to 2 “sunrise ceremonies.” It is 4 days of dancing and eating to the beat of drumming and ancient songs. Most of the people here (probably 98%) speak Apache. For those over 70 it is their only language. The ceremonies are similar to the Mexican quinceneta. When a girl starts her period, she must be washed by an elder woman and not touched by any human for at least 4 weeks. She is sprinkled with yellow pollen from the cattail and then cleanses for four days. If a person accepts an Eagle feather, then he or she becomes Godparents. They have a large group (5 plus people) who take turns dancing for the 4 days. The dancers are called crows dancers and wear black hoods with marbles for eyes. They twirl a piece of leather to make a high pitched sound that can be heard quite far away. Perhaps 100 dancers with the girls parents and 100 or so with the Godparents group. The ceremony begins in the evening or Friday morning and ends at sunset on Sunday. For the past several months there has been one or two every week and I have been invited to several of them. Although some of the details of these ceremonies must remain within the community, I will explain as much as I can. There is a medicine man with each group who blesses the girl and the many handmade gifts such as jewelry, clothing and blankets supplied by the quests. Then there is the food, truck loads of it. Coffee and soft drinks are in abundant supply. The gifts are split or chosen in a special manner with the girl going first. Eventually those who participated in the cooking and everyone else chooses. Better than Christmas! The children get nice clothing, toys, and school supplies. The people involved with the food get 20lb bags of flour, sugar, potatoes, etc.

The story of Dawna Fe Whitesinger needs to be told. She is an Apache woman who is a school curriculum specialist and is running for county supervisor. The town of Show Low’s news paper, The Independent, published an article about her this week quoting her that she never had an interview with the writer/publisher. The article was very slanted towards her opponent. The other party decided there are too many Native Americans in office already and called several people to ask them to run against her. They called her to tell her of the attempt to quash her campaign. In my opinion there is injustice occurring here on several levels. Since when do we judge candidates by their ethnicity? Why did this publisher fail to print an accurate article; and more importantly; quote a source that was not interviewed?


These are Elaine's stories and opinions alone and not those of The Desert Independent, LLC. We publish them for the interest and entertainment of our readers.



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