We woke up this morning ['abíní] in the border town of Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí], knowing that we were going to suffer from culture shock as well as have to kill a substantial amount of time before we could leave town. We were on our usual early morning schedule so we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast [abínígo da'adánígíí] before driving out for our 10 AM appointment to have Lori's job application and resume typed. Since we must drive west [e'e'aah], we decided to visit the Ranch Kitchen which headed us in the right direction. I had eaten there before, the last time with 4 grandchildren and their mothers in tow. We had a typical large southwestern breakfast [abínígo da'adánígíí] and several cups of coffee [gohwééh]. While Lori reviewed her application for the last time, I wandered through the gift shop. The large Cookie Monster piñata caught my eye. Devin, my youngest grandson [binálí], would love it. Cookie Monster was one of his favorite Sesame Street characters at the moment! When I paid for breakfast [abínígo da'adánígíí], I corraled a Cookie Monster to take along for the ride, not thinking about the consequences of that decision. When we returned to the car [chidí], we hung Cookie so that he could look out the window while we drove.
We finally started driving out old Route 66. We had detailed directions:
three miles west [e'e'aah] on old Route 66, past the cemetary and wrecking yard and past the
propane gas supplier (next to the fire station!). Then we came to Williams
Acres where we drove past Alpha and Beta streets and turned south [shádi'ááh] on Gamma.
We drove down
Gamma Street until we found the third house [kin] on the right [nishnááji]
covered by a blue [doot
over the car [chidí].
The yard was surrounded by a chainlink fence, even across
the driveway where there was a wide gate. The gardening was not casual, everything had its
place, and every place had its thing. Yard decorations were de
riguer. We were met by an older woman ['asdzáán]
whose house [kin] it obviously was, and
two [naaki] dogs [ lééch'í], Blackjack and Sinbad.
The woman [asdzání]
who took in the typing, Vicki, was her daughter [bich'é'é].
She worked in a small room
that had been converted into an office. Lori took about 10 minutes to
review the material with Vicki and we left to come back in an hour.
Since we had just eaten a big breakfast [abínígo da'adánígíí], we were in no hurry to get to the truck [chidítsoh] stop which had been recommended, so we took a short tour of the neighborhood. We were on the last few streets that had been laid out west [e'e'aah] of Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí], a half block from Interstate 40. Nonetheless, the lots were carved up into tiny parcels, just big enough to fit a small house [kin] or a trailer. We found the local post office, which was run from a house trailer. I stayed in the car [chidí] to watch the local happenings while Lori went in to buy a few stamps to mail some postcards home. The Indian kids in the next car [chidí] were very interested in the Cookie Monster. It even elicited a laugh from their parents [bishchíinii] when they came out. While we were there Vicki's mother [bimá] drove up to get their mail and waved. We figured we were getting too well known around here and had certainly made ourselves conspicuous. It was time to move on.
We drove back down Route 66 toward Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí] since we were at the end of the
line in this direction. All the streets in Vicki's neighborhood were named for
letters in the Greek alphabet, not necessarily in the correct order!
We had nothing better to do than to go to the
truck [chidítsoh] stop and wait. We got some more coffee [gohwééh], split a cinnamon bun and put in about
10 minutes looking at the postcard collection. We found a couple of special ones
to send to friends back home. Otherwise there was nothing of interest in the trucker's shop.
They only had extra large size chrome pinups for mudflaps, but nothing desk size,
not even a coffee [gohwééh]
cup! Our hour was almost up so we drove slowly west [e'e'aah] on
Route 66. We found Vicki's house [kin] again, managed to get inside the fence without
letting the dogs [
lééch'í] out, and went into the house [kin].
The letter was completed and very nicely
formatted. On her final reading Lori decided on a small wording change, but
this proved to be trivial for Vicki, who had a typewriter with a memory. The
final copy was ready in only a few minutes. These minutes were occupied
with getting to know Sinbad and Blackjack and hearing many stories about
each of them from Vicki's mother. Of course, we were also reminded that she saw
"you ladies" down at the post office. We got a recommendation on a good
place to fax the job application and to get copies made in
Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí]. We left with a business card
and a promise to recommend Vicki to any friends passing through Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí] and needing secretarial services. I bet she never thought that the recommendation would show up on the World Wide Web!
We again made our way through the one way streets of downtown Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí], driving most of the way east [ha'a'aah] on Route 66 in order to locate the numbers and then back on Coal until we found the right number range, and over to Aztec to the establishment that had been recommended, Quik Print & Copy. When we entered, we found that we were back "home", all of the help were Navajo! This meant we had to be patient, but we had a lot of recent experience at that. This half day [j] back in bilagáana country had been a bit jangling to our nerves as it was, but we did want to get out of this border town and back on the road ['atiin]. We managed to conduct our business at a Navajo pace and then headed out to find a bank machine that would take our ATM cards. This did not prove to be trivial; we had to pass up the first two [naaki] we found because they didn't take Cirrus cards. The third one had a bit of a line but we waited, not very patiently, to get our cash and then headed south [shádi'ááh] out of Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí].
We were headed to the Zuni Pueblo, south of Gallup [Na'nízhoozhí]. After you cross the hills just south [shádi'ááh] of town, you begin to get a view of the Zuni mesas. You just keep driving toward them until you see the sign to Zuni [Naasht'ézhí]. But I knew of some fabulous petroglyphs that were very accessible just a few miles before that cutoff. Of course, I couldn't find the right road ['atiin] on the first pass, but we managed to find it on the second and drove a couple of miles in toward Nutria Lake to the Great Kiva site. It is basically unmarked, but there is a parking area and a fence to keep people from driving into the ruins site. The kiva is unexcavated, but you can see the outlines of the buildings and a few walls above ground. There is a steep trail up the side of the mesa to the vertical rock [tsé] walls where the petroglyphs are carved. I started up this trail and again felt the necessity for my hiking stick. I couldn't have made it past the steepest parts of the trail without that stick. There was a lot of loose rock on the trail and having a third leg ['ajáád] available was critical to my ability to stay upright. In 5-10 minutes we were at the ledge where the trail winds around under the top of the mesa. After a short search we found the largest group of petroglyphs.
These petroglyphs, while completely accessible, had not been vandalized at all. It was wonderful to be able to see these markings from such a close vantage point and not be in the middle of a crowded guided tour. We walked along the entire length of the [tsé]rock face and made our way around the corner to the sheltered area where more modern pictographs had been painted on the face of the [tsé]rock. It was not clear how recently these figures had been painted. Some were kachinas and some were more like idealized portraits; one was a head wearing a large feather headress. These were also unvandalized although the path led right by them. We made our way down the steep hillside, overlooking Nutria Lake on the Rio Nutria, farther up which the New Mexico Nature Conservancy has a small preserve, through the dry grass and back to the car [chidí].
We then drove back to the highway and on to Zuni. Our hope was to see the inside of the Lady of Guadalupe Mission at Zuni. On the interior walls, which are two stories high, has been painted a continuous mural of the Kachina Gods of Zuni, in a procession through the seasons and the ceremonial year.
Woh'Dem'La', Ko:Koshi, Uh'Be'Ka'Yad'Un'Na', Hu:Du'Du', Sa'Li'Mo:Be'Ya', Shu'La':Wits Un/Da'Chu, and Sha'La/Ko'
These figures are overwhelming in their realism and their power. I had been priviledged to see them a year and a half earlier during our first visit to the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial. But there was no one at the Mission today. We waited outside the side door where I had entered before in the hope that someone would show up who could show us the mural. There was no indication on the door of the hours when the interior was accessible. I walked around the building, but there was no sign of life at the Mission or in any of the neighboring houses. I entered the gate in the wall while Lori waited by the side door, and walked toward the big old doors to see if they were open. This immediately brought some action. A man appeared from one of the silent houses surrounding the Mission and told me I could not go there. I turned and left the courtyard, which also served as a graveyard, but could not talk to the man about seeing the mural as he had turned around and disappeared before I left and closed the gate. But, during this time, two small boys had appeared whose curiousity was too much to contain. Especially since Cookie Monster was looking at them from the car window. We tried to have a conversation with them and to ask whether they knew anyone who would show us the Mission interior, but their conversation was in a mixture of Zuni and English. We discovered nothing to help us. A Canadian couple arrived also wishing to see the Mission interior. We related our problems to them and then left to visit the Zuni Pueblo Crafts Shop.
At the crafts shop I discovered a substantial collection of incredibly detailed miniature paintings (1" × 2" --> 2' × 3") with which I fell in love. Lori spent her time searching the enormous collection of carved fetishes for her special one. I purchased three of the small paintings (2 by Chris Natachii and one by Patrick Sanchez) with plexiglass stands for each of them. I also inquired about the location of the Zuni furniture shop. After Lori had paid for her fetishes, we drove up to the furniture factory. There I was able to see the small wall units made for the display of miniatures and to get a brochure.
Unfortunately, winter [haigo] days [j]are short; we needed to move on. The drive east [ha'a'aah] on NM 53 took us through Ramah [T'ohchini]. There we visited a small group of trailers that housed a fetish "factory" and showroom which supplied a shop in Santa Fe [Yootó]. There I purchased a very unusual fetish made of abalone shell and a quartz turtle.
Since we had not eaten since the truck [chidítsoh] stop, we drove back to the Stagecoach Restaurant for a mid-afternoon lunch. Because it was late, we were the only diners there. After we had ordered, the waitress sat behind the counter and made conversation. We told her about our trip, where we had been and where we were going. She then asked, "What do you ladies do?" Lori and I looked at each other for a second before she answered, "We're astronomers." This reply was followed by a long pause, after which we explained that we were on our way to work at the VLA in Socorro [Siwóolaa]. Fortunately our food was ready, and we could eat in silence. School must have let out as several high school age boys came in. We chose this time to pay our bill and leave to continue our drive.
The store across the street had a large sign that stated that they bought and sold piñon nuts. Lori ran in to buy some but found that they were sold out. Unfortunately we had to continue without one of my staple food supplies when in the southwest.
A year earlier Steve and I had tried to purchase some land in the
l'ohchini] area, below the Zuni Mountains. Since we were
here I showed Lori some of the parcels we had liked. One of the pieces of
land that I had especially liked consisted basically of a steep sandstone
cliff and mesa top with a small piece of land below on which to build a
house [kin]. The view from a ledge half way up the
cliff wall was toward a
shallow pond where
a great blue heron [toolhji' noonah]
and a variety of other birds were making their homes. There were
some unexcavated ruins on the next parcel of land (rarely visited by the
owner). The only other neighbors were Navajos who spoke little English.
The owner of the land was a relative of Clyde Kluckhohn (who had done all
of his ethnological research on the Navajo in the
Ramah [T l'ohchini] area). We had been
unable to come to terms on the purchase of this land and had reluctantly
terminated the negotiations.
While Lori and I toured the area, we discussed something that had been annoying us for days now, the fact that everyone referred to us as "you ladies". We had not let it annoy us while in Dinetah because we did not know what the standard greetings were in the Navajo culture and how they might translate into English. However, when the practice continued when we left the reservation, in fact intensified, especially with women, we began to think we were in a time warp. Certainly neither Lori nor I though of ourselves as ladies. This insistence was beginning to get on our nerves! Do the women of this area really feel so insecure in their place in this society that they must assert their identity as "ladies" in this way??
After seeing two [naaki] of the pieces of land that we had considered buying, we
drove back out to NM 53 and turned toward Grants [Naatooh sik'ai'í]. I had planned to stop at a trailhead
in the newly established El Malpais National Monument to hike out to a
bat cave at sunset [biká'ági az'] in hopes of seeing the bats [jaa'abani] emerge for
the night [t
l'éé'] as we
had a year and a half ago. In the rapidly growing darkness we were unable to
find the correct road ['atiin] into the trailhead. We found a ranger closing a gate
and asked him where to find the trailhead. The road I wanted was closer to
Grants [Naatooh sik'ai'í] than I had
remembered, so we drove on and obtained a trailguide even though it was too
dark to take the trail over the treacherous lava field. There were three men
camping there for the night. We talked with them for a few minutes and found
that they had no idea that there was a trailhead here or that there were lava
We left then and drove to Grants [Naatooh sik'ai'í] in the dark. We drove down the main street and chose a motel near the entrance to I-40. Lori called her sister [bádí] to arrange to meet her tomorrow. We were parting for a few days as she stayed with her sister in Albuquerque [Bee'eldííldahsinil]. We arranged to meet at the Casa Blanca shopping center at exit 108 on the Laguna Pueblo at noon [naakits'áadahdi 'azl] tomorrow [yisk>go]. We decided that we would visit Acoma [Haak'oh] in the morning ['abíní] on our way to Laguna Pueblo.
Recommend this website to a friend!
Navajo Spaceships, Star Mountain and Rez Memories, An Online Writing Journal, Prose & Poetry by John Rustywire, Navajo
The images of the Zuni Mission interior are from the article Adding a Breath to Zuni Life by Ken Seowtewa, photographs by Suzanne Page, which appeared in the Winter 1992 issue of Native Peoples magazine. This article chronicles the restoration of the Mission and the relationship between the kachinas painted on the Mission walls and Catholicism as practiced by the people of the Zuni Pueblo. It also gives a history of the Seowtewa family, the artists who have painted this mural.
The image of the Zuni masks at the Great Kiva site was taken from Lawrence McFarland's page.
Subscribe to American Indian Art Magazine
Books on Zuni Fetishes
Books on Zuni Jewelry
Visit The Sonoran Desert 5000 square miles of silence.
On to Day 7
Back to Day 5
Table of Contents