in a Name?
Life on the reservation is not without hardship. Many locals
live in a traditional manner - choosing to forego modern conveniences
like electricity and running water. There are others who have
no choice. And for the non-Native person who makes their life
on the reservation working for the hospital, school, or trading
post, there are times when water lines break, telephone lines
go down, and power goes out. At least once a week we have patrons
who visit the trading post gallery and ask in a most perplexed
fashion, "So where do you live?" I'm always delighted
to tell them that I live right here. In disbelief they ask again,
on the reservation?" "Yep. Right
here," I tell them. I know what they're wondering, because
if I didn't live here myself, I would probably wonder too: "How
on earth can you live way out here - where there are no shopping
malls, bank tellers, or movie theaters?"
The answer is simple - in fact, simplicity is the answer.
I first came to the Hopi reservation about ten years ago. My
initial reaction was one of shock and surprise. Most of the homes
looked small. There was no grass growing in the "front yard"
of the homes we passed. It felt somewhat like I was in a Christian
Children's television commercial. But that was before I came
to know them. After many months spent living among the Hopi,
it was obvious that they had something that the outside world
had long since lost. They had (and still have) a real sense of
community. Material possessions are few, and priority is placed
on the family - not on the family vacation. I was amazed at how
welcome the Hopi people made you feel. We were invited into nearly
every home we visited and were always invited to eat. That became
a familiar call over the months following my introduction to
the Hopi people: "Come in. Sit down, and eat!"
I couldn't help but smile as I watched the bread being passed
from one sibling to another, and then finally to me. There was
always plenty of food, and guests were always welcome to join
in. I've since reflected on my many experiences among the Hopi
and come to realize that the dominant culture of the Western
Anglo world lives day by day compartmentalized. I was awakened
to the reality that I had been born and raised in a society that
focused on the self - a world where value-meals, video games,
and headphones all cater to the individual. There is no more
emphasis on relationships. I wonder whatever happened to the
days when we used to know the milk-man, the butcher, and the
postman by name. Fortunately for the Hopi, they still do. I imagine
an era when the frontier was still expanding, and New World immigrants
were working together to survive in small, rural communities.
People depended on one another. Not any more. We keep our eyes
to the ground as we walk down the street, and when a stranger
smiles or nods, we wonder what is wrong with that guy!
It seems as though it would be quite possible for a man to
live every day of his life without ever establishing or maintaining
any real meaningful relationships anymore. In the dominant society,
I can check my groceries through a computerized terminal. I can
punch in at work, complete my tasks, and have minimal interaction
with my co-workers. I can stop by the drive-through on my way
home where they offer me single-serving meals. When I get home,
I can kick of my shoes and sit in front of the television 'till
I fall asleep and start all over again tomorrow. I realize that
it's rather ironic that I'm using email and the Internet to share
my insights with others, but it's living here that forces me
"out of the box." What would I have done if I hadn't
ever come here? Would I have ever realized that so many opportunities
and valuable relationships were being forfeit? Probably not.
It's mostly luck, I suppose,that brought me here - you can call
it what you like. True, it's challenging, but I wouldn't have
it any other way. And while not everyone can make a life on the
reservation, there are some important lessons that can be shared
and valuable principles that can be embraced.
The milk-man's name is Mike. The butcher is Darren. And the
postmaster is Delores.
The Permanent Rezident
Without Reservations: Index