Dirt roads and rising dust initiated our 4th week of the Indigenous America semester.  We arrived into a beautiful canyon called Dove Springs were we spent a week with a Navajo family, Tim Johnson and his wife Belinda.  They welcomed us into their home and we immediately began chopping wood and digging up posts for a new sheep enclosure. Having spent the past two weeks assisting in the building of a cob home in Hopi land, our bodies were conditioned for some physical labor and it felt good to get our hands dirty.

On a separate afternoon we visited a local family who invited us to help remove  kernels from corncobs.  These cobs are unlike the ordinary corn you find in the store.  They are traditional heirloom corn used by their people for hundreds of years.  The colors elicit amazement and a smile to the eyes as we appeared to spend more time admiring the corn than removing it’s kernels.  We filled two large containers with kernels (hundreds of cobs) using our fingers and an old fashioned hand powered machine. It’s a special feeling to intimately work and collect the food we consume,  nourishing appreciation and gratitude.  Hannah also received the opportunity to ride horses with the owner’s daughter.  Here in the high desert, most ride western style and Hannah noticed a notable difference from English standards and left with sore muscles to commemorate the experience i.e. sore bum.

Towards the end of the week Tim asked for our help in coordinating a cross country run at the local school. We spent the day making preparations for the five to six schools gathering to compete.  Sports are huge events on the reservation and it was heartwarming to see full participation from all the students, including the first graders.  You can’t say enough about a kids determination when he accidentally trips, face plants, immediately gets up and keeps on running.

Throughout the week Tim shared stories of Navajo history and traditions. He has been hosting students for the past fifteen years and we are grateful for his time in sharing his experiences and perspectives.  It has continued to provide context and understanding as we progress on this journey.  Their home was once part of the Navajo reservation. In a complicated history of land disputes, big business interests, and congressional rulings; this land is now part of the Hopi reservation.  It is estimated that over 10,000 Navajo’s were relocated when the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act was created in the 1970’s.  There are families like Tim and Belinda who have resisted relocation which has lead to  temporary agreements for these families to lease the land from the Hopi.

Our next leg of the semester was majestic Monument Valley, a region sacred to the Navajos and filled with red sandstone buttes, mesas, pinnacles, hoodos, and totem poles. If you have no idea of what these terms mean, feel free to email Heather who gave us an excellent detailed lecture filled with periodic quizzes on these formations.  This region has captivated many and was often the background setting for many western films including those featuring John Wayne.

We continued on to the San Juan river, a tributary of the Colorado river with inspiring canyons and petroglyphs. The history of our world and of time itself is revealed in the canyon walls as we rafted down the river over three days.  Our river guide, Nathan, impressed us with his knowledge and geology of the region and with the introduction of the groover, an invention I cannot adequately explain so I will leave you with the official urban dictionary definition.

groover 24 up16 down
A hollow, plastic, toilet-shaped box, which is often used on camping trips. It is a portable chamber pot. You should not pee in a groover, because then, the pee will slosh around inside it while you travel.
“Who peed in the groover, I have groover juice all over my bag!”

We are glad to say that our groover box stayed sealed on the rafting trip.  We had an amazing time floating the river.  The spirit of Mother Earth and Father sky continues to nourish.  We walk in it’s beauty and smile with appreciation and gratitude.

May we all continue to walk in harmony with all that is around us.

OLE