The Story Begins

We arrive in Albuquerque just after noon on December 23rd, 1995. Fidel Moreno meets us at the airport. Blue skies and sunshine. It feels good to be back in New Mexico. This also feels like an important and eventful visit to this special place in the world.

Fidel has his son Joaquin with him and we follow them up the Turquoise Trail for lunch at the Mine Shaft Cantina in Madrid on our way to Santa Fe. We spend the day settling in to La Posada, window shopping around the town, and getting reacquainted. We have dinner at the Corn Dance Café, – a Native American restaurant with native American cuisine. Food excellent.

The next day we do some serious Christmas shopping at the Indian Market before meeting Fidel and his entourage of friends and visitors for a walk in old Santa Fe. Acequia Madre and Canyon Road and all the side streets were lit with farolitas and alive with people and bonfires. Fidel’s friend Seth, who operates the Southwest Learning Centre, which I will learn more about, invites us to the home of a friend, an anthropologist and researcher, who has posole and chile and pumpkin soup enough for an army, which by this time we provide an adequate representation.

The highlight of the evening was yet to come. After a pleasant rest and a tall cold martini in the crowded bar of La Posada, we set out for the Tesuque Pueblo where we were invited once more into someone’s home in the Pueblo for food and drink. At midnight on this Christmas Eve we cross the square, past the bonfires lighting and warming people gathered around them, to assemble in the church. The sky is clear and lit with stars and a small sliver of a moon.

The church floor had been cleared of pews and people lined the walls, the nave, and the balcony. Women elders came in with offerings of food which they placed under the festively decorated Christmas tree at the front of the church and as the crowd waited in the church, and at the entrance, and around the bonfires, a line of dancers, led by male elders wrapped in blankets, made their way single file across the square into the church. A drummer accompanied the troupe of dancers, two women and about thirty men all beautifully dressed. They danced and sang for about an hour before filing out and returning across the square from where they came. Christmas Eve in Santa Fe. Christmas Eve at the Tesuque Pueblo.

Christmas Day. Crisp and clear. Cold in the shade. Warm in the sun. Breakfast on the Plaza at the Grant Corner Inn. Christmas carols played on a guitar. Feeling quite at home being hosted by the family who ran the Inn. Lovely breakfast. We drive out to see some Christmas Day dances at the Pueblos and run into Alphonso Ortiz at the Tesuque Pueblo. Couldn’t have planned the expected better.

Christmas dinner at a home that friends of Fidel’s had made available to him over Christmas. A most interesting group of people including a native artist, a sculptor, an actor, a Mexican Indian woman with seven beautiful children, four unusual women visiting from Toronto, one from new York, two Navaho women, a native man and his wife who builds homes with straw bales. A most interesting evening that included a blessing ceremony performed by Fidel and Maria, the Mexican Indian woman.

Boxing Day was spent at the San Juan Pueblo at the Turtle dances. Alphonso had told us about them on Christmas Day. The most sacred of all the pueblo dance celebrations that are open to the public. December 27th was spent visiting a woman friend of Fidel who runs a wholesale jewellery business called Mountain Gems, lunch at Tomasito’s, and then on to Ojo Caliente north of the San juan Pueblo in the early evening to sit in the hot mineral springs under the stars before going to El Farol’s on Canyon Road for a night of flamenco music and dancing.

Jack Weatherford and Walker Pearce arrive on December 28th and we return to the Corn Dance Cafe for dinner. Loretta, the owner of the Corn Dance Cafe is extremely excited to meet Jack, – her hero as she described him, – the man who got her interested and excited about foods that originated with the first peoples of the Americas, of which she is one,  enough to open a restaurant specializing in Native American foods. We spent the earlier part of the day visiting Robert Ortuna, a great Southwest artist of Spanish and Indian heritage salivating over his paintings at his studio home. Beautiful work. very colourful. Very dramatic. Very expensive.

It was a quiet day. the air was crisp. The sun shone and the sky was blue, as it has been since we arrived. We wandered around the town and visited the Indian Art Museum, recalling how we had been there at its official opening a few years ago. Familiar names and familiar artists. we find ourselves sitting quietly in the cathedral just off the town plaza opposite the Indian Art Museum It was a peaceful and beautiful moment in the church, and it felt almost as if I was resting up for the next two days when Jack, Fidel, Gareth, and I would begin to bring some more discussion and clarity to the Native Roots project.

The next morning the four of us assembled at an adobe house at the end of a dead end road just outside of Santa Fe. This was the home of the Southwest Learning Centers, the organization run by Seth Roffman for the last fifteen years or so, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the education of people on primarily Native American ways. They run a program for students, a small class of eighteen at a local facility, but are generally project-oriented, creating events, producing films, and promoting and documenting Native arts, music, history, agricultural systems, stories, and lore. The room we assembled in looked out over the rolling landscape of new Mexico, sagebrush and pinion, the rich clay earth the color of adobe and the Sierra Madre mountains in the background. The sun shone in from the east.

The next two days of meeting in this room were very productive, with all four of us approaching the challenge of our mission with our own unique perspectives and capabilities. Seth sat close at hand listening, not only about the project, but how we were approaching the challenge of reaching as many people as possible and getting as many partners involved and participating in the event.

We all got on the same wave length very quickly. We were all on the same wave length to begin with, knowing that this project was all about honouring and respecting diversity, knowing that our future survival lay in learning from diversity, and knowing that the quality of our lives and the lives of all living things, now and in the future, is rooted in our ability to become and remain connected with one another and with every other part of the spirit living within all things. Technology, our communications technology, can help to make this happen in a way that was never before possible, – universally.

Fidel said that Santa Fe was a unique place because it was located over one of the largest crystal deposits in the world and crystal, of course, has been used since the early days for radio communication and is still being used today in satellites to capture and transmit radio waves from outer space. We, all of us, have always felt Santa Fe to have magical qualities, and we were feeling them now as we confirmed for ourselves and to each other the importance of what we were doing, and how there could be nothing more worthwhile or rewarding, to ourselves and to others, than to pursue this endeavour and make it a reality and a model for others to follow. Fidel said he felt that we were already communicating out to the world what we were doing and what this was all about through the energy and transmission qualities of the crystal deposit under us.

The progress we made in our discussions will become apparent over the next year as we record it on film and in the presentations we take out to partners, – all of those organizations who can benefit from this new media and the messages of hope it brings, – this new ability that we now have to become interconnected and reconnected with one another and with all life.

And our companion and guide in this project has become the raven, – the transformer, the trickster, and the creator, – the symbol of knowledge and the creature, or the manifestation of the creature and the power that can make all things happen. The power that we have as people, as humans, as our part of the life force and the life system, to adapt and change and grow for the better, – and the responsibility we have because of our superior gifts to be the custodians and the care-givers of all living things.

This understanding is not new. This understanding is not unique. It has been in our native roots, in our native knowing for millennia. It is what we know in grace when we are born, and what we come to know more consciously as elders, so that we may pass on the wisdom in the form of guidance and behaviour for the benefit of future generations of all life and all species. It is simply that we have become disconnected from this knowing as our technology developed and created new and different systems that we felt or believed would give us more superior ways of surviving and prospering, – as we adopted or came to believe in other icons, or standards, or beliefs in what would improve the quality of our lives, our prosperity, our value, – and as it became easier for us to travel and take up residence in places away from our homes, away from the lands that once nurtured us and made us distinct cultures and distinct peoples.

As we disconnected ourselves from our families, our heritage, our history, our traditions and our roots and, instead of learning from other places and other cultures, and bringing that learning back to our people so that we could continue to grow and evolve and better assure that our life and our culture would be sustained and enhanced and improved for future generations, – we stayed in these new places, – because we believed we could profit more from them, – and we lost our connections with our native roots, – and lost the values and the belief systems that guided us, our knowledge of how to behave and what we must do to ensure that our lives were lived as richly as possible and that the lives, and the quality of life, of our children and future generations would be assured, – and be better.

We can not go back now, – and we do not want to go back, – and we would be ill-advised to go back, – for technology has been a gift, and is a gift, – that has brought us forward to a richer life and richer possibilities. It is now for us to find how we can use this gift, this technology, for our collective benefit and for the benefit of each part of our living cosmos, our new global land, on which we are now living, and which we must now learn to adapt to as it changes, as we change it, and as it changes us. Our communication capabilities, our unique gift as “the people” which makes it possible for us, and has made it possible for us over the millennia to perform our responsibility as custodians of the earth and all living creatures, is now, as always, the way to make this possible.

Except that now, we are in a race against time, – time which has always been our friend and our healer, – is short. We know we are hurting ourselves. We are concerned about our children, We are concerned about the imbalances we have inadvertently created. The differences and inequities between the haves and have nots. The resources we have taken and abused. The belief systems that have led us away from the understanding and knowledge that has guided us in assuring and improving life in the past. So it is important that we learn how to use this communication technology as rapidly as possible. To learn how to use it to regain our connectedness. To learn how to use it to learn from diversity. To learn about our true nature. To learn about nature and the natural laws that have prevailed in the past and that prevail today and that will prevail tomorrow, – whether or not we as people will survive to see it. So as we destroy diversity, whether physically, socially, intellectually, or spiritually, so we will destroy ourselves. Who will survive? Savages or civilization.

So that is what our two days were about. That and the peyote meeting we were invited to on New Year’s Eve on a mesa at the Taos Pueblo under the stars and the moon of a clear sky after a winter snowstorm a few hours before. It was a unique situation, a unique opportunity, a unique time. An important moment in our lives and a special and privileged experience. It would exceed our expectations in what it gave to all of us. All very personal. All very unique. All very special.

1995.12.31

The Native Roots Story
Our Creative Journey So Far
A New Story