Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pojoaque Pueblo
English Pronunciation: "Po-wock-ee or Po-hock-ee"
Traditional Name: PO-SUWAE-GEH

Our temporary home in Santa Fe, NM is located on the edge of the Pojoaque Indian Pueblo, home of the Pojoaque, one of the eight Indian tribes of Northern New Mexico. Today they were celebrating the festival of Our Lady of the Guadalupe, the Patron Saint of the Pueblo. After a traditional Catholic Mass at the nearby adobe church, the Pueblo celebrated with an even more traditional Buffalo Dance, and the entire community turned out for the event. The sinuous lines of exquisitely costumed dancers ranged in age from the very young to the elders of the tribe, and they executed a remarkable dance choreographed by tradition across the dusty lot in front of the church, while a small band of solemn faced men set the beat with their chanting and their tom-toms.

This is a deeply religious occasion, and unlike the dances that many of the Pueblos do for the tourists, the crowd remained completely silent, there are no photographs allowed, and it is a truly moving experience. On the outer edge of the lines, warriors dressed as Elk with a large rack of horns on their heads and sticks adorned with pine boughs in their hands, move along bent over on their sticks in stilted motions, simulating the movement and the bony front legs of the animal. Inside this outer line, dancers in full-headed buffalo costumes dance along in unison. Watching, one could almost feel the Buffalo moving as they once did in vast numbers across the prairies of the American West. Feel them moving like they did long before the white man came and slaughtered them in such numbers that the bones were piled high beside the steel rails that brought indiscriminate death to both the Buffalo and the way of life of our native people. Behind these dancers came the hunters with their bow and arrows. They too are there to kill the Buffalo, but unlike the white man, they understand that the Buffalo is life, and to kill for sport instead of sustenance is to rape their Mother Earth, and will not long sustain them.

For tens of thousands of years the Buffalo gave the Indians food, shelter, clothing, and tools. In just a few short years after our arrival, the white man eradicated them from the face of the earth. Not only for sport and pleasure, but in a premeditated effort to deny these noble people that which not only sustained them, but was also sacred to them in every way. Today the Buffalo are gone and the Casino provides them their way of life. Soon the Whales and the Polar Bears will be gone as well, and the native peoples of the North will join their Southern neighbors in a way of life that offers much less hope and much less beauty than the life they had before they became “civilized”.

For just a moment today I got to see a small group of these people forget what was done to them and cherish their traditions. Tomorrow they will go back to work at the Casino, or the liquor store, or the WalMart, or any of the other blessings which the white man has been so generous to provide. But for just one beautiful moment today…they danced.

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