When I was a little girl, six months old, my parents moved to Arizona where we lived on the Hopi and Navaho reservation until I was in the 3rd grade. We moved about what seemed to me every couple of years so my memory for time and place is blurred. What I was left with is a feeling for how things can be so different—and be okay. The Navahos and Hopis by no means would I have thought of as “poor”, to me they had a very rich life. I remember seeing the ladies in the Trading Post with their beautiful red and blue velvet cloths and turquoise jewelry and thinking how exotic they were. The Pow Wow’s with the fantastic dancing and mutton stew with fry bread left a other worldly imprint on my mind. The mud hogans kept them warm (and it gets very cold there) and their sheep provided food and warmth. I’m sure there were things that were hard, things I didn’t know as a young child. But a slow ethereal feel was imprinted on me. Culture is societies soul. I haven’t been back but I hope they haven’t lost everything because then they would be truly poor.
What I deeply feel is that we are not rich or poor measured by money but by our culture. It is the thing that holds us together and makes us strong. What I see is a cultural crises identity. So many different cultures came together in America and in the end we can’t just have “money” driving our culture. Perhaps it is a “world” cultural crises. From the food we eat and how we eat it to the way we organize and think of this one beautiful thing given to us—life.
Here is a poem my mom wrote;
Years ago our Navajo friend Hosteen Tsiniginni
Told us of how he confounded the enemy
Using a language unwritten,
Unknow beyond the deserts of his home—
Words familiar only to the wind
That twists around the branches of the pinons
On the plateaus, sweeps into the canyons,
And rushes to the sacred mountaintops,
Leaving nothing on the air
But whoosh and ssss
And soft gutteral word
Followed by short puffs of warm sound.
It was the one code that
Could not be broken.
It appears now that we are code talkers, too,
With ourselves as the enemy,
Using words to confuse and distract,
To mask the meaning of what we say
So that syllables sit on our tongues
Like polite dinner guests
Who are on the verge of vomiting
But tell the hostess again and again
How much they enjoyed
The veal parmesan.
It has taken us years to learn the words
But we have become the world’s
best code talkers,
our success matched only
by that of Hosteen Tsinniginni
and his kin.
We speak a language having nothing to do
With what we feel, becoming more and more
Adept at the one code
That cannot be broken.
by Carla Chlouber © Chlouber Estate
Along with a painting I did inspired by the poem;