I am truly humbled.
We arrived in Gallup, New Mexico to pick up our van and quickly learned about time. As a people, Americans are always running from place to place. We seem to try to pack as much into our days as possible, privileging quantity over quality, while simultaneously complaining about not having enough time to do what we want or spend with the ones we love. On the other side of this spectrum are Natives, which are equally hard working and purposeful, but they operate on their own time schedule (this actually works really well for us as traveling on the bus with 12 people is hard to stay precisely on schedule).
We were not even to the reservation… Already we are taught about hope in times of despair, we are taught about privilege, and about luxury. I am traveling the country on a million dollar bus, meanwhile the people of the Navajo Nation are limited to one-room homes called Hogan and they are lucky to have those. They have been removed from their fertile lands and yet they are able to grow an array of vegetables from lands that look barren. Meanwhile, we chased the ghosts of sheep across the desert only to find their souls waiting for us back at the ranch.
I sat in a Hogan that has been used as a church for the local Navajo. They are Christian. I prayed with them several times during this day and each prayer seemed to summon the Holy Spirit. I heard the stories of tragedy, of alcoholism, of losing land, losing family members, of a general lack of services that I take for granted… Every prayer either begins or ends with a blessing for us on our journey. Some of the prayers are focused solely on us.
As we travel across the reservation we visit the capitol, Window Rock. While there, we visit the Presidential Offices and are offered a private tour of the facilities. As we sit in the Vice Presidents office, I am hit with story after story that makes being an American a difficult pill to swallow. Our history is not what we learn in grade school. I am not sure why we are willing to accept the watered-down version of history.
Do the publishers of the texts think that we, as a people, cannot handle the truth? Does our government think the same? I am not certain that ignorance is bliss. I think if we are to grow as a people, as well as a nation, we must take a hard look within… We are not a nation built on all of the right decisions. We are not righteous. We have failed, and I am certain that we will continue to along the way. I think the important part is how we deal with failure. In my own life, I have been taught to deal with the consequences of my actions. I think we may have lost sight of that idea.
Regardless of the information and stories that we learned in school, the Navajo are a passionate people. They displayed perhaps the greatest amount of hope that we have encountered. They welcomed us with open arms as their ancestors did years ago. I only hope that we left them with a better ending.