Thursday, January 31, 2013

Red Paint Powwow, Part 5: Gaan Dancers

Gaan dancers from Mescalero. Alamogordo, New Mexico. Credit: John Bear

The Red Paint Powwow is an annual event in Silver City, New Mexico, hosted by the Chiricahua Apache. I attended the powwow on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

It's probably irreverent to say this, but I'll say it anyway - the Apache Gaan dancers are the coolest-looking.

Also known as Ga'an dancers, Crown dancers, or Mountain Spirit dancers, all of their dances are considered sacred.

Gaan dancers. Credit: SFMOMA

Amendment: I get the impression that in some venues, they modify their song and movements so as not to compromise the dancers'  responsibility to protect the sanctity of the Gaan rite.

The story

An excerpt from Native Peoples of the Southwest, Trudy Griffin Pierce, University of New Mexico Press, 2000, ISBN: 0-8263-1907-6:
"One of the most important holy beings for Apaches is White-Painted Woman, also known as Changing Woman or White Shell Woman. Her sons, Killer of Enemies and Child Born of Water, triumphed over the evils of the world personified as monsters, making the world safe for humans. The Mountain Spirits ensure the well-being of the people by protecting them from epidemic diseases and enemies. The Mountain Spirit Dancers or Crown Dancers "become" these sacred beings in the same way that the Hopi who dance specific katsinam become those katsina spirits. ... Their heads crowned with wooden slat headdresses, four Mountain Spirit Dancers and a clown wield their wooden swords as they dance around the fire. The bull-roarer, which is whirled on a length of string to produce a distinctive, resonating sound, drums, and singing accompany their dancing among the Western Apache. The bull-roarer is not used among the Eastern Apache."

Not mentioned above is the vocal sound made by some of the dancers at different intervals - to me, it sounds similar to, but not exactly, like a western screech owl

In the video below, from an Arizona event, you can hear both the bird (?) call and the so-called "bull-roarer." You'll hear the bird vocalization while the dancers first come out. You'll hear the start of the bull-roarer at :51.

The dancer with the bull-roarer is The Clown. From Native American Culture: About Apache Dances, an excerpt:
"There are five Crown Dancers, including four masked dancers representing the directions of north, south, east, and west. The fifth dancer is the clown, who protects the others by driving away evil spirits with the sound of his humming bull-roarer, a thin piece of wood suspended from a string and swung in a circle."

To fully address the role of the Clown in Navajo, Apache, and indeed, many cultures (though perhaps not specifically referred to as a clown), I'd need to just hand over a book. Or books. Tony Hillerman centers one of his books around clowns in Sacred Clowns.

As to Apache tradition, in this excerpt from The Clown's Way, by Barbara Tedlock:
"The Jicarilla Apache, however, did not see this sunlight world purely good, but as containing disease; the clown that led them out of the dark earth (thought of as perfectly spiritual and holy) was equipped with a “horrible non-human laugh” which scared way the sickness on the earth’s surface. In this origin story we learn a basic curing technique which is still practiced today by clowns in many tribes. Just as these Apache clowns kept smallpox and other epidemics away from the people with their sudden terrifying laugh, the Assiniboine, Plains Cree, and Plains Ojibwa clowns scare disease out of the people. Navajo clowns during their Mud Dance all of a sudden stop dancing and rush up to a sick person and lift him high above their heads, sometimes tossing him into the air.”

I'm wondering if the rodeo clown derives from the Southwestern Indians' use of the clown in their spiritual tradition. After all, the purpose of the rodeo clown is to protect the riders from the bulls or horses, is it not? Huh, this resource implies not, but when I read the full description, it would seem the rodeo clowns share much in common with that of the Indian clown, although without the spiritual dimension.

Gaan dancers, 1887. Credit: First People

The crown

Another excerpt from Native American Culture: About Apache Dances:   
"The dancers decide what symbols to put on their crowns. Symbols often honor forms in nature, and many crowns include the Apache cross to signify the four sacred directions. Some crown headdresses are adorned with eagle feathers, because the eagle is sacred to the Apache. ..."

St. Joseph Apache Mission Church, Mescalero, New Mexico

My understanding is that the crown itself evokes antlers.

I liked how the St. Joseph Apache Mission Church in Mescalero incorporated traditional crown design.  

Noah Nez, the Native Skeptic, offers a thorough overview on Gaan dancers from both a personal and academic perspective. I found several of the sources for my post by visiting his essay.

My experience

The Gaan dancers are dramatic. With their bodies painted white or black, with contrasting color symbols, masked faces, the crown, swords, and the bird call .....whew. Very cool.

The emcee did not instruct the audience to forego photography during the Gaan dance, which he did for the gourd dance. I filmed the dancers as they came into the arena, and the gentleman next to me, a gourd dancer, asked that I not film them. I chose to honor his request, out of respect for him. I had watched as he'd very carefully placed his gourd-dance items into the specially-made wooden box, one at at time, each in a prescribed spot and placement. I saw memorial flyers on the inside of the box lid, honoring two deceased individuals he obviously held in esteem.

I'm looking forward to the summer, when the Mescalero Apaches allow non-Apaches to be guests at part of the girls' puberty rite in Mescalero, and when the Gaan dancers will perform.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January - The Review and Refresh Month

Albeit the 30th, it is still January, that month of fresh starts. 

So I'm looking at this checklist of things that everyone, especially portable folk, needs to review and update regularly:
  1. My resume - checking my online version and print version
  2. File back-ups on my external devices, which in my case, are flash drives. Yes, I have cloud storage that automatically backs up my stuff, but cloud apps get compromised. And if it's not the cloud storage application that fails, it might be my internet access. And my PC. So it's best to also have a tangible back-up.
  3. Password review - which passwords have gone stale and warrant replacement?
  4. Speaking of password storage - yes, there are some good password management apps out there, but again, one must assume working access to the internet or to one's PC to enjoy the benefit. It's a good practice to store my passwords in hard copy, in a secure place, also. Some entries may fall out of date when I replace passwords, but at any given moment, most will still be valid, assuming I'm fairly vigilant about updating the hard copy. Note: When I'm traveling long term, then I'm not going to have a hard copy of all my passwords with me; I'm only going to carry the most critical ones, and protect that short list as rigorously as I do my money.
  5. Access to my data assets in case of emergency or death. Just talked about this recently. Since then, yikes, I haven't yet had my will witnessed and signed, though I've created one. And I have selected a provider that facilitates the access to my data assets in the event of my death.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Red Paint Powwow, Part 4: The Grand Entry

Red Paint Powwow, Silver City, New Mexico

The Red Paint Powwow is an annual event in Silver City, New Mexico, hosted by the Chiricahua Apache. I attended the powwow on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

The Grand Entry is the most exhilarating event at a powwow, yes? All of the colors, the dance, the sounds, the sheer volume of the sensory feast make it so.

With a front-row seat, I had almost too good a view, as I found that my camera couldn't capture the entire person before me - his face and his regalia and his footwork. This turned out to be a benefit, actually, because in having to choose between a performer's face/regalia and his footwork, I often chose the footwork, something that might otherwise have been overlooked due to the competing beauty of the attire.

The Grand Entry video requires a bit of a time investment, so I'll highlight some points along the way.

First, notice that the audience stands during the Grand Entry.

At 1:18: Note that the Color Guard is among the first entrants. First flag? The American flag. Honored members of the Grand Entry? Veterans. Publicly-displayed respect for veterans seems to be a prominent feature in New Mexican communities with a large Indian population.

At 1:46: See the POW-MIA flag? I was startled at first, but then not, to learn that because Indians were prisoners of war at various times and places in the U.S., the significance of the POW-MIA flag goes beyond what most Americans think of when we see this flag. (I wonder if there are Americans of Japanese descent who feel the same.)

At 2:14: The White Eagle Gourd Dance Society members.

At 2:22: The "Chinese Hopi" and Miss Mescalero Apache.  

At 5:39: Appears a woman whose attire is dazzling in the color and intricacy of its beadwork and her footwork - it is such a cliche, but true: Her dance steps are so light, they are like that of a beautiful deer. What she makes appear so effortless in the airiness of her steps must be very tiring.

As  you might expect, the performers fall along a continuum between full body-mind focus into their dance on one end and bored, going (barely) through the motions on the other.

Red Paint Powwow, Silver City, New Mexico

Monday, January 28, 2013

Red Paint Powwow, New Mexico, Part 3: The Gourd Dance

Gourd dancer. Credit: Tyrone Wilson(pictured) and Kevin Anderson (photographer)

The Red Paint Powwow is an annual event in Silver City, New Mexico, hosted by the Chiricahua Apache. I attended the powwow on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

The White Eagle Gourd Society performed the gourd dance on several occasions during the powwow.

Gourd dancers. Credit:

The story behind the gourd dance

The generally-accepted story is this, which I excerpted from The Daily Times (Farmington, NM):

"Legend has it that a Kiowa warrior was trying to find his way back to his village when he heard a melody from the other side of a hill. He went to the top of the hill and peered down, where he saw Red Wolf bouncing up and down on his haunches. The wolf had a fan in his left hand and a rattle in his right. He was singing melodies, and at the end of each song, he raised his rattle to the sky, shook it and let out a howl. At dawn, Red Wolf told the warrior the songs were a gift to the people so they could continue honoring their warriors...."

The Navajo and other groups have adopted the gourd dance from the Kiowa, who are based in Oklahoma.  Here is a lively discussion about the dance's origins and who "owns" the dance. There are a few jibes directed at the Navajo. 

Gourd dancers. Credit: Red Star Intertribal Gourd Dance Society.

Dance attire

The Golden State Gourd Society explains thoroughly about appropriate dress for the gourd dance: 

"... If the dancer does not have traditional clothing he should wear dress pants, a plain long sleeve colored dress shirt and moccasins. No cowboy hats, ball caps, boots or tennis shoes should be worn, but dress shoes are acceptable.  Other articles that should be worn are a bandolier made of two strands of mescal and silver beads draped over the left shoulder, crossing the heart and bound together at the right hip.  A sash, usually made of velvet with beaded trim on the ends, should be around the waist and tied at the right hip.  A red and blue blanket should be draped over the shoulders or worn over the right shoulder and held together over the arms at the left hip.  ... Gourds used today are natural gourds, German silver, milk cans, salt and pepper shakers or baking powder cans, which are painted for decoration.  The handles are usually decorated with beads and rolled fringe, with horse hair and assorted feathers adorning the tip.  A fan is carried in the opposite hand.  ...."

At the Red Paint Powwow, the emcee explained that veterans could wear veterans' caps or berets while they participated in the gourd dance, but otherwise dancers could not wear modern-day hats.

Choctaw gourd dancers, James family, Oklahoma. Credit: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

From article, For Tribe and Country, three generations deep in tradition: "'It’s very spiritual,'” says Michael [James]. “'Like a prayer in movement, the positive vibration, the drumming. It’s like singing a hymn in church. I feel a connection to earth and sky, like it’s all interwoven during the gourd dancing.'”

What the dance is like

The gourd dance and the trance dance of the "whirling dervishes" share characteristics. There is a building-up of sound and beat and rhythm as the participants warm up to the mind-body prayer that is the trance dance or the gourd dance.  

First came drumming, with singing. The gourd dancers at this time remained in the audience. After a time of drumming, I noted that some men in the audience began to shake their hand-held gourd instruments. (A man seated next to me was a gourd dancer.)

Presently, the gourd dancers stood in place and shook their gourds to the drumming and the singers.

With changes to the drumming and singing, the gourd dancers moved into the dance arena, with small steps and gourd shakes. When the drums rose to a crescendo, the dancers froze in place, then moved again when the drumming calmed. 

After awhile, I noticed a few women who moved to the perimeter of the dance arena. They bent their knees in concert with the drum beats.

Again, the Golden State Gourd Society helps out with a fine description:

"The Gourd Dance is a dance of dignity and pride. As the dance begins, the dancers are seated around the arena.  As the starting song is sung, the seated dancers begin to shake their gourds to the beat of the drum, but do not dance to the first song.  As the song ends the dancers give a howl/yell at the end of the song.  As the tempo increases, during the second song, the dancers rise from their chairs.  The dancers step in place or walk in time with the music during the slow beat of the drum, moving freely around the arena. Once the tempo changes, they once again stand in place and dance to the beat of the drum, shaking their gourd. 

"When the song ends, the dancer raises his gourd and shakes it vigorously ending with a howl/yell (honoring the Red Wolf) and waits for the next song to begin.  Songs are usually sung in sets of four (this is left to the discretion of the head singer) and the dancers do not sit down again until the full set of gourd dance songs has ended or they are dismissed.

"Once the gourd dancers start to dance, the women take their places behind the men, dancing in place, in the outer arena.  The women never start dancing before the men and never walk in front of the dancers. ...."

As with similar dances, there are moments of intense interest, moments of boredom and distraction, and moments of flow as one merges into the sound and the movement.  Dances like these take time to sink into one's body and head. 

An idea I find so fascinating is how certain tonalities and rhythms affect our brain. I think of the man who wrote a book about his experiences as an expedition doctor. He began the book with the story of a Tibetan sherpa who had seriously injured his head on a climb. The man's injury was such that it was virtually certain to be fatal. But his companions had come to the medical tent (or they sent monks?) to chant non-stop, day and night, in the man's tent while he lay there, unresponsive. The author was amazed to realize that, over the course of many hours, the man began to recover. Evidently, the qualities of the sound caused healing changes in the man's brain.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

On my way back to Alamogordo from a weekend in Silver City, I had a picnic lunch at the unusual and picturesque City of Rocks State Park.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

My picnic view on a gorgeous day.

While I ate my lunch, some sparrows and one noisily impatient raven hovered close in the hopes of feasting off lunch detritus. As if.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

After lunch, I took a walk.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

.. and then drove up top of a hill, where I could see the City of Rocks from a distance. It's odd to see the community of stones, which loom so large when you're among them, appear so inconsequential from afar.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Grant County, New Mexico: A Revolution in the Middle of Nowhere

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

You're driving down a road. You pass through a small, rather despondent town by the name of Bayard. The only thing of interest that catches your eye is a mural on the side of a long, low building. You turn around, go back. Get out of the car, take the pics, get back in the car and zoom off. Nice artwork.

But when you get home and go through the pics, get ready to post them, you do a little due diligence on the ol' "Local 890" cited in the mural. Maybe there's a little blurb in a local paper about the mural, its artist, and a bit of history of a union group that used to be, and that probably is no more.

You google on "Hurley, NM" and "local 890." Nothing of interest comes up. So you broaden the search to "local 890" and "new mexico." (Update 11Feb2013: Note comment below from Anonymous. I had the town wrong, which explains why nothing much came up in my original search. Doh!

Goddamn. What a story!

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The primary story

Back in the early 1950s, a lot of folks in Grant County worked at the Empire Zinc Mine in Hanover, New Mexico. Americans of Mexican descent were paid less than other Americans working in the mine - there was a two-tiered wage structure to ensure that. Furthermore, regardless of ethnicity, the company didn't pay for the time getting down into or up out of the mine - the clock didn't start until the miners were in place. Mining families living in company housing suffered poor living conditions - no hot water, for example. The company was not responsive to the miners' complaints about any of these issues, and they and the miners reached an impasse.

The miners' union, the Local 890, decided to go on strike. They kept the mine closed for eight months, with neither side budging from their positions. Finally, the company obtained a court injunction forbidding the miners to strike.

In a creative twist, some of the wives of the miners, affiliated with the Ladies' Auxiliary 209, suggested that they form the picket lines instead of the miners. The miners agreed.

The women stood fast against arrests, threats, and intimidation by union scabs, local law, and community members. In one narrative:
"The women’s picket was carefully organized, militant, and successful. Not only did wives of Empire strikers, such as Henrietta Williams and Virginia Chac√≥n, walk the line; many women from other towns in Grant County also participated. When County Sheriff Leslie Goforth ordered 53 women arrested on June 16, another 300 women took their places!"

Furthermore, in response to intimidation:
"Not only did women push cars, drag men out of them, and maintain their lines; they also jumped on cars, threw rocks at strikebreakers, and deployed various “domestic” items as weapons: knitting needles, pins, (rotten) eggs and chili peppers."

So who was back home taking care of the kids and house? The jobless miners, who had eye-opening experiences at home.
"For the next seven months, the women held the line in the face of violence from strikebreakers, mass arrests by the sheriff, and opposition from many of their own husbands, who were suddenly faced with the responsibilities of caring for children, washing clothes, and doing the dishes. In January 1952, the strikers returned to work with a new contract. They had failed to win their major demands, but did obtain significant pay increases that, in effect, undermined the Mexican wage. Several weeks later, Empire Zinc installed hot water plumbing in Mexican American workers’ houses--a major issue pushed by the women of these households."

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The secondary story

Three filmmakers who were members of the Communist Party made a movie about the miners' strike. They were Herbert Biberman (director), Michael Wilson (screenwriter), and Paul Jarrico (producer).

Mr. Wilson wrote or collaborated on screenplays for, among others: Lawrence of Arabia, Planet of the Apes, Bridge Over the River Kwai, It's A Wonderful Life, A Place in the Sun, and Border Patrol. In some, such as Lawrence of Arabia, he was uncredited because he had been blacklisted during (and after) the McCarthy Era.

The movie was Salt of the Earth, and it included experienced actors and individuals who actually participated in the strike. Filmed on site, the movie production was beset with harassing actions by politicos fraught with commie fever.
"On February 24, 1953, as filming proceeded in Grant County, U.S. Representative Donald L. Jackson (Rep-Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), delivered a speech on the floor of Congress that portrayed Salt as a dire threat to the nation. 'This picture,' Jackson charged, 'is deliberately designed to inflame racial hatreds and to depict the United States of America as the enemy of all colored peoples.' 'If this picture is shown in Latin America, Asia, and India,' he warned, 'it will do incalculable harm not only to the United States but to the cause of free people everywhere.' 'In effect,' he concluded, 'this picture is a new weapon for Russia.'”

To harass the making of the movie,

"The Grant County American Legion post distributed printed copies of Jackson’s speech to local residents. Anti-Mine-Mill residents formed a vigilante committee that carried out physical attacks on the film crew and cast. And the day after Jackson’s speech, Rosaura Revueltas [one of the professional actresses] was arrested on immigration charges, based on the technicality that she had failed to get her passport stamped when entering the U.S., and was deported before filming ended. (The last shots of her in the film were done in Mexico and the film had to be smuggled back into the U.S.). Finally, due to collaboration between Jackson, studio executives such as Howard Hughes, the American Legion, as well as the conservative Hollywood technicians’ union--the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)--few Americans saw Salt of the Earth in the year of its release. In 1954, there were 13,000 movie theaters in the U.S. Only thirteen of them showed the film."
In addition, shots were fired nearby and planes buzzed the production in order to interrupt film making.

"Grandpa Walton," Will Geer, played the town sheriff in the movie. Mr. Geer was also on the blacklist for his alleged un-American activities.

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The tertiary stories

Women's rights. Carl R. Weinberg, a historian and the author of this article, which as served as my main resource on the Local 890 strike, proposes that the women's role in this strike was one of a series of events that informed the modern-day women's movement.

Communism as scapegoat. The socio-political environment in which the strike and movie occurred used communism as a handy shield to maintain the status quo for the mining company and its employees.

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico. 

So here's to the mural artist(s) in little Bayard, New Mexico, whose work compelled me to pause for a moment on my way home from Silver City. And to the people of the Local 890 and the 209, whose story is still so moving, more than 50 years later. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hurley, New Mexico: Cemetery

Hurley Cemetery, Hurley, New Mexico.
Hurley Cemetery, Hurley, New Mexico.

Hurley Cemetery, Hurley, New Mexico.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the Road: In For the Night

Silver City, New Mexico. In for the night.

UPDATE: Chimps in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Credit: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine


Back here, I related the history of chimpanzees in Alamogordo.

A new life for the Alamogordo chimps!

Today brings important news for the 169 remaining chimps at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on Holloman Air Force Base.

In short --> some? most? all? -- of these chimps will be retired to Chimp Haven in Louisiana.

Here is the final report from the Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research. There is a comment period before their recommendations can be finalized, but it would seem public opinion is in favor of retiring the chimps.

What a happy ending to a dismal history.  Kudos to Chimp Haven.

But what about ....? 

While I was researching the history of the Alamogordo chimps, I was dismayed to learn that Americans can breed and sell chimps as pets.


Setting aside the horror stories of the dangers of adolescent and adult chimps, how does one rationalize taking a baby chimp from its mother?

A baby chimp that has been taken from its mother suffers effects similar to that of a human infant being stolen from its mother.

Baby Chimpanzee For Sale


Very tamed, veterinary checked diaper and crate trained, this chimpanzee baby is ready for a loving homes . She is home raised and always around kids. She is a playmate for kids and adults and gets along with other pets. She is going to come with all papers, toys, sample foods and a very large crate . If interested and ready to give this girl the kind of home we are looking for, get back to us for more information with your name and mobile number to ease communication...

$800, Cute Female baby Chimpanzee for sale

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:04 AM

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Fast Facts
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Red Paint Powwow, New Mexico, Part 2: The Chinese Hopi

Miao girls, China.
Miao girls, China. Source: The source is no longer a safe URL; removed from this post.

The Red Paint Powwow is an annual event in Silver City, New Mexico, hosted by the Chiricahua Apache. I attended the powwow on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

I saw many styles of attire at the Red Paint Powwow. But one woman's regalia drew my attention because she was dressed like no one else. I picked through my mental file cabinet. Result:

 "No file found." 

I was eager for this mystery to be solved as the day unfolded.

In the afternoon, the emcee, Otis Half Moon, called up various powwow dignitaries for recognition in front of the dais. Among them were the "royalty."

Two young women came forward. One was a teen from Tularosa, Miss Mescalero Apache, I believe. She gave a sweet talk about what she wants to accomplish during her reign. 

The other young woman was the person whose attire I didn't recognize. She explained that she was a member of a minority tribe in China, and that when she came to the U.S., she was homesick. Her husband somehow connected her to a Hopi community and she felt an immediate kinship: "I saw my brothers and sisters!" And she felt she'd found a home with the Hopi.

Obviously, her American Hopi brothers and sisters feel the same, as she was an honored guest at the powwow. 

It was very moving.

Miao woman, China. Credit: Bowers Museum.

By the way, the Hopi apparently have their own version of Revelations in which Elder Brother (as represented by China, India, Africa, and Islamic nations) will rejoin with Younger Brother (the Hopi) after the United States (except for Hopi lands) is destroyed by atomic bombs and radioactivity.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Red Paint Powwow, New Mexico, Part 1: Golden Eagle

Golden eagle, Red Paint Powwow, Silver City, New Mexico

The Red Paint Powwow is an annual event in Silver City, New Mexico, hosted by the Chiricahua Apache. I attended the powwow on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

There was a golden eagle at the powwow

The golden eagle plays a sacred role in the traditional Apache belief system (in addition to Hopi, Navajo, and other groups).

James Rodgers, a falconer, brought his golden eagle to the powwow at the invitation of the powwow organizers. Mr. Rodgers explained to me and a little group surrounding him that many Apache have never seen a golden eagle up close like this. A number of the Indians, he said, come to see the golden eagle with corn pollen in their hands, which they sprinkle on the eagle's feet and back as a blessing. I later saw one of the powwow leaders do exactly that.

Side bar on corn pollen

Corn pollen. Credit: Colorado College

Here is a nice explanation of the importance of corn pollen in Navajo spiritual life. Apache people also have a reverence for corn pollen. (Indeed, Apache and Navajo are related.) If I understand correctly, the "corn pollen way" is the same as "the beauty way."

Below is a song called Corn Pollen Road by Louie Gonnie (who was featured in the documentary, Sun Kissed, that I talked about a couple of weeks ago).

(However, note that although the song is called the Corn Pollen Road, there is a school of faith called the Corn Pollen Way that is different from the school of faith called the Native American Church, and Mr. Gonnie is a member of the latter. Be that as it may, corn pollen has a place in both the cultural/spiritual and religious denomination/spiritual realms. Note also that I only barely have a grasp on any of this.)

Who can own a living golden eagle?

A woman asked Mr. Rodgers if he had a license to own the eagle, and he assured her that not only did he have a license, it was in his pocket.  And he told the story of how he came to own this golden eagle.

Golden eagle ownership in the U.S. is governed by federal law

Per Mr. Rodgers, a falconer can obtain a license to own a golden eagle through the depredation program. As I understand it - and I am discouraged that I can't find a clearly laid-out explanation of same online - if a rancher, for example, makes, through repeated complaints, a successful claim to the feds that his/her livestock is being depredated by a golden eagle, then a falconer on a waiting list can gain access to the offending bird. But only if it is an adolescent - can't be a mature adult; can't be younger than a certain age. Also, the falconer must trap the bird him/herself, and only when accompanied by a federal agent.

Mr. Rodgers reported that it took a week for him to trap his golden eagle.

Who can own parts of a golden eagle?

"It is illegal for any individual to possess a bald or golden eagle, including its parts (feathers, feet, etc)." Source: National Eagle Repository.

But there is the National Eagle Repository, which distributes eagle parts (not kidding) of found-dead eagles to "qualified Native Americans for use in religious Indian ceremonies."

 "Qualified" is important. You cannot grant yourself legal identity as a "Native American" just because you say so. You need to prove it in accordance with federal or tribal regulations.

The powwow emcee was very careful to state that many of the feathers worn by the powwow participants had been handed down through the generations.

What about the Hopis? 

I see conflicting information on the web about Hopis being able to collect live golden eagles and sacrificing them as part of a religious act or using any of their parts (i.e. feathers).

But I'm not confused about the fact that one can't "take" a golden eagle just because one is Hopi. A Hopi must have a permit to do so.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Overnight Checklist

When I've got my shit together, here's what I do the night before an overnight road trip:
  1. Gas up the car
  2. Charge the camera batteries. (Note batteries, not battery. See here.) 
  3. Charge the phone. 
  4. Charge the mp3 player. 
  5. Print off or write down directions. **
  6. Print off or write down lodging information: phone number, reservation number if any. **
  7. Re-check the weather to make sure I pack the appropriate clothing.
  8. Set the alarm. Set two if it's important to get up super early. 
  9. I decide if I'm going to have a meal on the road, figure out what I'll have, and put it in/take it out of the freezer or prepare it .. .and pull out the desired cooler or other carrying case.
  10. Get my toiletry bag out so I can load it up the next morning. 

Road to Tucumcari from Las Vegas, New Mexico

**I don't have any GPS tools and I don't have a smart phone. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Mexico Movies: The Bombs

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Base, near Alamogordo, New Mexico

New Mexico served as ground zero for the beginning of the American atomic age. 

I watched a couple of movies about this history. Each is engaging and informative in different ways. It's worthwhile to watch both. 

In general, the movies did a good job of laying out the history of the bombs without editorializing. The filmmakers let the key players tell their own stories, so the viewers could draw their own conclusions without an interpretative middle man. The filmmakers respected their audience enough to let them come to their own conclusions about the justification for Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and the use of islands in the Pacific for so much testing through the years).

I found Edward Teller, so-called "father of the hydrogen bomb," and who appeared in both documentaries, to be rather chilling in his testimony.

Of course, there was a deliberate choice by the Trinity and Beyond filmmakers to screen a relentless repetition of unfurling mushroom clouds, which can't help but have the same disturbing effect as watching those constant rewinds of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers or the horrendous replay of Hurricane Katrina images. In my opinion, this movie is not suitable for children younger than 14.

Trinity & Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie. I didn't know that the U.S. and Russia had conducted so many atomic bomb tests - underground, above ground - low, above ground - high, above water, below water, and in space. (The U.S. alone conducted 331 atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, or ~ 19.5 per year.) Seeing so many mushroom clouds - their malevolent beauty - letting sink in the arrogance of government entities, no matter with how much patriotic fervor they rationalized their actions, to release such malignant forces into our world, was disturbing and depressing. Notwithstanding the subject matter, the movie displayed excellent production values and appropriate music. Was too intense for me to watch in one sitting; had to view it in small doses.

The Manhattan Project (The History Channel). The filmmakers were good storytellers, maintaining a linear narrative while balancing effectively the science, politics, contemporary events, character studies, firsthand accounts, and historians' accounts. Of the two movies, this one did a better job of explaining how the bombs worked. When I say "better,"  I mean easier to understand.

Fat Man. Photo from: Wikipedia and John Coster-Mullen



Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Rootlessness and Death

Cemetery, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A recent article in the New York Times reminded me I need to take care of some business.

Getting your shit together 

The article is A Shocking Death, A Financial Lesson, and Help for Others, which introduced readers to the article subject's website: Get Your Shit Together. As in, start getting your affairs in order now so you or your loved ones don't have a mess to deal with later.  The information that the author, Chanel Reynolds, shares is very basic, but it is a good starting point.    

Cemetery, Istanbul

That includes your online life ... and death

Back here, I mentioned some vendors that keep all of your passwords (and access to online "assets" in general) in one place and pairs that with instructions from you to share the passwords with designated beneficiaries upon your death or incapacitation.  That is a service I want, but have I followed up on this? No, I have not.

Cemetery, Mtatsminda, Tbilisi, Georgia

The Digital Beyond is "... a blog about your digital existence and what happens to it after your death. We’re the go-to source for archival, cultural, legal and technical insights to help you predict and plan for the future of your online content." This site lists and compares "digital death and afterlife online services" here.

What I do have in place ... 

Advance directive - appropriately signed and notarized, with originals distributed to appropriate people. (The link goes to a place where you can download your state's advance directive forms.) Done.

All of my financial accounts have designated beneficiaries. When I say designated, that doesn't mean I wrote a list of my accounts and entered a name beside each entry on a piece of paper and that was the end of it. No, it means the financial institutions have this information and will automatically transfer ownership of said funds to the designated beneficiary upon proof of my death. You don't need a will to make this happen and, in fact, if you do have a will, the designated beneficiaries on your financial accounts will supersede any conflicting direction you may have in your will. (You know that nightmare situation where a guy made his 2nd wife the beneficiary of everything in his will, but he didn't take his 1st wife's name off of the financial accounts as beneficiary? You got it - the 1st wife wins the jackpot.) Done.

Cemetery, Missouri

 What I don't have ... because I don't need it

Life insurance. I have no mate, minor children, business partnerships, or debt. I have enough money to pay the expenses related to the disposition of my remains.  I don't feel the need to create a legacy via life insurance. So I don't need life insurance.

Cemetery, Armenia

The will

Alllaw has a nice list of DIY resources on wills. For my simple situation, I felt comfortable copying and adapting the Basic Will Form at the bottom of the Alllaw's page. Here's another guide to get someone started on doing up a will - with or without help.

I don't have this in the Done section yet because I'm just now completing it.

I'm not entirely convinced one is necessary for me, but it's easy to make a will (for someone, like me, with an uncomplicated asset-and-beneficiary life), plus having one will remove even the slightest hesitation about who's in charge of taking care of my stuff when I'm gone. I mean, I don't have much stuff (like that printer I just bought), but I do have some. And somebody's going to have to deal with it.

Cemetery, Lalibela, Ethiopia