The next time I saw Reggi, he mentioned we had not seen each other in a while. But we dove back into our conversation and he began by telling me about he grew up on Hopi reservation in a family of ten children: 5 boys and 5 girls. All the girls are older, and only one is still living. Two of his brothers have also died. Reggi shared that the last sister has recently been helicoptered out of the Pueblo to a hospital in Arizona because her lungs are filled with fluid, which is beyond the kind of care she can receive from the tribe.
Reggie gave me some historical background about his Pueblo to help me understand his culture better and his experience growing up as a child. He spoke about how when the Spaniards came to “civilize” the Native Americans in the 1500’s, they failed to colonize them and that the only thing that was left was an incomplete Church that stands amongst rock and ruble. The reason that the Hopi’s were able to defend themselves was by calling on help from the Tée-wahw (a group of Pueblo people, mostly in the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico north of Santa Fe) who helped them slay the Spaniards. In exchange, the Hopi’s shared their land and the tribes lived nearby one another, while maintaining their own dialects and traditions. However after time, people began interchangeably using both dialects. Today, Reggi recalls listening to conversations where people jump between Hopi (an Uto-Aztecan language) and Tewa (a Tanoan language) mixed in with English.
Reggi also told me about when the new tribes arrived, which he described as having been seen standing in the horizon and appearing out of nowhere. He mentions that no one knew where they came from, because the Navajo’s and Camanche’s were nomads. Looking around him to make sure no other Native Americans were around to hear him (because he explains different tribes have different perspectives on some of the history) he tells me how the newcomers began stealing from their harvest and so the Hopi burned all the Camanches in a cave, where you can still smell the burn today.
After hearing his story about colonization and the theft of his land, I ask him whether he was converted to Catholicism and he responded that it is not possible to reform when there are prior beliefs. He said many invited him to service and tried to convince him, but it was futile. As a child he was sent to boarding school (which was much like military camp) and instead of going to service, Reggie gleefully recalls how him and his boys would find a nearby cafe and have coffee and snacks.
Prodding the question further, I ask Reggie what kind of faith or religion he may of had growing up in the Pueblo. Reggie points out I am asking that from a Anglo perspective. He continues to share that Native American’s carry out traditions that involve ritual. He said all those rituals are secret, but that the basics could be shared. Reggie continues to tell me how he was part of the bi-annual Snake Dance. He himself was part of the antelope group that would perform before the Snake group. Weeks before they would prepare by going into the Kivas, to then only perform it in the Pueblo for one day. The antelope group would use corn roots as symbolism for the antelope and the snake dancers would bring live snakes they collected, placing them in the center of the circle and the performance would unravel from there.
We returned to the topic of immigration, where Reggi mentions the State of Hawaii as an example (which is where one of his daughter lives) where he tells me how infested the island is by Asians and how the same could happen here. “We are already paying so much for illegals,” Reggie says, “we might as well put that money towards a wall if it helps make it harder for them to come.” Reggie clarifies it is not that I am against different people, just that my tax money goes to pay for their benefit (when I work so hard for it) and then there is also the issue that there are others at home who need so much help.
Ashamed of my ignorance I ask if Native Americans can vote as sovereign nations, and he tells me yes and that he votes every election. I ask permission to find out for whom he voted, and Reggi says, “he may get his butt beat by telling me,” and then confirms his vote was for Trump. He asks me the same question and I nod yes saying, “I voted for Hilary.” At this point we came to the end of the two-mile loop and agreed we would pick up on our conversation the next time we would meet.