From the roof, I looked upon the multicolored ancestors in beads and feathers dancing at Second Mesa. The lone street which divided the houses of the ancient village were packed with humanity. Adults watched, children laughed, Kachinas danced. An elder approached, he’d seen me around, knew about our high school student exchange. “Usually, I’m down there dancing. But I wasn’t for my kids. I was drunk. I’m here now. For my grandkids and my community.” His words wrapped themselves around me. I, a virtual stranger, had been given the gift of his story. We stood in silence and looked out at the snowcapped San Francisco Peaks, seventy miles away. A raven sailed over the desert floor. The drumbeats and chants thrummed in my chest. The humanity and geography brought wonder and joy beyond expression. I knew I never wanted to forget.
I attended this dance 25 years ago on the Hopi reservation in Northern Arizona. Taking photographs at the dance was not allowed.
Northern Arizona, home to the Hopi and Diné (Navajo) peoples, is a magical place for me. I’ve been fortunate to visit often, and make friends there who have visited me as well. These pictures attempt to capture a small bit of the beauty and immensity of the landscapes. Visit Wupatki and Canyon de Chelly National Monuments to understand that there were amazing civilizations on this continent long before European incursion.
Spending time in that area and on the reservations has been a gift. There have been physical gifts as well. I helped a young Hopi man study for a math test and he gave me blue corn kernels from his family’s crop. A Diné student came to my house and brought me a bracelet from a high school jewelry class.
I cherish them and have not forgotten.