So I woke up in the morning in the only travel station in Tuba City, which was swamped with unseemly people since I drove in the night before, mostly rebellious and randy teenagers, probably sick of their podunk little town. The night before a wild mustang wandered into the city and walked right by the Jeep without a care in the world. Stray dogs were everywhere.
I had quite a few hours to kill so I decided to drive and see the petroglyphs that my Navajo dinosaur guide recommended the day before. I ended up driving a looong way down a road that looked like it was used mainly by horse travel. The Jeep bounced and groaned and I wove my way deeper into a little village I probably shouldn’t have been in. I passed two people and asked for directions but they spoke little English and didn’t seem to know the word petroglyph or why two lost white people would be wandering around which to be fair, is a good question.
Finally I came to the fence with the little opening I had been told was there, watched by two video cameras I’d also been warned about. I walked in, and low and behold there was indeed a rock sitting at the front absolutely covered with intricate little designs. I was taken a bit aback, not expecting that much. And then something odd happened… out of nowhere a man appeared from behind a rock and asked, “Do you have a permit to be here?”
“Well you need a permit to be here…”
“I was told by a Navajo up at the Dinosaur Tracks place we could just see the petroglyphs…”
“Well he was wrong!”
“But… why would he say that?”
“Because he was probably intoxicated!”
“…So who are you?”
“I’m a Hopi. We take care of the land here. The Navajos weren’t protecting it so we took over.”
“…Soooo how do you get a permit?”
“Well, you can pay $150 for two to see the petroglyphs. The fee would be for me as a guide.”
“…Well I don’t have that sooo… guess I’ll be going…”
There was another hiker behind me who came out when I did. He muttered to me, “I guess that was that!” I replied, “mmmhmmm.”
I was confused for awhile about the whole incidence. I wondered why two tribes would be fighting over a set of petroglyphs from a completely different (and extinct) tribe. Later I learned that the Hopi claim to be the desendants of the Anasazi, who I had always thought were wiped out centuries ago by migrating Aztecs. This was a bitter and bloody time period, from before the time of written records. I guess that’s why it’s all still a bit hazy… In any event the Hopi currently hate the Navajo as they are favored by the US government, who have granted then Navijo Nation, a large swath of land they can do whatever they want on. (“Here, have a token piece of land while us white people take the rest. THANKS!”) The Hopi have only recently received any land, and coincidentally it was a little block right in the middle of Navajo territory, surrounded on all sides. I might be a bit cranky too. I’m not sure why the Navajo have gotten away with so much out of our stingy “oops-didn’t-mean-to-do-that” government, but I think it probably has something to do with how they helped greatly in World War II, giving us code talkers (based on the Navajos unwritten language) who the Nazis were never able to decipher.
I left. And continued on to a market to have breakfast, or lunch, o whatever it is I normally eat. Entering the store a smiling middle-aged Navaho man stopped someone ahead of me and asked, “Where you escaping to?!” He was thoroughly confused. “Your shirt looks like a prison outfit.” I couldn’t help but interject. “Ohhhhhhhhh… I don’t know…” I did my shopping and ended up in the cashier line with the same man who smiled cheerfully and said, “You have a good day sir!”
Then when I was out in the parking lot an old man approached and tapped weakly at the window. He wheezed, “Where you headed to?” He needed a ride to Seattle. I weren’t going in that direction anyway. I gave him $3 for a Gatorade so he’d at least be comfortable waiting for another ride. I was on the phone with my mother when another knock at the window came from my side. It was from another Navajo man, grinning like a Cheshire Cat he greeted me with the strangest statement ever, “I LOVE white people! Just wanted you to know that.” I nearly started to laugh wondering where the hell this was going. “I’ve done prayers for the health of some white people before. I gave them arrowheads for their prayers. I wish I could give you two an arrow head I’ve made…” “Awe?” I couldn’t resist saying awe even though I got the vibrant feeling this guy was a flimflam man, possibly the best. He continued his story. “Anyways, I live down on a farm down that way. We grow corn and beans and a bunch of other things but 25% of our crop just got washed away.” (Indeed there were forest fires and flooding washing a great deal away in this vague area.) He went on with his story adding all sorts of useless details, eventually ending with, “And I need to bring my daughter to the hospital. She’s five, has chicken pox, and we don’t have the money for gas…” I gave him three dollars as well and he left, saying, “God bless you! God bless!” I pondered which god that was… and felt $3 was worth the long, rambling, crazy story. I’ve given a few bucks to beggars who have done much less. At least this time I was thoroughly entertained. Surely that must be worth something.
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