Although it has been many months
since I had last visited David, having been in the Central
American jungle procuring various items for his clan's ceremonial
needs, he begins our visit with a story. As always, it is
as though he is continuing a conversation that had been left
off moments before. He is speaking about the long-running
dispute between the Navajo and Hopi, over land ownership.
"My father always took me with him when he rode the
reservation, trading sheep with the Navajo", David begins.
"I was a small boy and my father had been converted by
the missionaries, to Christianity. They say he was the first
Hopi to convert. This was around the turn of the century",
he continues, closing his eyes and drifting to that time in
his life. "My father told me that he allowed himself
to be converted so that that the Bahanas (white man) would
leave his family alone, satisfied with a 'token' convert.
In this way the rest of his family could continue to live
in 'the Hopi way'."
"So, we rode the borders of the Hopi land, trading sheep
and preaching that God is Love, and that the Hopi are peaceful
people, only wanting a peaceful coexistence between ourselves
and our Navajo brothers. Oh, the Hopi had much, much land
at that time. From Black Mesa to the San Francisco Peaks,
where our katsinas lived during the winter…all the way
to the Grand Canyon, and to where Snowflake, Arizona is today.
All that was Hopi land", David continues, as though he
were there and now was then.
"Wherever there was a wash or a spring, a Hopi farmer
had peach orchards…small, sweet white peaches, and melons,
and blue corn and beans." David licks his lips, his eyes
still half closed, tasting those peaches. "We always
David pauses now, dwelling on a picture in his mind, remembering
something, and continues, "The Navajo always came to
visit us in winter. My father said to always welcome strangers
at our door, even our enemies. Bring them inside, warm them,
feed them, let them rest. When they go away, send them away
with corn meal; give them a summer melon, a leg of mutton.
This is the Hopi way. To be Hopi is to be in peace. We know
no other way of life."
"Then one year a Navajo family came to us and asked
if they could make a summer camp by a spring near us",
David continues. We said "Sure; since no one is using
that place right now. So they did, and they stayed all summer.
We were friends. Our children played together. They brought
us some of their corn that fall. We gave them some of our
peaches. They did not go away that winter. It was a very cold
winter, I remember. When that family came to our house and
they were hungry, we gave them mutton, a squash, some parched
corn." David is there, ninety years ago, speaking as
though this happened last week.
"Spring came that year," continues David, "and
some relatives of these Navajos came to visit them. They said
it was good here and decided to stay. But, they never asked
our permission. We thought to ourselves: 'There is much land
here. We do not own this land. It is here to be used. We are
a peaceful people. We can share a little with our Navajo brother.'
I remember this because it was then that many Navajo people
came to use our land. It was then that we began to lose our