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A WRITER'S WALK

TO DRINK FROM THE SILVER CUP

THE TIE THAT BINDS

If you are raised on the Bible, you don’t just walk away, whatever anybody says.
~Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal



Just being in Gallup brings back so many memories like this one.
EXCERPT FROM Chapter 11 of To Drink from the Silver Cup:

There is a place in New Mexico where enormous red rock formations are shaped like great, splendorous rolling waves. After rain, the rocks are the deep maroon of a Cabernet. In the evening sun, they glow the gold of amber. On a winter day, they are flat pink, sometimes topped by snow. At the base of the rocks are salmon-colored sand dunes. It is across from these high desert waves that Rehoboth Mission lies. The Navajo name for Rehoboth is Tse Yaniichii’, meaning Where the Red Rocks End. In the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, these imposing rocks were separated from the mission compound only by Read More 
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TO DRINK FROM THE SILVER CUP


This piece first appeared in The Gallup Independent on August 13, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

NEEDING HOME



Nelson Willy (not his real name) became a convert to Christianity while my father was a missionary in the Navajo Nation. After becoming a church member, Mr. Willy lived as a Christian for more than fifty years. Not long after he passed away, I had a conversation with Nelson Willy’s nephew. Robert told me, “Near the end of his life, Nelson started singing the old songs again.” He meant traditional Diné songs.

When I was growing up, Protestant mission churches had a definite policy that Navajo ways and Christianity could not mix. I don’t see that embracing Navajo traditions needs to be incompatible with being a Christian, and that rule is even changing in the church of my youth somewhat. In his case, however, Mr. Willy had gone against Read More 
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TEEC NOS POS CHRISTMASES

The memories I’m about to share are most likely from two or three Christmases—from when I was about six through eight. Sixty years later, they seem to have rolled themselves into one very full Christmas.

When I was six, I attended the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) school on the hill above the mission at Teec Nos Pos. That was where I learned the Christmas song “Up on the Rooftop” with my Navajo classmates. I learned it in Dummitawry English, and that’s still how I sing it to myself around the house these days. “Gib en a dolly dat laffin’ an’ cryin’, One dat openin’ and closin’ his eye.” And so on. My mother tried to correct me when I came home singing it, but her corrections, as with so many attempts to correct my Nava-glish, just sounded wrong. And I was stubborn. After all, I’d learned it in school. Read More 
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