Sunday, October 16, 2011

fair day

i got to austin's rope zone around 6:40 a.m.  it was dark still.  a few cowboys were already at the rodeo grounds having spent the night in their horse trailers.  no one stirred.  i started the installations on the outhouses using my car headlights and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises i'd seen in a while.

one of the first people to come stumbling out of his trailer was fred.  he said he was from idaho and was contracted to be the announcer for the rodeo.  he ambled on into the outhouse.  when he came out he said "...where else would you find a black guy applying wallpaper to the outside of an outhouse at 7 in the morning at a rodeo on an indian reservation?  only in america."  i liked fred.

austin and his crew arrived about 8 a.m.  though i've talked to him several times about pasting the announcer's stand, i hadn't seen him since this time last year.

step + sam on the outhouses.  i didn't stick around long enough to notice whether people picked up the male + female outhouse options.  i guess in the end, it didn't really matter.

everybody loves a parade

one of the highlights for me at the tuba city fair parade is the navajo nation marching band.  i love them.  i'm not sure what year they were formed.  (i'll google it later.  actually, i just googled it and couldn't find the answer.  more on this later.)   the thing that strikes me about them is that it feels like a real community - there's young people and older people making music representing the navajo nation together.  i love their "uniforms" and their passion for what they do.  

this year i finally talked a bit with one of the majorettes as she was warming up.  i mentioned that i first started coming to the parade about 20 years ago and that i'd seen her performing with the band in years past.  i told her i was happy she was still out representing.  i think she said her name is laura begay and that this is her 30th year as a majorette.  like fred would ask - where else are you going to find a majorette who's still at it 30 years down the road?  here's to laura begay.  you go girl!

as happens in all dynamic communities, older people pass on what they know to the next generation.  laura said she's been passing her skills on...

it's weird.  i don't know why i get weepy eyed looking at these images from yesterday.  the thing that struck me as i was taking the photos was people making private moments public as they did their make up and got their hair together.  looking at the photos now, i'm struck by people's sense of pride and their trust to let a total stranger who started the morning wallpapering outhouses come into their lives to capture their private moments.

until next year...

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

western agency! represent!

well, it's that time of year again.  indigenous people's day weekend 2011 has come to a close and next weekend is the western agency fair in tuba city.  between the marching bands, carnaval rides, song + dance competition, the last yeibichee dance of the season and various rodeos, it's going to be big!

my friend, austin mix (who says he's distantly related to the legendary cowpoke, tom mix), has a roping arena he calls "the roping zone."  i got work up there last year in time for the tuba city fair.  however, he told me that he really wanted a picture of a roper on the announcer's stand since his area is just a roping area.   one of my co-workers (marilyn jordan) asked her 15 year old cowboy son (craigen, junior), if he'd been into getting his picture on the stand.  fortunately, he was.

thanks cj.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

the people speak

i asked several friends what their feelings are about the sacred mountain slated to receive artificial snow made from reclaimed waste water.  with the help of raechel running, stephanie jackson and rey cantil, their words were written or painted onto their faces and the final images were wheat pasted.

                                                collage photo by john running    

activist klee benally (lead singer + guitarist of the punk band, blackfire), and his wife said "what we do to the mountain, we do to ourselves."

northern arizona university climate change solutions grad student, stephanie jackson said "i am the change."  she identified the things she'd like to change "...industrialization, pollution, drought."  she went on to identify "earth, air, water, fake snow, co2" as areas of concern.

sam minkler - navajo traditionalist, nau professor (and former member of the techno-traditional 90s band, lunar drive), said "...faces are sacred; faces are beautiful.  we walk on the face of the earth.  the peaks are a beautiful and sacred place that need to be protected."  borrowing from a traditional, navajo prayer, he concluded by saying " beauty i walk."

local flagstaff resident, john running asked of his neighbors to "...consider the san francisco peaks are sacred to natives + nonnatives."


flagstaff born, chiapas, mexico based photographer + artist, raechel running is telling y'all to keep it real - the snow + everything else.

navajo dude passing by who swore shonto is black and not navajo.

navajo painter, shonto begay spoke from the perspective of the san francisco peaks.  his full comment was:

"long after you're gone, i'll be here.
i am earth, i am fire,
 i am air, i am forever.
the peaks, respect."

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saving the peaks; the people speak (2)

in flagstaff, az there is an effort on the part of the navajo and hopi tribes to not use reclaimed waste water on a local ski resort, the snowbowl.   thirteen surrounding tribes hold the san francisco peaks, where the ski area is to be, a sacred mountain.  the tribes believe that deities within their respective comoslogies reside there.  to use reclaimed waste water is considered a desecration in a place where indigenous people go regularly to pray, collect herbs and to be in the presence of the holy ones.

protests have been ongoing since clear cutting the alpine forest began in may of this year.  they've occurred primarily at the mountain.  of late, artists have begun creating work around this issue.  two young navajo artists were recently arrested in downtown flagstaff for doing a series of thoughtful installations.  they made an alter from corn stalks and wrote incantations to protect the san francisco peaks in mud on the sides of buildings and on the sidewalk.

all photos by the artist

flagstaff writer and nurturing spirit, liz moser composed an ode in response to the arrests...

two young diné wrote mud love letters to the mountain on flagstaff sidewalks and walls.
they set up corn stalk altars, pale green corn rising up from dark earth.
a cop caught the artists with a bucket of mud and arrested them for criminal damage.

the two worlds pull further and further apart.  
water, earth and corn are not parts of a living circle.
     water, earth and corn are not parts of a living circle.
they are criminal damage bearing witness is disorderly conduct.
mountain love is a misdemeanor.

the two worlds pull further and further apart. 
we are still free to choose where we will stand.
the alternative is annihilation.

meanwhile, in this age of dwindling water resources, many ski resorts use a mixture of reclaimed waste water and potable water to make artificial snow.  reclaimed water is commonly used on golf courses as well.  the snowbowl is slated to be the only resort in the world to use 100% reclaimed waste water to make snow.  as construction continues, a lawsuit centering on the human health effects of using reclaimed waste water to make artificial snow is currently under appeal in the 9th circuit court in san francisco.  this same court has ruled previously in favor of snowbowl.  local activist groups will make one final oral argument before a final decision is made by the end of this month.  hence, time is of the essence.

for the city of flagstaff and local businesses, the issue is commerce.  for local tribes and the mountain's nonnative supporters, the issue is the protection of sacred sites.  it's become a contentious issue that's divided the town.  

flagstaff is a college town and is 2 hours away from phoenix, the 5th largest metropolis in the u.s.  phoenicians, college students and some flagstaff locals frequent the ski resort.  the city government predicts that the city will make millions of dollars each winter from having predictable and consistent snow while not acknowledging the contribution to commerce made by surrounding indigenous tribes.  it's been long predicted by edward abbey and others that future conflicts in the southwest will be over water + water rights.  the battle has begun. 

for more information in the fight to not ski the pee, check:

there's a plethora of great bumper stickers addressing this issue as well.  my favorite besides "don't ski the pee" is "flagstaff's snowbowl - serving effluent to the affluent."

more to come...