Yesterday my brother was in town visiting and we went to the Heard Museum, which houses one of the most outstanding collections of American Indian artwork, as well as many informational cultural exhibits. We took the guided tours which were great. I would recommend them to anyone.
A couple of the exhibits made a very strong impression. First of all, for sheer visual beauty, the jewelry was exquisite. I walked past display after display thinking, if I had a lot of money, well, soon I might not.
The boarding school area was quite profound, seeing and hearing about how beginning in 1840, young children were taken from their families and shipped off to boarding school, to become “civilized”. Their hair was cut, their language forbidden, and they were often not permitted to see their families again for years. It was a cultural Holocaust that went on for over 100 years.
The people I come from went through a Holocaust too. My parents assimilated into the larger society as best they could, bringing up my generation with as little connection as possible to the culture, land or language of our ancestors.
The exhibits and stories about the different tribes and their ways of life were especially interesting. Particularly the Hopis, as I’ve been an honorary Hopi Indian since I was 7, when my parents took us to the Grand Canyon for vacation.
We stayed at the Red Apple Rest, and every night, on a stage outside our hotel, the Hopi Indians danced. They always asked for volunteers from the audience. It was mostly kids who volunteered and went up on stage. Then they would get to put on the Chief’s feathered headdress and dance around in a circle with a rattle in one hand and the other hand tapping over their mouth as they went woo woo woo woo.
One of the Indian dancers performed a hoop dance. I was mesmerized. When the next call came for volunteers, I raised my hand and went up on the stage. The dancer offered me the rattle and I said “No, I want to do a hoop dance.”
So they handed me some hoops and beat the drums while I danced around and made up my own slick seven-year-old moves, pulling myself in and out and around the hoops. When I was done, the Chief told me I was the first volunteer they had ever had who had done the hoop dance. He then shook my hand and said “You are now an Honorary Hopi Indian.”
I don’t have a lot of memories from being a kid, but that was definitely one of the ones that stuck with me.
A few years ago, I bought myself some Hopi earrings. Whenever I put them on, it feels good. Yeah:) My tribe:)