December 2006

Mixing oil and water

By Art Goodtimes

FORCED REMOVAL … It had been four days of conferencing, talking about oil and water, both the physical reality of those two fluids, and the larger metaphor of native and non-native, science and the sacred, of how Western thought and Native American thinking may mix, can mix, or don’t mix at all. Tribal elders spoke of a world in which all action takes place in a spirit context. And these were not just traditionals, but a Navajo astronomer, a Tigua physicist, a Laguna architect … Westerners talked politics, environmental activism, and the need to protect water from our generation’s addiction to oil … There was also the eating and mingling – allowing people from many different traditions to heal wounds made before our births … Santa Fe’s La Fonda Inn, doorstep on the plaza, provided an elegant and historic backdrop to this Lava Lamp sea change of perspectives … So, with Halloween Eve fast approaching, worrying about how I’m going to emcee the Oil and Water Conference costume party, I watch Dennis Martinez of the Indigenous Peoples Restoration Network give a powerful talk about the need to accept Native American practices in public land management. Which prompts a grade-school teacher from the Ute Rez up at Fort Duchesne, Utah, to start speaking. Not with anger, but a determined insistence to give witness. … Loya Arrum told about the forced removal of three Ute bands to Utah — the Uncompahgre (Tabeguache), White River (Yamparika) and Grand River (Parianuche). How her people were uprooted and forced to live on a consolidated reservation with the Uintah Basin Utes …That memory still burned like a candle on the Arrum family altar – being forced at gunpoint


Beyond Grief

Globes of rust-red
Cañoncito crabapple
spill over the fenceline.

I see flaming apparitions
of gambel oak leaves
as they were in the early fall.

We can leap boundaries.
Discover wormholes
that ate our ancestors.

Or what our ancestors ate.
What tied them to place.
Wove their baskets of grief.

A hard frost has browned us.
Twisted & curled bodies
into grotesque shapes:

roadside explosive devices,
depleted uranium,
Twin Towers

lifted out of the earth
to be blown away.
And Liberty with it.

Gangs paint graffiti on gates
we maintain with the barbed
of what we claim by right. By

Arrogant in our ownership.
Though the ancient juniper,
the willows encroach.

Though mullein & thistle
& asparagus thrive
along the edges.

Our roads lead
to our very own end.
We pave over even graves.

Widen asphalt
until we can’t hear children
over the freeways.

Stuck with just
the noise of our passage.
Still we can come back to spirit.

Get out of our auto
mobiles & learn to make
music together.

Spark fire & feasts
to feed the holy
land we belong to.

The sacred we were
trained foolishly
to profane.

away from one’s tribal, ancestral home. It’s one thing to make treaties between sovereign nations and another to arrest without provocation and escort into exile. “It’s not over,” Loya explained. … She also spoke of the 400 Utes who fled to South Dakota following what Mormon historians call the “Ute Outbreak of 1906-08.” Loya has been involved in going out to the high plains and finding Ute burial sites and information on the Nooch upstarts who fled Utah … As an Anglo who’s living on the land that her people once called home, I couldn’t help but be moved by her words … The five-day conference, organized by the Seed Graduate Institute of Santa Fe, touched many issues, from Alan Savory’s Holistic Management decision-making process to Hazel Henderson’s video simulcast to Santa Fe, talking about sustainability and ancient wisdom; from Bohemian dialogues with Miljenko Juricic of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in British Columbia and Peter Warshall of Whole Earth Catalog fame to lectures by Chellis Glendinning on our addiction to Western Civilization and Estaven Arrellano on the history of acequias to ceremony with Lloyd Pinkham, Nancy Maryboy, Leon Secatero, and Pat McCabe … Yes, there can be a connection between spirit and science, oil and water, the indigenous mind of place and this dazzling technolithic wonder of an age-on-the-brink … I needn’t have worried. The Halloween party was a hit. Cypriano y Familia played a great first set, getting many of the costumers up and dancing. But it was Vicente Griego and his guitarist and Flamenco dancer that took our breaths away. I have seen old men bring the duende alive with their voices, beautiful women with their bodies, and Vicente sang from deep within that tradition, alternating between blood and chocolate, melting every emotion into the pure flow of duende. … And then, as can only happen in Santa Fe, a visiting delegation of shamans from the Altai Mountains of Mongolia joined the festivities, their regalia costume enough for any party, and one of them was a throat-singer with a one-stringed guitarlike instrument who came and did a duet with Vicente – two bellowing spirit frogs approaching the sacred waters atop San Francisco Peaks during the Home dances at Oraibi … An amazing healing as well as a significant information exchange.

SPUD HARVEST … It looks like I managed to grow seed for all 49 heirloom varieties of potato I have in my inventory at Cloud Acre this year – rare spuds being my small local contribution to the coming peak oil crisis and global-warming phenomenon. If we have to move to local crops without a lot of petrofuel transport, Solanum tuberosum will be a great mountain staple. Easy to store. Nutritious staple. Does well at high altitudes … Not that my yield was that good. Only 176 pounds from 300 mounds. Just a little better than 8 ounces per planting. Two or 3 pounds per mound is my target. But this season we had too much rain. Many of my varieties didn’t like the constant moisture. But a few did spectacularly – Desiree, Peruvian Purple, Kerr’s Pink, Red Gold, Dazoc, Caribe, Alaska Frostless, Blossom, Early Rose, Dakota Rose, Lone Cone Erstling, Maroon Bell and Pink Wink … I should have all of those to sell or trade next spring. Find me (or come by Lone Cone Road) to get some.

TROUBLESHOOTING … For years, Rick Hollinbeck up on Ed Joe Draw was the local supplier for computers in the Norwood area. A value-added retailer, as they said back then, he didn’t just sell the gadgetry to you, he actually helped set it up, made it work and would even come fix it when it broke down. … One of the big companies that Rick hated (probably Microsoft) had a motto, “plug and play.” It supposedly spoke to the ease of installation and operation of their products. However, Rick used to joke that the saying ought to be “plug and pray.” He’d religiously intone that mantra after attempting to fix some malfunction with one of my machines … Of course, I wouldn’t bother Rick until I’d tried everything I could think of – rebooting, different options, the help function. When I’d eventually call Rick, he’d come with his tool kit and programming expertise (his CC Rider software tool being legendary in programming circles). He’d listen to me explain the problem, and first thing he’d bang on the machine a couple times – analogous to kicking the furnace or taking a hammer to a sticky motor. And, unbelievably, half the time that was all it took to make the darn machine start working again. . … That lesson came in handy last month. Driving to Portland for a community-based forestry meet (representing the Public Lands Partnership the county belongs to along with Ouray, Montrose and Delta), I’d pushed myself 600 miles in one day – from Gunnison to Spencer Hot Springs on BLM land outside Austin, Nev. I’d spent the night in my car (saving on hotel expenses) after a luxurious evening soak. I woke before sunrise, raring to go. A light snow had blanketed the sagebrush and my trusty Geo. I turned the key in the ignition, expecting to drive off into the night white. But nothing. Nada. Dead silence … Here I was miles off the Loneliest Highway in America, alone, in an immobile automatic I couldn’t push down the hill I was parked on, tied to a strict schedule and now stranded. But I didn’t panic. Remembering Rick’s troubleshooting technique #1, I grabbed a hard-soled shoe, popped the hood and banged on the battery cables. I got back in, turned the key, and mirabile dictu, the Geo fired right up. Voilá! I was mobile again. Thank you, Rick.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.