Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gathering by the Rio Grande

Sitting watching Sam. He is making a new set of
bussels to dance with. His hair is long, tied in
the back and is going nearly all gray. His craggy
face has laughing lines that melt the years away.
He is patiently wrapping the hackles, the tips of
the bussels, small feathers that go on last.
His outfit is near ready, and for him it is the
week before he can take off from work.

His wife, works as an LPN, she dances as well,
she comes from Washington, far from her native
home at Salish Kootenai. Her buckskin is white,
and covered with elk teeth, a prized possession
indeed, so hard to come by.

These two dance traditional, but Sam this year is
dancing fancy, a dance for young men. He has been
seen twisting and turning at strange places like
the parking lot, in the grocery store and at
work, getting the moves just right. It takes
practice to get them so that when you are fully
dressed you move like a bird in the wind,
floating and dropping and turning to dance in the
sky, hanging aloft. How elegant they look.

Sam is taking his grandchildren with them, they
are headed South, going to Albuquerque. They
seatsh waiting for them in the arena, there at
the Gathering of Nations.

Sometimes when he talks he talks about his life
at home near Carson City, where he comes from and
that many of the people he knew are gone from
there now. When he goes home is a stranger and in
some ways it is not home anymore. He has worked
and travelled many places and he calls Utah his
home now. He will be kicking back and retiring
next year and told me that he will stay where he
is at, as his children know the place and that is
their home now. Home is where you find it,
sometimes it is with the old ones, sometimes the
rez, and sometimes where your children are.

Sam, how do like going to Albuquerque? He looked
at me and got wistful. His gray eyes lit up and
he said, it makes me feel at home. I get to see
some friends, maybe family, maybe folks from home,
and then those other Indians I have gotten to
know over the years. I like to go and see them.
It is nice to see so many Indians in one place.

Isn't it too crowded. He smiled and said, No, you
just have to get there early, and when you get a
seat, you don't leave it. You bring your cooler,
food and stuff you need for the duration. It is
like camping out. My wife takes extra beads,
needles, scarves and shawls to share with those
that need it. We get to visit and I look forward
to it, so I am ready to go.

Sammaripa, that is his name. He will be there
dancing and his wife in her traditional buckskin.
They are good people and you can see the
excitement in their eyes. I can see Sam slowly
going across the parking lot, twisting and
turning, dipping and moving as if performing a
pantomine, but he is just practicing for those
few days where he will gather by the Rio Grande
with his friends and dance, and visit and feel
renewed again....


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