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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Finishing a Story: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico : The Cry


Bosque Redondo Memorial, New Mexico



Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

The cry

When I heard the woman's cry, it was terrible in its grief.  Even today, more than a year after I saw the video of her cry, it still grips me to remember it.

The video showed the 2005 dedication ceremony of the Bosque Redondo Memorial, screened for us by Dr. Thomas Vincent Allena, as part of a presentation he gave on places of trauma and memories.

The woman's cry, more than all of the hundreds of words spoken by the dignitaries at the Bosque Redondo Memorial's 2005 dedication ceremony, said everything. From an article in El Palacio, Hwééldi, by Ben Moffat: 
Nowhere was the sentiment ... more powerfully evident than during an ... indelible moment that took place during the remarks of New Mexico's senior senator, Pete Domenici. 

Nicole Walker, a Window Rock grandmother, arrived at the ceremony late, concluding her personal re-enactment of the last leg of the historic Long Walk, a journey that she began at 3:00 a.m.

Wrapped in a traditional blanket and followed by a small procession, including a youngster carrying a Navajo Nation flag, she entered the courtyard, uttering soul-wrenching cries of anguish. 

In the video, I saw Senator Domenici emit banal verbiage about remembering the past, but using lessons learned to move forward in unity to blah, blah, blah. All of a sudden, you could hear Ms. Walker as she entered and then approached the speakers' area. I can't find the video, but you can listen to an NPR report here, which has a recording of Ms. Walker's entrance.

All of those words, spoken from a point of detachment, of rationality about an unfortunate tragedy in the distant past - these were drowned in Ms. Walker's cascade of mourning in the here and now.

Bosque Redondo Memorial, New Mexico
Sites of conscience

Bosque Redondo Memorial is a "site of conscience."  I hadn't heard of sites of conscience until I visited the memorial. Some concepts of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience organization are: 
  • To "transform sites of oppression into sites for learning."
  • "Heal: Public memorials provide spaces for rebuilding after tragedy." 
  • "The need to remember often conflicts with the equally strong pressure to forget."

Historical trauma

Many years ago, I attended a professional conference related to mediation. A presenter observed that as children, our parents likely exhibited behaviors and world views that reverberated from events our forebears experienced centuries ago, and which we, in turn, pass unknowingly to our descendants.  

Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart, PhD, put forward the concept of "historical trauma" in the 1980s.  Historical trauma is "cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma."

In other words, trauma continues to occur, albeit perhaps in different form and intensity. In the case of the Navajo and Mescalero Apache, for example, trauma didn't end when they got to return home. Even today, there are microaggressions that prolong the historical trauma - those daily, indirect or direct, small assaults on a person based on his ethnicity.

Historical trauma helps explain why some groups continue to have such a hard road to travel in our society, all the while the majority population is wont to say, "Get over it already!" without even having fully acknowledged and honored the trauma to begin with.




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Finishing a Story: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Part 2

The Bosque Redondo Memorial in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, had a powerful impact on me. I wrote Parts 1 and 2 to that story, but hadn't yet written Part 3, which is about an experience there I will never forget. 

To lead up to the final chapter, I reposted Part 1 yesterday and am reposting Part 2 today:


New Mexico: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Part 2: Luck


Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico


What is luck? 

Yes, I know there are those who espouse the "everything happens for a reason" model. I'm not among them. Rather, I believe it is we who place meaning on what happens to us and the world around us. 

Does luck exist because we have created this idea of luck? Or is an event a function of a random throw of existential dice, and thus neutral, and therefore unremarkable? Might not one lucky event, if we pull back for a space-station view of a life over the course of its many years, result in not-luck down the road?

Well, anyway.

I was lucky. 

I was already feeling good when I walked into the Bosque Redondo Memorial building because of the enchanting experience here (with a respectful nod to the yang side of said enchantment as noted by a reader here).

The first good vibe came when, immediately upon walking into the memorial foyer, a smiling woman greeted me with a friendly welcome.

Then she informed me that a tour of the site had just begun and if I'd like to join it, I could tag along. And I did.

That friendly smile and invitation - and, I suppose, my acceptance of said invitation - bloomed into a sequence of lucky moments: 
  • a tour given by a woman who clearly loves the place and what it represents, 
  • a delicious lunch (!) catered by Fort Sumner community members
  • tasty conversation tidbits with the bona fide members of the tour group, 
  • an astounding video that I'll talk about later, and 
  • the gift of a puzzle piece I'd been seeking while trying to process Edwin R. Sweeney's book, Mangas Coloradas, Chief of the Chiricahua Apaches

The group of people on tour this day at the memorial were members of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.


Not really luck

My good luck wouldn't have happened if the folks at the memorial, which included staff, volunteers, and members of the local Chamber of Commerce, didn't have a generosity of spirit and an understanding of the bigger picture - to promote the memorial and their town.

They could have easily kept things exclusive, but instead they embraced the stranger walking through their door. Kudos.


And in case you're wondering .... yes, I'm sneaking up on the tangible and intangible of this place and what it commemorates. It's not an easy story.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Finishing a Story: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico: Part 1

The Bosque Redondo Memorial in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, had a powerful impact on me. I wrote Parts 1 and 2 to that story, but hadn't yet written Part 3, which is about an experience there I will never forget. 

To lead up to the final chapter, I'm reposting Part 1 here and will repost Part 2 tomorrow:

New Mexico: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Part 1: How I Got There


The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico


What is the Bosque de Redondo Memorial?

Bosque de Redondo Memorial is a place that commemorates The Long Walk (and subsequent detention) of thousands of Navajo and Apache.

The Long Walk, circa 1864, occurred when the U.S. Army forced thousands of Navajo into what was, for all intents and purposes a concentration camp, in Bosque Redondo (later called Fort Sumner) in which the Navajo and Mescalero Apache remained until 1868.

How I got there

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have visited the memorial, which is outside Fort Sumner, New Mexico, if I hadn't seen the documentary, Sun Kissed, which I wrote about here.

This documentary - about two children who died from a genetic disorder - brought home the interconnectedness of biology, history, culture, access to health care and information, science, and technology.

A traumatic event in Bosque Redondo more than 100 years ago contributed to the death of these two children today.

I had to go, and I did, in my final days in New Mexico. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Lafayette: International Festival Intersections


You never know what the standouts of a festival or a trip are going to be. This was true for the International Festival.


One fun thing was that a movie was being filmed at the festival, called Dirt Road to Lafayette. On Saturday, when it was so rainy, I watched a scene play out at Pamplona's Restaurant on Jefferson.
 
I took my own little movie of this scene:




Consider the shakiness of the video to be an intentional bit of cinema verité.

After the Scottish laddie (who is the movie lead) did his bit, I noticed awhile later a gentleman carrying the young actor's accordion, wrapped in plastic to protect it from the rain. I have no idea why, but I was so taken by this. Having an accordion-carrier.

The next day, Sunday, at the Heritage stage, Corey Ledet performed with his band, and the movie crew was there again. When I saw the laddie pass through a dance crowd with the accordion, and then the same gentleman from the day before subsequently have the accordion in his arms, again wrapped in plastic, I had to check it out. Which resulted in me meeting the very pleasant Alfredo. He does more than carry the lead actor's accordion, but at this moment, that was his responsibility.

Alfredo, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana

Shortly after my visit to the Heritage stage, I scurried over to the International Stage where I had volunteered to do security for the Buckwheat Zydeco performance. And this is where I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Lawrence and Ms. Orelia. They share the exact same birthday, a fact they didn't discover until they were married. It was common for Buckwheat Zydeco (aka Stanley Dural) to practice how to play the accordion on Mr. Lawrence's and Ms. Orelia's front porch. See, before then, Mr. Dural had been a blues and funk musician, focusing on the organ. Mr. Lawrence said it was not a big jump to move from the organ to the accordion.

Ms. Orelia and Mr. Lawrence, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana

At the end of the day, which coincided with the end of the festival, I found myself walking down Jefferson Street, past Pamplona's Restaurant, the street now empty of festival-goers, en route to the shuttle bus.  Three guys talking in the street. One telling the other two about the movie being filmed and how he was in this scene where .....

And, you know, it was this guy: 

Filming Dirt Road to Lafayette, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


OK, so I'm a nosy wench, and I stopped and listened outright while he told his adventure story to his friends. Presently, I interrupted, and said, "You know, I think I may have a video of you doing your scene. I'm not positive you're in it, but I'm pretty sure, and I've uploaded it to youtube if you want to go look." I told him how to find my youtube channel.

Do you know how good it felt to bring such pleasure to someone because of the dumb luck of happening on the movie scene the day before, filming it, and then the dumb luck of walking by this guy the next day while he told his friends about his experience? It felt very good, indeed.

So in this one day, I had the good fortune to intersect with four congenial people.




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lafayette: Scenes From the International Festival 2015 - Sunday

Sunday was the last day of the International Festival.

International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


 
Corey Ledet, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana



Buckwheat Zydeco, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


Buckwheat Zydeco, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana

I worked security at the Buckwheat Zydeco performance, which closed out the festival. I loved watching so many people sing along with him to his songs, especially this one:





Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lafayette: Scenes From International Festival 2015 - Saturday


For the heck of it, I counted how many people filed past me in the space of 10 minutes on Saturday afternoon at the stage in front of the courthouse: 226. Keep in mind I was NOT counting how many thousands were in a street - just counting single file how many people wove their way past my spot at one small venue.  



Lagbaja, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


Rain? We don't care about no stinkin' rain! International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


Live movie set, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana

Dancing in the rain, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


Friday, April 24, 2015

Lafayette: Scenes From International Festival 2015 - Friday


Connie G. at International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.



International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


Sunny Duval, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana


International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana

International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana

Young Pinstripe Brass Band, International Festival 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana