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  Field Notes From
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From Author

Cliff Tarpy

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From Photographer

Ira Block

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Alexandra Brasoveanu (top) and Ira Block

At the Jemez Pueblo Reburial

Field Notes From Author
Cliff Tarpy
I enjoyed a double helping of hospitality. Mary Toya of the Jemez Pueblo presented me with a T-shirt commemorating the walk from Jemez to Pecos. She had walked the entire route, accompanied part of the way by her two young sons. The shirt lists people who migrated in 1838, including such evocative names as Zer-wakin (Snow Eagle Down), Sesa-whi-ya (Dragon Fly), and Tyi-Koon Wachu (Flint Society Rainbow). The shirt fits pretty well, and I wear it proudly. Just before I left town later that week, Duane Alire, head of Pecos National Historical Park, invited me to visit the park after it closed for the day. He brought food and drink, and we sat at a picnic table talking until it was so dark I could hardly see his face. The breeze was gentle, and the stars looked like sugar spilled on black velvet spread out above the mountains. I could see why the Pecos hated to leave this place. I was dogged throughout my visit by pangs of guilt over the white man’s treatment of Native Americans. One afternoon at Pecos I descended a wooden ladder leading to an underground ceremonial room called a kiva and sat in silence in the musty coolness. I am fifth generation Irish-American. Did any of my forebears or their kin ever take a knife or gun to an Indian, I wondered? Perhaps. I hope not. Do my veins carry any Indian blood? I don’t know. The past is murky. I do know that the kiva is symbolic of the Pueblo Indians’ close connection with the earth, something that American consumer culture seems to have lost. In the long history of Native American culture, it is perhaps a quirk that on some reservations today the busiest gathering place is the casino. Some New Mexico pueblos have casinos. Others, including Jemez, do not. At Tesuque Pueblo’s casino north of Santa Fe, I sat at the back of a cavernous banquet hall while officials of the 18 or 19 New Mexico pueblos held a meeting. Outside in the gambling room, the tinny melodic burbling of countless slot machines created a hypnotic din. The crowd was nearly all Anglo, and the parking lot was almost full—even on weekdays. In a relatively trivial yet noteworthy way, I thought, this was payback: The white man took the red man’s land. Now the red man takes the white man’s money. Just open a casino, and they will come.

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