Letter: Are we to blame for the Peaks decision?

To the editor:

I was shocked and outraged on the news of the Ninth Circuit Court decision allowing the use of retreated wastewater for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks. But upon further reflection, I realized that we, the Native people, are partly to blame for this adverse decision.

We talk about our culture, our heritage and our traditions, but we hardly practice them. Also, we medicine people do not visit the sacred places and make offerings as was done in the past.

Our children are not brought up in the traditional way and the parents would rather speak English to their children than in their Native tongue. We also practice other religions; some from the White man, others brought in from other tribes. Our deities - Changing Woman, Talking God and Calling God, as well as the Fire God, the sun, moon and the Holy People - are no longer the center of our religious activities. We might be confusing our deities.

Some 10 years ago, a friend asked me to make offerings in sacred places in Arizona, New Mexico and southern Utah. I did these on weekends during the summer months and early fall. One cannot place offering after the first frost. At the conclusion, I spoke at a small gathering and what I said surprised me, for it was not something I wanted to say.

What I said was that bad prayers were made among the people against each other because of politics, land disputes and other differences. I went on to say that to be forgiven by the Holy People, certain prayers called "restoring of harmony" has to be performed at all sacred places. To my knowledge, these were never performed. I have mentioned this at various gatherings, including our leaders and medicine people. No one said, "Let's do it."

Recently, a lady told me she had a dream where she saw baskets at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and when she went and looked into the baskets, there were just traces of offerings and the message was that we the Native people must place offerings at the bases of the sacred mountains if harmony is to be restored. Every community must ask their medicine men or elders to go to the sacred sites and place offerings before the first frost. The medicine [people] are usually not paid a fee for this except their expenses, such as food and travel, [which are] usually provided by the community. This should be done every spring, summer and fall.

Most of the ceremonies taking place among the Navajo Nation are performed for patients and practically none for maintaining harmony whereas in the past, the latter was equal to the patient ceremonies.

Our elders used to say that if the Holy People were not satisfied with fulfilling our duties and obligations, Changing Woman would send warnings through droughts, floods or other natural disasters to alert us. These warnings have been given but we as a people seem to either ignore them or make excuses for not addressing the warnings. Now there is a decision against our sacred mountains, so it is time to address these concerns.

Daniel Peaches

Kayenta

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