Indigenous Peoples Exchange - 2006 (October-November)
Deepening Connections in the Stunning Southwest
Note: for a better understanding of the following report, please see
“Main Participant Bios” below and/or www.sacredearthnetwork.org/ewip/2006june.php
After months of preparation for the autumn exchange I wrote the following in my journal:
October 22: We’re off! All systems go! Siberians coming to Phoenix from Moscow via Germany. Kelvin to meet me with the rental van at the airport.
Wow. Meeting all four Siberians was a minor miracle, especially seeing Arzhan who was refused a US visa three years ago. What an incredible relief! His exceptional throat-singing vibrates the soul of these exchanges. Losing him to bureaucracy would have been tragic.
As we sat down to dinner on the outskirts of the seemingly endless Phoenix suburbs, despite the enormous fatigue that was in their eyes, it was clear this was a powerful and cohesive group.
Driving north, with a hint of sunlight still on the horizon, we passed what seemed like waving saguaro cactuses on the way to Flagstaff, a cultural crossroads in Arizona undergoing hyper growth. We woke up to a typical gorgeous sunny day with the majestic San Francisco Peaks dominating the landscape. Unfortunately, we were unable to go there due to a tight schedule
and jet lag. We were planning to do our prayers at the Peaks for a safe and effective trip but we ended up doing them in the parking lot of the motel. That was OK. We all sensed that we were part of larger forces at work, and that the exact location of our prayers was unimportant.
Gradually easing out of jet lag we headed over to Kelvin’s office in the heart of Flagstaff for an evening reception. He was beginning to assume leadership of the first half of the trip in his gentle but definite manner. His mom, Charlinda, was a key part of the welcoming committee. I remember her saying to a very attentive group: “Bill’s right, we are all brothers and sisters. It is time for all the races to come together at this critical time.”
When it was Kelvin's turn to speak he said: “The knowledge we are gathering is part of the preparation for the next stage of human development with Mother Earth, after the time of purification. The trip in June to the Altai changed my life and I can now see more clearly my path. Working with the Siberians is a definite part of it.”
The next morning, after a lot of coffee, we drove to the Grand Canyon, a first for all of us except Kelvin. He had put us on alert that the impact of seeing it after miles of small Piñon pines on a relatively flat landscape would be sudden and intense. He was right. When we did get there and looked out, it was almost like we had landed on another planet. The space is SO BIG. Tatyana was very moved. A jet-black raven flew by to greet us and Tatyana squawked back, surprising the tourists who were not used to such easygoing conversation between humans and other animals.
Driving alongside the Canyon Rim heading north, Kelvin puts a CD of spiritual reggae rocker Michael Franti in the player. We have a lot of Native and other music with us on this trip, but it’s Franti’s rocket sled energy that gets played again and again.
Kelvin and Franti drove us to the Navajo Kaibito Reservation. It’s a combination of breathtaking scenery—subtle shades of cream, black-brown veins- white stone in front of the azure blue sky—surrounding busted up houses right alongside newer houses in a suburban grid pattern. What makes the place so rich is the people. They greeted us with overflowing hospitality so typical of indigenous people the world over. After some preliminary introductions, Tatyana started helping the women prepare mutton (the foundational food for Navajo and Southern Siberians) for the evening meal. She exclaimed joyously, “It’s like I never left home!”
Grandfather George, Kelvin’s uncle, is busy telling stories by the fire, making everyone laugh. One time a Christian missionary asked him who is God was. He pointed to the Earth. The preacher walked away shaking his head.
Grandmother Charlinda and Grandfather George were so happy to see us, and along with some other elders in the community, arranged beautiful welcoming and healing ceremonies to bring both communities, living so many miles apart, together. Danil has a particularly strong connection to the Navajo who had gifted him turquoise necklaces and bracelets on a previous trip. He wanted everyone to know that at Kaibito he felt a balancing and healing energy that would enable him to return home and be more effective.
Just before leaving, Grandfather George shed some tears at how his own family had come together in the process of hosting the Siberians. He hoped this would become a regular occurrence. A strong peace descended on everyone. It as though we had been officially launched…
An hour or so outside of Kaibito we stop at a roadside Indian Arts and Crafts market and meet some enthusiastic supporters of the exchange. Kelvin comments, “Everywhere we go people want to be a part of it.” It’s true.
It was at Monument Valley that the sense of larger guidance and synchronicity would kick in. With its jutting buttes and numinous panoramas, Monument Valley rivals the Grand Canyon in its overall awesomeness. It’s a place to contemplate the big picture. It gave me a chance to reflect on the work of Kelvin and Benjamin Jojola (who would soon join us). They have brought the Indigenous Peoples Exchange much wider recognition and explained to many people why it is important and needs to be supported. After a couple of hours there, we jumped into the van and agreed we were traveling to the right places, at the right time, and meeting the right people.
Gale force winds at Monument have a message. A loving Intelligence in every stone and star wants to help her human children again honor the Earth, not because we should, but because it feels so good to be back in balance with Life!
Continuing through some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth I feel privileged to be visiting the West from an indigenous perspective. Indian Country seems not only like another country, but another world. As the sun sets under Black Mesa, Kelvin explains its history. Reliable springs surfacing at several locations mean the mesa is more suitable for continuous habitation than much of the surrounding desert area, and the mesa has been home to native peoples for at least 7,000 years. It is now split between the Hopi and Navajo tribal reservations. Since the 1960s the mesa has been strip mined for coal by the Peabody Coal Company, stirring a battle over Peabody's use of groundwater to transport coal. Because of decades of opposition, Kelvin was proud to say that the last day of operation of Black Mesa Mine was December 31, 2005, but he warned that Peabody wants to extend its permit to operate the mine, anticipating that the power plant may be retrofitted, and come back online. ( see blackmesawatercoaliton.org for more info)
Arriving in Dineh College (DC) in the evening we learned they are the first tribally controlled college in the United States. Erjen and Danil wanted to “knock on the DC door” again after a three-day stay in 2003. They are extremely interested in creating something similar for their indigenous Siberian countrymen and women. So we stopped by. Harry Walters, Thelma Johnson, and president Ferlin Clark again welcomed us on very short notice and pledged cooperation.
Heading north through the Narbona pass, the Siberians stopped and placed cloth prayer ties close to the summit. On the descent we passed Shiprock, an unusually shaped geologic formation that looks like it was born in the imagination of a science fiction novelist. A few hours later, on October 26, we arrived in Durango, Colorado, where we were warmly received by Cassandra Yazzie and her group, “Small Axe, Small Steps," an organization of American Indian students at Fort Lewis College. They put together a wonderful evening for us of dialogue and music, including a performance by the dynamic Blackfire, a Dineh (Navajo) group consisting of two brothers and a sister who play traditionally influenced, high-energy, politically driven music.
This is where I noticed Kelvin particularly enjoying one of his favorite settings: a room packed with students. He is in his 30s and is part of an emerging force of young Native Americans—college educated and tech savvy—who reject what they view as their parent’s passivity and conservatism, especially towards many US government policies. These youth are here to reclaim their land and their culture at a whole new level, and in the process be part of the global movement for peace and sustainability.
It’s clear why so many people want to live here. This part of Colorado has it all: fertile valleys, gushing abundant rivers, culture, and yes, cowboys and Indians,
The next day was considered by Benjamin and Kelvin (who were the creators of the itinerary) an open “flex day” and Gomo Martinez, a Navajo medicine man from Lukachukai, Arizona, serendipitously filled the space. He was very generous to the previous group of indigenous Siberians who visited in 2003. This time was no exception. He met us in Ignacio, just south of Durango, and the center of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Once again he created a ceremonial space where ancient energies could unite diverse peoples in an overall mood of balance, peace, and understanding.
Mesa Verde is located roughly at the top of the arc-shaped route we were traveling from Phoenix to Albuquerque. Mesa Verde offers a spectacular view into the life of the Ancestral Puebloans (formerly called Anasazi), by way of remarkably intact
cliff dwellings and other archeological treasures. These were all created out of the orange-red rock and surrounding vegetation which still oozes a mystical feminine power. We were given a custom visit to Balcony House, accessible only by 50-foot ladder. There, the Siberians were very impressed by two aspects of the site: the powerful, very present ancestral spirits, and the brilliant knowledge of astronomy inherent in its construction.
After our visit to Balcony House we had an in-depth discussion with the park’s manager, Linda Martin. The Siberians were especially interested in the relationship between the US government, the thousands of people who come and visit every year, and the 24 present day tribes whose ancestors lived at Mesa Verde. They also wanted to know how best to share sacred knowledge in a setting like that, since so much of the Ancestral Puebloans' life was ceremonial in nature. Linda was helpful and straightforward, explaining that this idea was on “the cutting edge” and that “time will tell if we can implement something like that in a way that respects everybody’s opinion."
To finish the day, we went on a “medicine walk” down the main petroglyph trail. Again, animals and birds seemed to be welcoming and guiding us. Mindfully, we walked in gratitude for our lives and all the gifts we had been given. As the moon started to come up and only our silhouettes were visible, there was a kind of inner recognition that the seven of us had done this walk before. I asked Benjamin why he thought the place exuded such peace and he said, “It has been prayed over for thousands of years.”
It was a long drive to Taos, New Mexico, but when we crossed the Rio Grande just outside of town, there was someone waiting for us. Her name was Sila, an Apache grandmother selling jewelry by the side of the road. None of us had ever met her before. She announced herself with certainty. “My people have been around for 14,000 years. I’ve been waiting for my relatives. Now you have come. Thank you." She pulled out about three pounds of carefully wrapped elk meat that her uncle had just hunted the previous day and thrust it at Danil. “The elk has special strength. Please prepare it in a sacred way." She then pulled out a bag that had six wrapped gifts. We all looked at each other, a bit stunned, as there were exactly six of us!
A small tarantula crosses the road, slowly. Instead of feeling fear or disgust I feel protective, Benjamin grabs some stiff paper and places it in front of the spider. He or she (how do you tell a spider’s gender?) jumps on and is escorted by Benjamin across the road. I told Benjamin how much I appreciated that act. We discuss our common dream for future humans: enough time for animals to cross the road! Humans are no longer fearfully in a hurry because of overly busy lives but take the time to notice the wonders of the Universe, even if it means being late.
The feminine embrace I sense around us continued at Taos Pueblo where the multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. Soge Track greeted us and showed us this remarkable community. One of the highlights was witnessing Soge’s friend Meko Concha, a potter, busily shaping sensual red-brown clay and evolving it into the next wave of Pueblo traditional art. On our way out of the pueblo, we crossed the sparkling waters of the stream flowing from Blue Lake. Our last stop at Taos Pueblo was Carpio Bernal’s arts and crafts shop.
Carpio invites Arzhan to sing. I close my eyes and this primal force bigger than any one human seems to pour out of the base of Taos Mountain. It predates human existence and wants to make itself known.
This is where it seemed the whole group eased into a timeless journey. Maybe we have also done this for lifetimes…?
The next day we prayed at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Taos rivers. Everyone was relaxed and felt very at home at this beautiful slice of well respected Nature. We all took some silent time to ourselves. A little poem came into my heart:
As the Taos kisses the Rio Grande,
On the rock banks I lie on our volcanic past
The river whooshing by, giving life
The sun designing a future like no other.
How big can a heart actually get?
A little later we had a wonderful soak in Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. The next 24 hours were then devoted to Pottery. I spell it with a capital “P” because it is how Apache Jewish elder Felipe Ortega demonstrates a sustainable, balanced relationship to Mother Earth: by shaping her flexible, malleable skin to make artful housewares. Felipe was our warm, energetic, and extremely knowledgeable host, who made sure we would experience making pots the old way.
It occurs to me as he blows tobacco smoke over the pots made by our group, prayed over by all, while hardening under burning pine bark: that by making this activity so sacred we are polishing our souls.
As Felipe explained, “In pottery, as in life, the main thing is gratitude." And when a traditional Apache asks how you are, what he says is "What are you lacking?" The answer, invariably, is nothing.
In the evening, Felipe and Benjamin reiterated what Danil and Erjen were saying earlier in the day: land, culture, language, economics, food, art, and spirituality are all part of an unbroken whole. Our current way in the dominant society is not sustainable because we do not see the truth of this. Each “part” thinks it’s the most important. Traditional indigenous culture reminds us to walk in balance with apparent opposites and differences, while respecting the Earth.
Benjamin and Felipe also brought up the delicate issue of sharing indigenous knowledge. They both agreed that exploitation was a big problem but that if shared thoughtfully and tactfully with the receptive elements of the dominant culture, the benefits outweighed the risks. Felipe summed up: “We don’t need to share all the details, just our way of looking at things.”
On the morning of Halloween, thirty miles outside of Santa Fe, the tribal council at San Juan Pueblo, now known as Okhay Oweenge, were waiting for us. Herman Agoyo, the former Governor, had spent a lot of time making sure the Siberians were well received. He and about a dozen tribal officers explained the rich history of Okhay Oweenge and the unique role it has played in the Southwest. After formal introductions we were invited to observe two dances by older children. The dancing, drumming, and ceremonial clothing were superb. After the dances and lunch, Herman proudly showed us a film about Po’Pay, the leader of the 1680 Pueblo revolt.
Herman then took us to meet Ron Lovato the CEO of Okhay Oweenge’s casino and other large business enterprises (Tsay Corporation). This is where the political power differential between Native Americans and Native Siberians was so noticeable. Ron talked about the 10 million dollars that passes through Tsay’s accounts annually and explained that this was a new phenomenon, only six or seven years old. It gave them the political clout they’d been seeking since the arrival of the Spanish 500 years ago. Danil conversely explained how indigenous Siberians do not even have sovereignty. He said, ”Even if its paper sovereignty, you still have the legal right to fight for your rights as a distinct people. Without sovereignty, Siberians have only one alternative: nature parks [which are protected territories with a legal basis]."
The confident tribal leaders of Okhay Oweenge seemed interested in actually going to Siberia, and we all whole-heartedly endorsed the idea. Russia is interested in its international image, and this group seemed like they would be expert lobbyists on behalf of the Siberians. I reflected that sometimes it can take people from another land, with no entanglement and grievances with the dominant culture they are visiting, to influence positive change.
One of the most serendipitous events of the entire trip was our attendance at the Seed Graduate Institute’s Oil and Water Conference (www.seedgraduateinstitute.org) held in the center of Santa Fe. We hadn't known exactly when we would arrive, and when we entered the beautiful conference hall, David Abram, author of the Spell of the Sensuous, was giving a scintillating presentation on "Oral Cultures as Local Cultures" and the importance of re-inhabiting the land. Erjen was busy translating as fast and quietly as she could to the other three Siberians. They nodded with appreciation when David said things like: “ To experience the Earth as alive is our birthright. Everything is speaking. Touching the tree, I feel myself being touched….”
He said so much more and when he was wrapping up, the conference organizer Glen Parry came over to ask if I’d introduce the Siberians to the audience. At first I felt a little awkward, like we had crashed a party, having arrived for only the last few hours of a three-day event. But then it dawned on me they could offer a rich part of the closing. I introduced them and they expressed themselves particularly well with Arzhan dazzling everyone with his powerful voice.
Then Leon Secatero, headman of the Canoncito Band of the Navajo, gave a very heartfelt speech essentially eulogizing the recently deceased Grandfather Martin Martinez. Grandfather Martinez was at the forefront of the move to unite Natives and non-Natives for the benefit of Mother Earth. Pat McCabe, a Dineh Artist, closed the event with a powerful pipe ceremony. In introducing the ceremony she really set the tone for what we were learning on the exchange when she said “The Siberians reminded me that I had prayed to the spirits of the Reindeer Nation of Siberia after hearing of a terrible tragedy that had befallen a group of caribou. They said above all, 'Be joyous. There is nothing that you have to do first before being joyous. We tend to the wounded, but not so that it prevents our joy. Joy is critical at this time. Be joyous. That's what we do’.”
Heading south, we are all in a kind of euphoric trance. The conference was so uplifting. Met many people who really want to help SEN and the Exchange. .Imposing Sandia Mountain, the yang part of a vast yin expanse, is in purple silhouette just after the sun sets. No wonder they call it ‘ New Mexico] “the Land of Enchantment.”
After driving 1500 miles, we were outside of Albuquerque on Leon Secatero’s Canoncito Band. Of Navajo Reservation (“ the rez” is what the residents call it) I always knew Leon was an expert at the spiritual, unseen world and the deeper meaning of the petroglyphs and Navajo culture, but this time he showed his genius with the actual landscape. He talked about the animals, rocks, arroyos, and plants as though they were family members. His affectionate attention on all that lives in the sacred desert—his home—blossomed during our stay into a comprehensive mythic geo-ecological perspective that moved us all. We were so fortunate to spend a day and half with him. Over dinner at his home, he repeated what he said two days earlier in Santa Fe: “Leave the past behind. Just bring the positive stuff into the next 500 years. This is a new time where the feminine balances out the masculine. Women are coming into their power in droves. We must shed our tears so we can see more clearly."
Finally, as if reaching some kind of crescendo, Isleta Pueblo, located just south of Albuquerque, gave us a tremendously warm and generous reception. Lt. Governor Max Zuni made sure all was in order and things flowed smoothly. Erjen Khamaganova, who has been to all but one of Sacred Earth Network’s indigenous exchanges, took Leon’s advice and shed some tears at the beauty and pride that Isleta’s children showed in their opening dance. People, young and old, curiously flocked to the Siberians. There was a lively discussion of customs and rituals. Benjamin Lucero, one of the tribe's traditional elders, made everyone laugh when he looked at the Siberians and said “you got that from us, right?” He was referring to a ceremony for welcoming babies into the world. Yet again there was that recognition, as one Isleta woman elder commented, "we [Native Siberians and Native Americans] are a family that has been separated for many years.”
At the end of the meeting another woman from Isleta exclaimed. “I never knew there were Indians in Siberia!" I purred with delight when another member of Isleta said, “What a gift to be part of the Sacred Earth Network.”
Lt. Gov. Zuni then guided us to a state-of-the-art recreational facility and handed us over to Randy Luhan, the Range Patrol Supervisor. Randy gave us the opportunity to spend late afternoon out on the land at a sacred site called Mystery Rock. There, on the side of a small mountain, among the sage, rattlesnake holes, and dry streambeds, is something very peculiar: a ten-ton boulder with Phoenician script written on it. Randy told us several scholarly interpretations that he had heard, which just heightened the mystery. And how awesome to be immersed in that landscape, taking in our last day with a gigantic setting sun in the West and a huge full moon rising in the East!
On this exchange, as on the previous one in June when American Indians visited Siberia, we were all filled with lots of new ideas and the sense that all kinds of creative possibilities awaited us, informed by the wisdom of the Earth and the Ancestors. My biggest satisfaction was watching Benjamin and Kelvin really taking ownership of this project. A wonderful momentum has been created. Now we can truly say that bringing together Native American elders and their Siberian counterparts is mutually empowering and a potent alliance for Mother Earth.
As Benjamin said back in Durango, “When we are together the road is open. Now we just need to make sure there is a road.”
- Bill Pfeiffer
Thanks to the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Hal Litoff, Dream Change, and hundreds of other Sacred Earth Network supporters for their generous financial contributions, and for their in-kind contributions above and beyond:
Kaibito Navajo Reservation and the Long Family
Pueblo of Isleta:
Gov. J.Robert Benavides
1st Lt.Gov. Max Zuni
Chief Jdg. Verna J. Teller
Benjamin Lucero and the Cultural Committee
Youth Dancers Headstart Program
Mary Frances Jojola
BlackFire and the Bennaly Family
Cassandra Yazzie and Small Axe, Small Steps
Dana and Tina and Southern Ute Reservation
Linda Martin and the staff at Mesa Verde National Park
Karen Wisdom and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs
Leon Secatero and the Canoncito Community
Glen Parry and the staff of the SEEDS Graduate Institute
Pueblo of Taos:
Felipe Ortega and the Owl Mountain Center
Pueblo of Okhay Oweenge:
Herman and Rachel Agoyo
The Tribal Council
The Society Headmen
Tribal Elementary School Youth Dancers
Economic Development Council Community
Santa Fe Mountain Center:
Sky Grey Exc. Dir.
Susan Steele Admin. Specialist
Beverly Billie Exp. Educator
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center:
Emily Clay Stock
'Familia' Big Bino & Lil Bino
Erjen Khamaganova is of the Buryat people from the Republic of Buryatia in southern Siberia. She has extensive education and experience in the fields of natural resource management, public policy and cultural restoration. Ms. Khamaganova has worked as the Deputy Head of the Department of State Water Control and International Cooperation in the Committee for Lake Baikal Water Resources Management of the Federal Ministry for Natural Resources in Buryatia. This Committee is responsible for the research, protection, use and restoration of the water resources of Lake Baikal
Ms. Khamaganova has also worked for the Khabasagai Culture-Ecology-Education Center, where she organized youth summer camps to explore native spiritual, cultural and environmental traditions of Buryats, and Mongolian speaking people in general. Ms. Khamaganova is a recipient of the U.S. Department of State Edmund S. Muskie Ph.D. Fellowship, and has recently graduated from Indiana University's joint Ph.D. Program in Public Policy. One of the focuses of her research is the environmental values of indigenous people and their incorporation into official environmental policy. Erjen has been involved in four previous exchanges and has served as the main English-Russian interpreter.
Danil Ivanovich Mamyev a geologist and land use planner by profession, is founder of the unique indigenous Karakol Nature Reserve “Uch Enmek.” This reserve is found in the Ongudai District of the Altai Republic in the Karakol Valley of south-central Siberia. For thousands of years, the indigenous Altai people have considered the Karakol valley to be a sacred valley. There are several groups of ancient burial mounds and standing stones that represent some of the great mysteries of the Altai. Petroglyphs color the foot of the cliffs above which tower snow-capped mountains. The residents of this valley have a different outlook from others of the region — they consider themselves to be in a very special, spiritual relationship with nature. Danil is one of a group of indigenous leaders in Ongudai who are committed to protecting their native lands, sacred sites and petroglyphs from damage by the increasing number of tourists and industrial development. Danil is also director of the Tengri School of Spiritual Ecology. Danil has been involved in three previous exchanges.
Arzhan Kezerekov lives in the Karakol Valley of the Altai Mountains of Siberia, Russia. At 28 years of age he is the youngest member of the group. He started receiving visionary information from childhood and was told to sing. Precisely he was told to be a "kaichi" which could be translated from the Altai as a shamanic-throat-singer-story-teller. He is considered to be the successor of the legendary kaichi, and recently deceased, Aleksei Kalkin. Kalkin was called the "Homer of the Altai."
Tatyana Kobezhikova is a shaman from Hakassia. Her relatives tell of some signs which appeared at her birth, as they did for many shamans of the past. Her family had driven a sleigh onto a ferry where she was born--a gypsy assisting with the birth. An eagle, which was to become one of Tania's helping spirits, landed on the hitching post.
In childhood Tania began healing with plants, diagnosing clairvoyantly. She learned from her grandmother's brother who was a storyteller and herbalist. Her mother and sister are also well-versed in herbal healing, but because of the persecution of shamans during the Soviet period, the family was distressed when Tania began to predict things that were about to happen, and could see auras around people. They tried to dissuade her from developing her shamanic gift, but have given their support to her more openly since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Kobezhikova went through a period of illness. In her case it came at the age of 33, beginning with a tick bite. Before this she had also studied with traditional Russian healers and an Evenk shaman. She describes the moment when her real shamanic work began. "I was going with friends to some ancient caves where I had been many times, but this time we lost the way. We stopped at a mountain pass to rest. I had a vision while lying on the ground. The sun in my eyes was bothering me. I turned away, and then jumped up and began to run so fast that two men could not catch me. I began singing prayers in the language of spirits, and conversing with them. My friends felt the presence of spirits, but didn't understand the words, which were probably not in a human language. In the vision a drum was given to me by spirits. My friends also heard it clearly. Through the process of initiation I have gained strength and an increasing sense of responsibility to people.”
[Thank you Kira Van Deusen for this bio]
Kelvin Long, Dineh (Navajo) of the Bitterwater clan is currently executive director of ECHOES (Educating Communities while Healing and Offering Environmental Support) based in Flagstaff Arizona, which is at the forefront of preventing desecration of the San Francisco Peaks, one of the four mountains sacred to the Navajo, Hopi, and 12 other tribes of the US Southwest. His core focus is Native unity and cultural revitalization.
Benjamin Jojola, tried to come into the world feet first, as his son did thirty-seven years later, and since that time he has continued in his unique approach to the world (a trait his son most definitely possess as well). Benjamin grew up mostly on the "rez" of Isleta Pueblo, located just south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the flat dry land offers hot chilis, cool watermelon and the pine nuts as big as your fingertip. Attending high school at Chemawa Indian Boarding School in Oregon. Benjamin had the experience early on of getting to know people from tribes all over the continent- seeing the strength of shared beliefs and the diverse beauty of culture, language, art. This continued at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe where Benjamin studied sculpture, exploring the rich history of his ancestor's gifts from Taos, Hopi, Laguna and Isleta. These days Benjamin lives in the fertile Skagit Valley of Washington with his wife and son, close to his daughters and grandchildren, and returns home to Isleta often. His focus now is sharing his experience with others and learning from theirs, especially with young adults of all backgrounds through experiential education, such a rope courses, wilderness excursions and farming with the intent of helping youth to connect to their inner strength, to that same beauty and power in others, and to the roots and home of all of us- the Earth.