By Patricia Wood, Precious Blood Volunteer
I rushed all Saturday morning to make it to the Crownpoint, New Mexico Post Office before 11:00AM the weekend before the weekend before Christmas. Having been away from my family and friends in Kentucky for the past four months, I was excited to send packages containing wonderful Native American arts and crafts from this area. I pulled into the mostly unpaved dirt parking lot, which until recent grading was full of potholes that could have been the result of cannon fire! Another lady was just pulling away and saw me with my arms full of the brown boxes. “It’s just so aggravating”, she said. “They are not even open for the morning. Oh well, what do you expect, it’s the Reservation.” I considered the woman’s remark.
She was a white person like me, whom the Navajo call a “Bilagaana.” She obviously meant that things here in Navajo Land are not the same as the rest of the Country. I wondered though, did she feel that places like this get the short end of the stick from government services, or did she mean that nothing in general seems to follow the same rules? Does she consider this area substandard because of the people who live and work here, or the Powers That Be? Is she here because she married a Native American man, or did the wind send her this way for a temporary stay as it has me? I wished I’d taken a moment to ask.
The evening before I did some last minute shopping at the famous Crownpoint rug auction. After I visited jewelry and craft booths, the rug auction began. One Navajo lady waited almost breathlessly while months of her weaving effort was held up to mostly non-native customers. Although her work was very beautiful and bidding started at $900, it did not sell that night. She looked so sad, as if fighting back tears. I wondered what that money was needed for this month.
Things here are both very simple and more complex than elsewhere. Most people agree things run differently because of a backlog of agendas, “Indian Time,” and priorities that are different from mainstream America. Even the recent Tribal campaign and elections became so contested and complicated that many of the people were left embarrassed at the inefficiency.
Although I also once lived for five years adjacent to a Reservation in South Dakota and worked with Lakota children, I do not presume to know the answers. I am simply a Precious Blood volunteer spending a year in this beautiful land of mesas and warm hearted people who often lack basic needs and things other Americans think they can’t live without. I am absorbing all that I can and feeling grateful for being accepted here. Hopefully, I can offer some assistance where it is wanted. I know I will leave a more enriched person, even if I hit a lot of potholes while here.
Patricia Wood is a Precious Blood Volunteer serving at St. Paul Catholic Church in Crownpoint, New Mexico.