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Navajo Reservation

I slept in a campground at Monument Valley, got up early and made my way to the Monument for the 17 mile dirt road loop drive.  An incredibly magnificent, overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful place, Monument Valley is Tribal managed.  Since most tourists travel by large trailers and the dirt road is not recommended for RV’s, there are few cars on the road.  RV tourists take the tour ‘buses’.  Along the way at various locations are stalls with locals selling jewelry at ridiculously low prices. Monument Valley

Monument Valley2

Monument Valley3

Monument Valley4

I’d strung a necklace before I left of beads and 3 elk ivories I found on last winter elk kills, but it broke in Thermopolis and I lost most of the beads.  I had the ivories in my purse and asked a woman selling jewelry if she’d restring it for me.  I picked out a necklace of turquoise and beads and she restrung it right then and there with my ivories.

I picked out a necklace for $5 and she restrung it with my elk ivories

I picked out a necklace and she restrung it with my elk ivories

A new Navajo market trading post with indoor heated small stalls for artists that used to work alongside the main highway was a fine place to stroll for an hour.  I struck up a lengthy conversation with an older woman tending one shop.  She told me she did the original necklace design, while her daughter did the bead work.  As we talked her daughter, a very over weight young woman, came in briefly.  They exchanged a few words in Navajo, I said hello, complimented her beadwork as she left.

“She does excellent beadwork, and sitting all day, that’s why she’s so overweight”, my new friend said.  “She was even heavier”, she offered, “but I got her to use those patches to suppress her appetite and she lost 20 pounds.”

We talked about the weather and the wind outside.  I told her that we missed our fall and Indian summer in Wyoming, that I thought we were going to have a long, strong, winter.

“I think so too.  The Junipers are bearing heavy this year.  If you watch the plants, they’ll tell you about the coming winter.”

I told her about the past droughts in Wyoming, how water had become more scarce and only these past two years have been fairly normal.

“You too?  We are having so many problems here with water.  We’re having to start trucking it in.  No one has running water.  And our wells are full of uranium.  All our elders are dying–at 60 or 65 years old–all over the reservation, our elders are dying of cancers.  Our young people have bone problems, eyesight problems, cancers.  All from this uranium in our water from the mining that the government allowed.  They’ve closed the mines now and they want to compensate us.”

I said I thought there was no compensation for those horrors.  That clean-up, medical care–that was the ‘compensation’ they needed.

“That’s what I say.  We need medical care and they need to get rid of the uranium, somehow, in the water.  We don’t have good water, plus our water sources are drying up.”

The phone rang, she answered and I looked around the shop.

“That was my son.  My sister is in the hospital in a coma.  She was in a head-on collision last week.”  She told me the details.

We said our goodbyes.  She was such a warm, friendly person.  I left sad.  Here was a woman dealing with life’s difficulties not just on the personal level, but at a tribal level as well.  A hundred years later, the story hadn’t changed much, just the characters.  Land continues to be abused in the name of progress at the expense of these native peoples.

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