Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Feast Day at Laguna Pueblo

My 15 and a half year old son and I went to the Feast Day at Laguna Pueblo today instead of churches and youth group. His girlfriend of 18 months (gulp!) is from the Laguna tribe, and we watched her dance, ate the traditional meal with friends of her family, browsed the booths, and, minus the Pendleton blankets that were keeping others warm, endured the blustery day. Ah, March in New Mexico!

Of all the unexpected ways that Kevin has enriched our lives, certainly this lovely girlfriend has been one of the best. (for all the anxieties it has also brought!). Aside from being a neat young woman and a joy to have around, she has made us, at least in part, a multi-cultural family.

Pueblo Feast Days are part religious ritual, part family reunion, and part small town fair.
I need to ask how the Laguna’s view their dance, but I know that at least some Pueblo Indians believe that they dance for the continuation of the world. So the non-tribe onlookers who are welcome (if they behave themselves) are not just invited, they are essential to the ritual. The dances are line dances, accompanied by drumbeat, and they include tribal members from the eldest to the pre-schoolers, dancing in age order, with the smallest children at the end, always attended by adults who help them keep their shoes tied and their costumes organized. "How did you learn these dances?" we asked Rachel, who never lived at the Pueblo. She doesn't remember. It's something she's always known, something you learn by doing, and something that she thinks she doesn't do very well, for lack of specific training. But I thought she was doing as well as anyone. Most of the dancers don't live at the Pueblo any more. And a few people dancing are not members of the Laguna tribe. (I learned this at lunch). They might be married to Laguna’s, or they might be members of other tribes who have some reason for honoring the Tribe's patron saint (Joseph), by dancing for him. These pagan dances for Catholic Saints is a scene not often seen in the world. In New Mexico's pueblos, the Catholic Church exists in peace with Native American Faith.

At last Fall's Feast Day, it was hot and bright, and Rachel, who inherited her amazing long dark hair and her almond eyes from her tribe and her light skin from an Anglo ancestor, had a sunburn for a week. And while she was one of the lighter skinned dancers of the tribe, she was not, by any means, the only one who showed multi-ethnic ancestry. Among the dancers were persons whose African American, Oriental, Irish, Spanish, and Anglo Ancestors all registered on their features. What a post-modern picture of humanity in this tiny town in New Mexico, I thought. Somebody ought to paint this, I thought, although taking pictures and sketching are two of the misbehaviors which will get you escorted away from the dances. I had to be content with the memory, and it's a good one.

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