Since we’ve been here, Aidan has been obsessed with cowboys and Indians. I’ll write about the cowboys another time, but for now. In Aidan’s mind it’s not your heritage that makes you an Indian.
He has no idea that probably 98.5% of the people we see here are of some kind of Native American heritage. When he was three we came down to Gallup with my parents. One of the things he really wanted to do was to go see the Indian dances. Everynight during the summer, a different tribe comes out in their full dance garb, including headdress, mocassins, leather chaps or dresses, and usually some kind of face paint. They say that it’s for the tourists, but it seems to me, that everytime I’ve been there, there are more Indians than tourists, and I think they do it more for their heritage and to remember where they came from than anything else. On the particular night that we went, I think that we were the only tourists folk in the crowd. Aidan loved it! He danced, whooped, and sang. All the people around us laughed, and I’m pretty sure enjoyed the show that he was putting on. Some of the older men were even encouraging him to go out into the ring where the dancers were and join the fun. When all was said and done, the dancers are packing up and people are turning to leave my son stands up in the middle of the crowd and shouts “Bye bye Indians!” PC? I think not, but these people seemed to know he wasn’t bidding the entire crowd adieu’ just the dancers. They just giggled at him.
The kids call my Grandad Hosteen, because my Dad is Grandad to them, and it makes things a little less confusing. Which is a little silly, because they have a whole bunch of Grandmas, but I think it confuses my Granny (Hosteen’s wife) So, they call him Hosteen. Hosteen means “friend” in Navajo. Aidan also like to greet people in our family with a friendly yah ta hey which means “hello”. When the Randy our friendly (probably Zuni though I never found out for sure) cable man came to install our dish, Aidan was keeping him company on the porch. I went out to keep Aidan company (make sure he wasn’t driving poor Randy crazy) because if you know Aidan at all you know he can talk a lot. Something came up about Grandad, and he says right in front of Randy, “You mean Hosteen?” I heard Randy laugh just a little under his breath. I’m sure it was even funnier to him to come out and find us not looking Sanchez at all, and speaking Navajo.
This is our most recent story. Hosteen used to manage an Indian Trading Post here in Gallup. It was his cousin’s store. And I love visiting that place, even though it’s owned by someone else now, there’s still a lot of history there, and memories, and even some of Hosteen’s artwork. So, a couple of days ago I took Aidan into town with me to do some laundry. I knew that he would love it, so I decided to take him to check it out. You do find more tourists shopping there, but the place always has Navajo, Zuni… women there selling jewelery that they’ve made. It’s beautiful and what an art form! I told Aidan he could pick something out, and he found a toy bow and arrow that he thought that he could not live without. So, I took him to the counter to pay for it, where there are no less than a dozen women selling their jewelery. As I’m talking to the salesman, I am aware of Aidan running around in excitement behind me, and then all of a sudden I hear “Mom, I’m Johnny the Indian!” “Giggle, giggle, snort” I wonder how red I was?
All of the Indians we’ve had these moments in front of have been nothing but corteous. I think they understand how innocent children can be. I’ll have to teach him that that’s not always the proper way to talk. I hope that we haven’t offended or hurt feelings unintentionally.
PS. He’s getting pretty good with that bow and arrow, maybe we’ll put him in some classes or something.