Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Stories and a White Man: An Open Letter to My Navaho Students :: Essays Papers
Stories and a White Man: An Open Letter to My Navaho Students Some of your Elders encourage you to leave the university and return to the reservation. They tell you that the university is not for you. I respect your Elders because I understand that they wish the best for you, but I cannot agree with them. Come here. Let's share a place together, here on this page, as real as Second Mesa where the wind makes its own stories and all of us must listen to the language of Crow in order to find our way home. Right now let's share a place where we wait trustingly and where storytellers are never victims because they have their stories to protect them. Let our moment together be a home of stories, and let us agree to live in a world where such a place as this one exists. My Uncle Mace was Native American. I'm not sure what nation he came from, but I understand it was one of those "civilized" tribes because unlike the Apache they did not tell jokes that ended with "White men are stupid." So White men called them "civilized." Uncle Mace told me stories. He would start with, "Now, everything I tell you is true." Then he would tell me something confusing and crazy and wonderful, something about bears or ants or giants. Some of his favorite stories were about a race of great ones who were men but did things men could not do. Anyway, I believed they were true stories, and I have to admit that I probably still do. There's a place in me where Uncle Mace still lives. My great grandfather used to take me along when he went to visit sick animals. He was a homemade veterinarian, and the farmers loved him because they never got around to paying him. His specialty was to cure bloated cattle. He would walk up beside the animal and stick a knife into its belly. Anyway, he always drank whisky as we drove along, and he always made up songs. He had a voice filtered through gravel and tar, but the songs were stories, and I believed them like the stories of my Uncle Mace. One song went something like this: When I was a young man I had long green pants. I wore them all day but they were full of ants. Sometimes at night I would wonder how he was able to get along with his green-ant pants.