A Clean Pot

July 11, 2009
Carl and I had a late morning – tired from day before.

Called Larry: I shared with him my thoughts of joining forces with others, and abouthoping to create such a public relations “nightmare” that any corporation or body ofgovernment would want to back off.

He listened intently, didn’t interject even when there was space to, which took me bysurprise.

I finished with him just listening, and thinking. The only input he offered was about Hopiand how there is a land issue that keeps the two, them and Navajo, disassociated, unableto join forces.

I asked him about the meeting. The Navajo mining uranium-polluted water issue meeting.

“I’m going to pass on it,” he said

I realized I was really foregoing attending the Hopi Home Dance on second mesa, but Itold him sincerely that I would take him to the meeting if he really wanted to go, that Iwas up for it. He said he was going to make a call and call me back. I didn’ t expect himto take that step, to consider accepting, and when he called back he said OK. Anotherstep I really wasn’ t expecting. Carl was up for it as well, didn’ t hesitate, didn’ t have anissue with foregoing the home dance – it was all about Larry and his meeting.

So we picked him up and headed out there. He wasn’t kidding when he had said it wasout in the boondocks. It was about a 2-hour drive, about 1 ½ hours of it off the highwayinto Navajo reservation land. About an hour and ¼ of the drive was not paved. There wasnothing out there except for a few horses and cattle. At one point after much driving, Ihad a flashing vision of many cars and thought that it couldn’t be this meeting; it wasway out there for there to be so many cars. About 2 minutes later we came up over a littlehill where you couldn’t see the other side until the top, and there were scads of cars, cars,cars.

Wow. A lot of cars, it seemed, for such a remote place. But the issue is a serious one, alltheir water supply polluted with uranium and arsenic, not only not drinkable, of thepeople drinking it during the last 60 years or so, many had died of an unusually high rateof cancer and other diseases, and other illnesses. They also talked of babies withdeformities not previously known to them. After the mines were shut down in the ’30s,many were left open that should have been covered. Rain water got into them for years,saturating the minerals and driving them down into the water table. Wells and springsbecame contaminated and it was many years before they figured out what had gonewrong. Now they’re looking for 2 things: drinkable water, and public access togovernment information about the mining and the effects.

The latter is basically so
that they can ensure accountability about the state of the water and a commitment toproviding clean water.

We drove up to park, all dirt and rocks, to a house with many people inside carrying on ameeting, and people standing around outside taking the meeting in from there. It wasreally amazing “waking up” to a meeting with all natives, Navajo natives. How the heckdid we get there?

I asked Larry if he wanted Carl and I to wait outside, he said, “No, come on in.” He led,careful to make sure I was behind him all the way until we got to the back of the room,then set up 3 chairs. And when I tuned in to the words being said, I couldn’t understandthem! They were speaking native tongue – silly, but I hadn’t considered that. I had heardLarry and

Betty speaking their native tongue, but didn’t translate that to, or just didn’tfully comprehend the depth of indigenous attendance at this meeting. It was beautiful tolisten to.

Carl was fixated – listening intently. When I gave him “permission” to look around at allthe faces, feel their energy, feel how important this issue is to them, he did, staying witheach face until he was ready to move on. He had no issue with boredom the entire day– he did have his DS to play with in the car later, but even after that he had taken a hikeover a hill, collected rocks, threw rocks, etc.

Larry introduced me to several people, some family members – aunts, uncles – and tosome other people key to the movement of the issue. To each I heard him tell them alittle about me and the ideas I had shared with him this morning!

He was putting it outthere! He remembered the details I had told him about Haleakala and the proposedtelescope, and about joining forces with what he called “minority groups.” Just prior tothese introductions to the “political” people, a man spoke for about 30 minutes in nativetongue, and at one point Larry turns rather slowly and looks me directly in the eye andsays, “He has the same idea you do” and seemed to contemplate his own words.

It was about raising so much focus, a raucous, on the issue to make it unpleasant for thegovernment not to fix the problem. This seemed to be a confirmation to Larry, enough tonow put the ideas out there, all the ideas and all the information he thought pertinent topresent it well. I waited to see if he wanted me to speak for myself, but he had all theinformation and presented it so well, and with confidence not even looking for me to saya word until point of contact was eminent. Wow.

And it turns out that their advocate is already planning, knowing how essential it is,national awareness. I spoke with her after the meeting and she was completely up for thetask of signing mutual, what she called, “Resolutions of Support” with the Hawaiian’scauses. She had done it before, and agreed that it is now necessary to take it the nextlevel with other cultures. She is not an appointed representative of the Navajo Nation,but clearly has a great hand in helping to lead causes for these people. She and her creware actually filing a law suit on Monday against Navajo Nation government board for therampant spending of money that has not been approved by the people.
2 other people I spoke with, a woman who is into helping causes by other cultures,Alaska for one, would like to hold further conversation with me – very interested injoining forces so this conversation would be about taking the next step in that direction,and the other woman one who wrote an article about the water in the Gallup, NMnewspaper.

When I walked up to say goodbye to the few people left at the meeting, shewas one of them, pointed to me and said,

“I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you. I’d love tohear about what you’re doing.” So I took her hand, told her my name, she told me hers, I shook her hand and said, “We’ve now met.” I asked her for contact information so thatwe could continue another time. She asked briefly about me in reference to what she’dheard from Larry, and something lead me to tell her about having been guided to go toMaui to set up a spiritual healing and awakening center. Big smile on her face, boththumbs up, and she said, “We have to talk.”

And now that I think about it her work as a writer could be a joining force between theNavajo and others. She would particularly like to go to Hawai`i so there’s great interestthere. We all decided that the next meeting should be held in Hawai`i…

These people were sweet with Carl and I. We got offered food from a man; I sent Carlto get some for himself. When Larry got served some food the woman offered me some,I declined. Larry asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to eat and I told him I would getsome a little later. I didn’t feel right taking their food. He turned to start eating and thefirst man that offered food said something to Larry, Larry turned to me and said, “He saysyou should get something to eat.” The man just looking at me, dropped his concern whenI said that I would. And so I did.

I went into the kitchen to find a crew of people making fry bread (which I’ve discovered Ireally like) and just organizing food. Wow, just like Mexico or Peru.

Afterwards I went back in and offered to help in the kitchen and was given the task ofcleaning out a very large pot by a man “in charge”.A woman hands me the pot and as she gingerly shrugs her shoulders says, “I don’t knowwhat with.”She asked, “Where’s the water?” as I’m wondering if there even is any water!He says, “We don’t have any water. There’s drinking water, but don’t use that, use thaturanium water” and turns away.

I seriously couldn’t tell if he was joking, but I had a task at hand either way. A youngman offered me water with bleach in it for dish washing. I made a decision, and walkedthrough the meeting with the pot in my hands, knowing Larry was going to seriouslywonder what was going on. I took it to the car, enlisted Carl’s help, found the liquidCastille soap I had bought for our own dish washing, got a little drinking water and somepaper towels, and cleaned the pot the way I would camping, with little water. Carried thepot back in and handed it to one of the women, and the bottle of soap to another tellingher what it was and that I could leave it. It turns out she loves castile soap, but had onlyseen it in bar form, AND turns out also this was her house.

She and another womanasked who I was, I told them I came with Larry, and after mentioning Hawai`i it turns outthat both have family in Hawai`i. When I asked if there was anything else I could do a
third woman walked up and said, pointing to a more challenging pot and a fewbowls, “These need to be washed.” Not quite sure how to take the first request to cleanthe pot, this time I took it as a compliment. In the meantime, the same young man hadbrought in a bowl of fresh water (not uranium) and I washed the items in the samemanner as before. The man “in charge” had sat for awhile and having apparently watchedme clean, said, “You have that water conservation thing down.”

He then proceededtelling me funny stories, and was really nice, sweet, the rest of the time.
It’s just a story about washing a pot, but the best part was when I went to sit back downin the meeting, and the man that had me get my food leaned over and asked me,whispering, “What did you carry in?” I thought for a moment until I felt him wonderabout the delay, then I answered, “A clean pot.” He thought for a moment, then laughedout loud!

Later as an older woman was leaving she was shaking everyone’s hand. I heard hertelling them words in Navajo, and when she came to me she had a few words in Navajoas well.  As she passed, this same man leaned over again and said,

“She says you willmake a good truck driver one day.” My delay in laughing was the same as his had been –he got me back. I’m sure he was pleased – I could feel him smiling.

We were at the meeting from about 2 p.m. until 8:30 – trippy day.

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