Cultural Reconciliation – Dia de la Raza
Reflections on Wearing the Manta
When I wear Hopi dress
do I take on thousands of
years of spiritual tradition
over 500 years of
Do I become Hopi?
Is Hopi a state of mind
or solely a
Twenty years ago, I lived in Austin Texas and was the director of the Austin Women’s Peace House. That year, 1992, was observed as the Quincentenary, 500th year anniversary, of the “discovery” of the “Americas” by the Spanish explorer, Christopher Columbus. Even though I had little personal experience with Native Americans at that time, as a black woman, I shared a disdain for the observance of October 12th as a national holiday. So, I was excited when I learned that Indigenous nations and peoples throughout North, Central, and South America organized the Coalition of Reconciliation to present their historical and cultural perspective of the devastating effects on their lands and cultures that resulted from the colonialism that Columbus’ discovery initiated and to share their continuing living cultures. Because black people were brought to this country as slaves, we had a story to tell too. I not only joined the Coalition but also created the Cultural Reconciliation Project.
In an editorial about the project I wrote, “Now is the time for us to educate ourselves about the many Indian nations, to learn of their struggles, to benefit from their relationship to the earth and their traditions. Many of us (black people) will never have the opportunity to go to Africa and to experience those still holding on to their ancient traditions. Yet, here in the U.S. we can benefit greatly from learning of Native American traditions, culture, and practices.”
I never imagined then that I would be fortunate enough to live in a Native American nation and receive the benefits I wrote about. But, I am now entering my third year here in the Center of the Universe – the Hopi Nation. Every day I am grateful for being able to live and work in this spacious, spiritual, beautiful land. According to the Hopi Traditions, many of the other indigenous nations are descendants of the travels made by the ancient Hopi peoples. To this day, the Hopi continue to practice their traditional ceremonies and dances which allow their corn and other vegetables to grow in the desert and their children to speak their language.
Two weeks ago we attended the Harvest Festival at First Mesa. It is one of the few events opened to non-Hopi in which we are allowed to take photographs. So, today I observe, what the Latinos call this day, Dia de la Raza – the day of the peoples of many cultures – by sharing a little of the wealth of the Hopi culture.