Chaco Canyon, New Mexico Archaeoastonomy

(Join the Earth Walks program in a three day journey to Chaco Canyon October 6-8, 2018 camping under the stars, guided by a New Mexico Pueblo family who consider the site as their ancestral homeland.  For information on cost and registration: https://earthwalks.org/ )

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

At an elevation of 6,200 feet, Chaco is a high desert, sun-scorched in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter. Despite these harsh conditions, evidence of human presence in the area stretches back to as early as 2900 BC. These groups were largely nomadic, until around AD 200, when the first farmers settled in the area and built small pit houses.

Then in roughly AD 850, a great change took place. The people began building in a radically different manner, constructing massive stone buildings unlike any that had been built before. These structures soared to four or five stories and contained up to seven hundred rooms and dozens of mostly circular underground ceremonial rooms.

The architecture was a feat of engineering, often built along celestial alignments, they included water-collection systems and were linked to outlying communities by an extensive network of roads. These elaborate buildings evidence a sophisticated and highly organized culture, with Chaco Canyon at its center.

Full moon over the Canyon

The people of Chaco demonstrated extraordinary observations of astronomical phenomena which they incorporated into their buildings by designing, orienting and locating their major buildings in relationship to solar and lunar events.  This required advanced architectural and design skills, scientific observation and social cohesion.  Some think the civilization that flourished here parallels that of Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures.

New Mexico Pueblo Prayers

It was August 4th, 2018 and I was at Kewa (Santo Domingo Pueblo) south of Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend the annual Corn Dance Ceremony and Dances.  Really more like a prayerful event, in which hundreds of dancers of all ages participate from the village.  As I made my way through the maze of walkways into the central plaza area, I ended up walking next to a group of dancers who were headed in the same direction.  Not wanting to disturb their focus, I was silent.  Then one of them called to me:  “How are you doing today?”  That opened up a friendly conversation.  They were all teachers at the Santa Fe Indian School and I had worked in the Santa Fe Public Schools for many years.  It felt like a blessing and honor to be in conversation.

I shared with them an experience I had almost 40 years ago when I had attended the dances for the first time.  Taking a break, I took my sack lunch out to the parking area in an ocean of trucks and cars.  I found a concrete curb to sit on and began to eat.  Then from behind me somewhere a woman’s voice yelled at me:  “What are you doing?!”  Uh-oh.  I thought perhaps I’d violated some Pueblo rules or etiquette.  I turned around to see the woman standing in the doorway of her home, adorned with a kitchen apron and waving at me.  “Come in!  Come in and eat!”  And so I did, with strangers who felt like family.  That was my introduction to Pueblo generosity and friendship.

Helping Harvest Corn

Santo Domingo Pueblo, on the east bank of the Rio Grande about 40 miles north of Albuquerque, is the scene each August 4th of the largest Indian dance ceremonial held annually in the southwest. This is the feast day of St. Dominic, patron saint of the historic Indian Pueblo, and more than 1,000 Santo Domingo Indians join a presentation of the colorful Green Corn Dance.

Men, women and children, all in beautiful ceremonial attire, dance under the sun in the big plaza of the old historic pueblo to the sound of chanting and pounding drums. The Green Corn Dance at Santo Domingo Pueblo each August 4th attracts thousands of spectators from all parts of New Mexico and even from the far corners of the world.

Feast Day activities begin with a morning mass in the picturesque mission church at the east edge of the Pueblo. After mass, a statue of St. Dominic is carried in a procession from the Church to a place of honor in a bough covered shrine on the pueblo plaza. Here, St. Dominic will remain until the ceremonial dance is completed. Then it will be returned to the Church.

The Green Corn Dance begins in front of the Church by 10 am and will continue throughout the day. Members of the Squash and Turquoise clans will alternate in the dancing. Pueblo Indian potters and silversmiths will display their wares for sale on the tables and on the grounds in the Pueblo and food concessions and carnival rides will be set up. Since this is a religious observance, no photography, sketching, or tape recording will be permitted. No alcohol beverages/illegal drugs or contraband are allowed on the Pueblo.

As I drove away from the Pueblo, a huge cloud had begun to form over the Jemez Mountains to the East.  Looking back it seemed to be like a giant feather stretched over the wide New Mexico sky, spreading its blessings of coming rain over the Pueblo and dancers.  Ah-ho!

JOIN EARTH WALKS ON JOURNEYS THROUGHOUT THE SOUTHWEST.  TO SEE MORE GO TO: https://earthwalks.org/

Earth Walks to Jemez Pueblo May 31-June 3, 2018

THE END IS NEAR…AND SO IS THE BEGINNING!

“Tending the Garden”

Fields and Lands of Jemez Pueblo

As one seasonal cycle ends, another begins. Join Earth Walks for this exceptional opportunity to experience the time honored traditions of Jemez Pueblo and Bodhi Manda Zen Center. Both foster a vision of culture and life that nourishes body, mind and spirit.

Learning through service, Earth Walks will join hands and hearts with Flower Hill Institute in their fields at Jemez Pueblo and in the nearby Bodhi Manda Zen Center community garden to help prepare and plant for the summer crops. There will be a way for everyone to participate, regardless of physical ability or age. Pueblo elders and community members will guide us in their ancient traditions and Abbess Hosen will offer the contemplative Zen Buddhism experience. Children from the Pueblo will perform a Butterfly Dance to encourage pollination of the newly planted gardens.

Remarkable dialogues, laughter and sharing meals of food from the garden will accompany time alone for quiet reflection and enjoyable soaks in the hot springs at BMZC alongside the Jemez River. Bring instruments for music making and your favorite memories for storytelling!

Lodging: Dormitory style. Limited number of private rooms available for additional cost on first come basis. Delicious vegetarian home cooked meals.

Registration: $375 Includes: Nine meals from Thursday dinner through Sunday lunch. Lodging, dormitory style (additional cost for single room, limited availability). Access to hot springs pools. Honorarium to Pueblo elder. Workshop materials. Optional: instruction and participation in meditation practice. Transportation by carpooling or on own.

For information/registration:  info@earthwalks.org

Flower Hill Institute:  Flower Hill is a native-owned, community-directed nonprofit. Its objectives include preserving and enhancing cultural resources, preparing youth to inherit leadership, improving economic self-sufficiency, organizing inter-tribal movements, and improving climate change resiliency through experimental farming, seed banking and youth science camps.  Flower Hill organized an effort by the All Indian Pueblo Council of Governors to publish a response to the encroachment of oil and gas development into the area surrounding Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, an area of utmost cultural importance to the Pueblos.

Bodhi Manda Zen Center: The philosophy in the Bodhi garden recognizes and supports interdependent roles played by a range of organisms in a natural environment. Modern tools used employ practices that hearkens back to indigenous peoples throughout the world. Fresh healthy vegetables from the garden are shared at mealtime to honor all those who help provide sustenance for the health of our bodies and minds and support Buddhist practices of mindfulness and compassion for all beings.Visitors may enjoy the hot springs on site adjacent to the Jemez River.
Roger Fragua, Flower                                          Abbess Hosen, Bodhi
Hill Institute Director                                            Manda Zen Center

                                           
 Greenhouse seedlings at Bodhi–         Preparing plant seedings for fields            
 
       Diggin’ it at the community garden                   Hot Springs at Bodhi 
         
                                                   
                                                       Clearing the fields                                                                                                                                                               
                                      Doug Conwell, Earth Walks Director
                                                       Come Join Us!
               

Canyon de Chelly–Walking in Beauty

Canyon de Chelly: First Memory Time Begins

 

A thunder cloud-cannon explodes somewhere overhead. Cottonwoods tremble in a rising wind, then wave their arms wildly in the invisible turbulence. And here am I, a thousand feet below the rim of red earth, sandstone cliffs towering above my little human figure, brilliant blue sky canopy above. Suddenly out of nowhere, a huge bucket of rain dumps down, sending me scurrying to the canyon wall for protection, back flat against the sun warmed rocks. But there is no escape. Waterfalls materialize in every direction, crashing down in a gushing symphony where there was only dry bareness before….a scene from the creation story when time began. Then the wall which is just barely sheltering me from the storm becomes a vertical ocean, rippling waves of water propelling down the cliff face behind my back] onto the canyon’s sandy floor. As the drama unfolds around my feet, tiny desert frogs appear from the sand where they are buried, waiting for this precise moment in time.

The moment is over almost as soon as it starts, this desert madness and miracle of passing storm. Sun sparkles over wet leaves, now glistening and refracting the light in delight at the welcome moisture. At least that is how I am feeling as I breathe in the fresh fragrance of wet sand, sagebrush and juniper.  Waterfalls slowly recede, their crashing, gurgling noise passing like a dream. Frogs return to their subterranean hideouts…and I step out into this new world, like everything else in this desert  more alive in the radiance that only rain can bring.

 

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. Just a name on a map to many, and not the name it is called by those who have lived here for generations. To the Dine, this is Tseyi, or “inside the rock,” a place that echoes with memories of their ancestors and the ancient cliff dwelling Pueblo people. Their voices whisper in the winds that wend their way through willows, cottonwood and Russian olive trees, past coyotes howling their songs under starry night skies and down trails and pathways known only to those for whom this place is home. But the canyon holds memories for me as well, experiences that have changed the course of my life. Those experiences are the subject of future blogs that will include visits with my service learning program, Earth Walks

My first visit to the canyon was in 1991, assisting a tour led by  a guide from the Santa Fe, New Mexico area. Our group overlooked the awesome canyon, visited the National Park Service museum and learned about its history and geology. All well and good, but that was only a brief introduction to one of the longest continuously inhabited places in North America, and not the heart and soul of the canyon. I was to learn more about that in the years to come. History and geology are important, though.

Perhaps geology is a bit more objective in the telling: The de Chelly sandstone was laid down during the Permian period over 200 million years ago. The formation is unusual because it is not horizontally deposited but rather as a cross-bedded formation composed of many steeply dipping wedges, typical of windblown dune deposits. The canyons were carved over millennia by erosion from the Tsaile and Whiskey creeks forming Chinle Wash, creating awesome vertical walls. The area encompasses a long three-armed canyon on the northwest slope of the Defiance Uplift sloping to the west where the de Chelly sandstone plunges under the land just east of the town of Chinle.

Now for history, which is more subjective and depends on who is doing the telling. I will try to do some justice based on what academic research I could find. For nearly 5,000 years people have used the canyon as a place for campsites, shelters and permanent homes. Artifacts and rock imagery of the Archaic and Basketmaker people have been found in the canyon. According to anthropologists and archaeologists the first settlers built pit houses that were replaced with more sophisticated homes built into south-facing alcoves of the canyon walls to take advantage of sunlight and natural protection. Research indicates Pueblo people left the area in the mid-1300s to seek better farmlands. The Hopi, descendants of the original Puebloans in the canyon, migrated to the area in the 1300-1600s, and then left to settle on mesa tops to the west.

For the record, researchers have long used the word “Anasazi” to refer to the ancient settlers of the area. Because that word in the Dine language often translates as “ancient enemies,” it gives offense to the Hopi and other current-day Pueblo descendants. The word now most often used is “Ancestral Puebloans.”

The Dine came to the area around 1700 and have lived there ever since, except for the tragic and brutal event known as the Long Walk  when they were force-marched into exile at Ft. Sumner in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Reportedly there had been a long history of trading and raiding among the various indigenous tribes and then later with Mexicans and peoples from the United States. Sprinkled throughout that history were broken promises and treaties. Be that as it may, the U.S. decided to put an end to the Dine resistance to their authority and in the winter of 1864 Army Colonel Kit Carson arrived on a scorched-earth mission to expel them from their native homeland.

Dine guide Daniel Staley with weaver Kathryn Paymala

 

It’s hard for me to imagine this where it is now serenely quiet, but instead of the calls of ravens and hawks, the canyon walls must have echoed with thundering horse’s hooves, gunfire and rampaging violence as Carson’s men torched cornfields, captured prisoners and chopped down some 2,000 peach trees. The Dine—including women, children and elders—were then forced to walk in bitter cold 400 miles east to Ft. Sumner. There they remained for four years in deplorable conditions of captivity before being released to return to their homeland. Many people fell ill during the relocation. Many died. It is a shameful atrocity and a sorrowful chapter in chapter in history.

It is said that on their return when the Dine reached the crest of the mountains of Albuquerque and on the horizon saw Mt. Taylor–known to them as Tsoodizil (Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain)—they fell to the ground in prayer and gratitude. I think of my home as a physical address where I live or the town where I was born.

But talk with a traditional Hopi or Dine person and the thing called home will be a different story, layered with myth and meaning, some of which the English language cannot begin to express.

Because the streams running through Canyon de Chelly are not raging torrents like the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River, it has long supported farms and homes. Anasazi dwelling sites etched out of the vertical cliffs are found throughout the area accompanied by rock art petroglyphs and pictographs on the copper-hued walls, weathered into luminous “desert patina.”

One day while walking in the canyon with Dine guide Daniel Staley who has now become a friend, I was told: “When there is only one creation story left, it will be the end of the world.”

I won’t pretend that I know or understand the venerable complexity of Dine cosmology. But I do know that Grandmother Spider—who some say wove the web of creation for First Man and First Woman—has been a presence in my life since graduate school in 1971, long before I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a tale I’ve told in other Earth Walks blogs. Here in Canyon de Chelly there is a towering monolithic spire called Spider Rock that I’ve visited repeatedly over 30 years, and in future I’ll share some of my experiences with this iconic sandstone tower.

Earth Walks takes guided journeys to Canyon de Chelly every year, led by Daniel Staley and his family members.  Come join us!  Go to the website at https://earthwalks.org/ to sign up for future service and travel activities.

Earth Walks on a recent visit to the Canyon

Register for Earth Walks to Canyon de Chelly October 19-22, 2017

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly

Includes:

Guided walk on trails into the spectacular red sandstone canyon (equipment brought by truck; transportation option for those who choose)
Two nights camping (final night motel/optional camping)
Traditional sweat “bath” (lodge)
Day of solitude at Spider Rock
Day of service on a weaver’s family farm in the Canyon
Cost:  $615   Does not include: transportation to and from Chinle, AZ, last night in motel (free camping option available), meals outside the canyon, gratuities to guides

To register:  Deposit to save a space for you on this journey is $200 (trip is limited to 14 participants).  Remainder is due September 19, 2017.  Make checks payable to:  Earth Walks/PO Box 8534/Santa Fe, NM 87504.  (A limited number of partial work exchange scholarships may possibly be available.)

Information:  Contact info@earthwalks.org

Itinerary:
Thursday, October 19  travel by carpool from Santa Fe, past Shiprock, NM

From there cross the Chuska mountains to the town of Chinle.   Dine (Navajo) friend Daniel Staley and his family will guide us into the spectacular red sandstone canyon to his family land where we will be camping.  Those who wish will hike to the site; others can ride vehicles which will be carrying our camping gear.  The first evening we will participate in sweat lodge, a powerful way to begin our stay in this land which has been sacred to local people for so many generations. (Those who wish can stay outside the sweat and assist with the fire and prayers.) Meals in the canyon will be a group activity (preparation and clean up.)

Friday, October 20 we travel by truck to the Spider Rock for contemplation and time exploring the spectacular area around Spider Rock in the quiet of the canyon.

Saturday, October 21  we visit Kathryn Pemala who has been a long time weaver on her family farm in the canyon.  An important element of every Earth Walks is “service learning”–learning about traditional cultures while we offer service and “return the gift” of living in this great land.  We may be clearing weeds from farm land and orchards, helping with the animals, doing repairs or a variety of other activities.  Kathryn will share her method and meaning of weaving with us and we will share lunch together as well.

Kathryn Paymella, Dine (Navajo) Weaver

Our final evening, participants have the option of staying at the Sacred Canyon Lodge near the entrance of the canyon.  There is free camping available adjacent to the Lodge. We depart on Sunday, October 22.

Contact Earth Walks for registration details and information: info@earthwalks.org

Walk in Beauty!     Doug Conwell/Earth Walks

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell

Earth Walks Journey to Chaco Canyon 2017

May 19-21, 2017

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Join Earth Walks on both an outer journey to a remarkable ancient World Heritage Site and a journey of inner discovery in vast silence with the community of fellow travelers.

We’ll be guided by the Tesuque Pueblo sisters Bea Duran and Reyes Herrera and their family.   They consider Chaco Canyon as ancestral home ground.

Our time will include guided walks through the ancient sites, time alone to experience the vast silence of the Canyon and group sharing and conversation around the evening fires and meal times.  Bring a drum or musical instrument!

Cost:  Sliding scale.  $350 is the minimum, and if you can afford an additional amount it will help Earth Walks continue offering these journeys throughout the American Southwest.  Includes all meals, Friday evening through Sunday morning; guiding services; campground fees.  Does not include: transportation (by carpooling) entrance fees to Canyon, gratuities to guides.

For more information/registration:  info@earthwalks.org

Earth Walks has been leading journeys through the Southwest and Mexico for over 20 years.  For more information about our program, go to: https://earthwalks.org/

Full moon over the Canyon

Traditional Cultural Farming At Jemez Pueblo New Mexico

In Service to Mother Earth

Register by March 17, 2017 for a wonderful experience in service learning at the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. We will join Roger Fragua and elders on a farm at the Pueblo planting seeds for the coming growing season.  We will be joined by Pueblo youth and community members.

Roger has said, “Farming with nature (the root of organic farming) lies at the hear of practices used by native farmers in the Southwest for millennia.  Traditional cultural farming can teach us a great deal about how to build a resilient and regenerative agriculture.”  

The day of service is part of a three day retreat sponsored by Earth Walks of Santa Fe.  It will include a flute making workshop with Pueblo artist Marlon Magdalena.  Lodging will be at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs.

For information and cost, contact info@earthwalks.org

Santa Fe New Mexico Sense of Place Award

Santa Fe New Mexico has been recognized with the “Sense of Place” award by National Geographic Magazine. The award is bestowed on an organization or place that enhances cultural authenticity and supports historic monuments, vernacular architecture, indigenous heritage and artistic traditions.

Let Earth Walks be your guide through Santa Fe and the Southwest United States country. Experience the land, people and culture of the spectacular country. We can provide a wonderful experience!  You can reach us at earthwalks1@info.org

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Image result for images of santa fe nm free

Flute Making & Traditional Farming in Jemez Pueblo, NM

Flute Making and Farming at the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico

March 30-April 2, 2017

Join us for this special opportunity in creative arts and service learning.  We’ll be based at Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, NM with opportunity for rest, relaxation and participation in meditation practice if you wish. Abbess Jiun Hosen will warmly welcome the group and explain their traditional practices at Bodhi.Healing hot springs are located at the Center, adjacent to the Jemez River.

http://www.bmzc.org/the-center/the-grounds/

Friday, March 31 we will meet with Jemez Pueblo flute maker and player Marlon Magdalena.  Marlon says, “I proudly participate in all aspects of Jemez Life; for instance, I speak the Jemez Language, I plant Jemez corn, sing Jemez songs, and dance Jemez Dances. I am proud that I am from a place that still continues our ancient ways of life.”Marlon has been an artist for much of his life and creates paintings and traditional crafts.  He also makes and performs on a wide variety of hand-carved flutes.  He will lead us in the making of traditional cane flutes and explain the important meaning of flutes in the life of Pueblo people. (See: http://www.aluaki.com/bio.php )

Saturday, April 1 the group will enjoy a time of service with Jemez Pueblo resident Roger Fragua on his farm, helping prepare the fields for spring crops and learning about traditional values.  Roger has said,  “Farming with nature (the root of organic farming) lies at the heart of practices used by native farmers in the Southwest for millennia. Traditional farming can teach us a great deal about how to build a resilient and regenerative agriculture.”Sunday, April 2 following breakfast, the group will depart.  Participants are welcome to linger longer at Bodhi if they choose.

Cost:  $525  Includes dorm style lodging three nights (individual rooms available for additional cost); delicious vegetarian meals Thursday noon through Sunday morning, flute making materials.  Transportation: on own or by carpooling.

More information and to register:  contact  info@earthwalks.org

Walk in Beauty

In September 2016, Earth Walks traveled to the spectacular Canyon de Chelly with 12 participants.  It was a deeply memorable time, which included camping in the canyon under a blanket of stars, Dine (Navajo) friend and guide Daniel Staley playing his beautiful flute music to the echoes of the notes and his  ancestors and a day of service on the family farm of Kathryn Pemala.  Canyon

 

Our canyon campsite was on Daniel’s grandparents’ land where he maintains a fruit orchard and a traditional hogan.

daniel-with-apples-canyon-de-ch-2016One magical evening found us around the campfire with Daniel playing his flute and singing traditional Dine chants in his native language.  One participant had just acquired her first drum and she sent it around the group, asking each person to add their own drum beat, song or words to empower it for future drumming.  The group spent a day of solitude near the powerful Spider Rock.  That evening the group participated in a traditional sweat lodge.Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly Our final day in the canyon was spent in a service activity on the family farm of Kathryn Pemala, long time weaver, who has lived her entire life in the canyon.  As she weaves, she hears the voices and stories of her ancestors which are woven into the fabric of her work.

Dine (Navajo) weaver

Dine (Navajo) weaver

The group help harvest corn and plums, pulled weeds and enjoyed conversation with Kathryn and family members.  It was all too soon that we had to leave.

Helping Harvest Corn

Helping Harvest Corn

One of our participants, Sallie Bingham, is a writer and published author.  Her blog on the journey is well worth the reading.  You can view it at:  https://salliebingham.com/the-beauty-way/#comments 

Earth Walks plans to return to the canyon in the fall of 2017.  We will also travel to Chaco Canyon, NM http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/353 in late May.  This coming spring, we will be based at Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, NM http://www.bmzc.org/ helping with an organic farm in Jemez Pueblo http://www.jemezpueblo.com/  as well as making traditional flutes with Pueblo resident Marlon Magdalena http://www.aluaki.com/

If you would like to join us on these or other journeys or create a special Earth Walks for yourself, family, friends or business please be in touch.  Meanwhile, Happy Trails and may we all Walk in Beauty!

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell