Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Res--a series of memories

My friend's recent trip to the Res her family came from made me remember my life teaching on a reservation in Arizona. White woman teacher who in the great tradition of the Tohono O'Otum was tortured terribly the first year. I remember joking after a bad day to my Indian aide about wild indians and she said, not laughing, "Yes but this is the real thing." But there was Stephan BurningBreaast whose name made me love him over and above the fact that he sat in the back of the room not participating the whole year, but reading every book he could get his hands on. I wasn't supposed to pass him and I didn't . I was a new teacher, timid and shell shocked. but I would go change that now if I could.

There were several guys in back rows who came to class and just stared, no expression or occasionally joked with friends, or drew fabulous intricate pictures in current comic book style. I told them they could make good money doing that, but that isn't why they were doing it. It wasn't about money. There was a deep down silent hatred driving their expression in silence and in ink. There was a lot of suicide. Some murders.

I hiked on weekends when I wasn't with Maya. Twenty, thirty miles sometimes with groups up in the Tucson mountains. Once, hiking alone, I hid behind some brush from a group of tourists chattering away as they walked up the path and felt my distain for their lack of connection with where they were. I was angry. I thought, I"m waiting here for them to pass just like the Native Americans are waiting for the white people to get off the continent. They lived with that kind of determined silent anger.

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