In Part Two of our series on Bears Ears Partnership's collaborative conservation work, Loren Quam - leader of Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps (ALCC) Crew #641 - shares his experience on a recent hitch in Grand Gulch. Read the finalchapter of his blog post, "A Day-in-the Life with Loren Quam & ALCC Crew 641" here!
If you missed yesterday's chapter, or want to refresh your memory, you can read "Chapter 2: Join Crew #641 in Grand Gulch," here.
Chapter 3: Connecting and Reconnecting Communities
I did not mention this in my introduction, but I hold a significant religious role in our Zuni community. I am a part of the Rain Priest Society, which is a lifelong commitment. Since I am in this position, this makes me a leader for my community. I was chosen for this role because of my commitment to my Zuni culture, religion, and the teachings which I learned as a child. As a young child, I heard "stories" of how our people took a long journey from our emergence place at Ribbon Falls in Grand Canyon to the middle place that we call our home today, Zuni or Halona:wa.
Fast-forward to the present day, I made many trips to cultural sites with some culture advisors. I've learned that these "stories" are actually our history. Our culture does not have a history book, instead it has been passed down orally from generation to generation, which comes to the present, where I am still learning. I've heard of different routes our people took to get to our destination, building their homes as they took their journey and leaving their marks as they went.
Since I've been with ALCC, I've seen for myself what our elders were talking about and to this day it is an eye opener on how true our history is. I am seeing for myself the places where our ancestors were at, and they still are there, as they survived the many obstacles they came across to live in and to ensure that our culture continues. At times I shed tears to learn what our ancestors endured just so the future generations will carry on the sacred knowledge. All this our people know and continue to live by and practice to this day. Everytime I visit a structure, I carry my sacred cornmeal, turquoise and food to offer to the spirits that are still there, so that they know that we are still carrying on that knowledge and to continue to give us strength, to be strong and pure.
Throughout this whole article I did not call these places "ruins.” I refrain from calling these places such a thing. I call these sacred places “structures.” If I called these places "ruins" it basically means that these places are abandoned, left for nothing and never to return. I wholeheartedly believe these structures were left for the future generations to find, and to let us know that we did in fact thrive in these places. I believe that their spirits reside in these places still practicing their ways, speaking their language, tending to their gardens, and singing their sacred songs. I do not believe that these places are abandoned. There is always some energy I feel when I visit these places. So when I first enter a site, I greet the spirits in my Zuni Language and let them know that we are here.
This same greeting is applied when I visit the petroglyphs. There are people who call these "graffiti" that the young ones left. If you come from a Pueblo Tribe, you can tell these petroglyphs are stories being told, a prayer, or a map. Those petroglyphs are the things that they've seen in their lifetime and they wanted to show to others. Some petroglyphs that are seen here in Zuni are all across other sites, if you pay attention, the same goes for other Tribes as well. I've learned many things from my elders and I am blessed to see the same things that they are describing.
I know that I will be the one to teach others when I get to that age. As young as I am and with the religious standing, I get to teach others the same things that were told to me. I try to let people understand where I come from and what my culture is. I shared my knowledge with the folks at Bears Ears Partnership and I'm glad that they understand and are willing to share and respect my culture. I can say that I have respect for everyone who heard my teachings in Bears Ears and I give thanks to the people who are making an effort to protect these sites.
I always like to imagine how our ancestors traveled because for us, we can get in a vehicle and go to the same places they went to in a couple of days or weeks. Our ancestors, by foot, took hundreds of years to find the middle place with many challenges that came across their paths, but yet still managed to strongly carry on. They carried on because they all helped each other no matter the challenge and that's how they survived. I believe that we did the same during that hitch, which is why I love this program and why I will continue to join. It's all about resilience, support, encouragement and determination. We must all do the same, to help each other through tough challenges, no matter where we come from. We are all equal and we must all grow together. We all live on this one earth, awidelan tsitda.
I want to thank the Bears Ears Partnership for scheduling ALCC again and again for projects that we love to do. I want to thank ALCC for hiring me because without this job, I don't know where I would have ended up at. Big thanks to Shanna, Grace, Britt, Ryan, Jason, Corey, Lyle and Daniel from the Bears Ears Partnership and Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants, Inc. Another big thanks to crew #641 crew members–Robert Riley, McKenzie Niiha, Pesancio Lasiloo Jr, and Kaylee Kaamasee. Thanks to our field supervisor Braden Coonsis, Historical Preservation Coordinator James Othole, and our Program Coordinator Kevin Cooeyate, ELAHKWA!!! Hon tse’mak a:ts’ummeh. Hon dobinde a:ho’i. We are strong, we are one people!