On Transparency and Fear of Conflict

“Why reinvent the wheel?” someone asked.  So often others say things better than I ever would, so I like to share quotes.  Here are two:

On fear of conflict

“Why are we so afraid of conflict? Because we associate it with combat. Why are we afraid of combat? Because we don’t want to get hurt. In the workplace, the fear of conflict stunts creativity, growth and collaboration. So, if we want to get those three important ingredients for productivity and job satisfaction back, we need to learn how to manage conflict effectively for all concerned.” – Karen Mattonen

On being real (transparent)

“To be transparent is a relief. Muddy water hides a host of unpleasant surprises. Clear water shows us the bottom of the sea-the rubbish and debris if they are there, but also the multicolored fish, shells, starfish. Honesty allows us to look into someone’s eyes and through them into their heart.” – Joe Roberts

The Bean Dance

Piki Bread

Last Saturday, Zoe and I (along with Nancy, a friend) enjoyed the Bean Dance at Mishongnovi, Hopi, AZ on Second Mesa.  Zoe and Nancy went early and helped the women prepare the food.  They saw things I didn’t.  The Bean Dance is associated with couples’ engagement to be married.  It involves the exchange and consumption of much food and Kachinas.

The whole week before the day that the woman takes the food to her in-laws, her family prepares a lot of pastries like cakes, pies, cookies, donuts, sweet rolls, etc.  Baskets and baskets of bread are also prepared as are strings of fruit.  The female relatives bring boxes of Piki bread, a traditional food only made on a hot, flat stone.  Piki bread is made from dried Sweet Corn kernels.  Dried Sweet Corn is a very costly commodity and  must be finely ground to make what the Hopi call a ‘Horse’.  It is actually a kind of a cake.  Many families have to prepare for this event a year or two in advance to be able to have everything ready.

The Dance itself has Kachinas coming out of the Kivas and dancing, chanting, snorting, and making other noises as they scurry in and out of the kivas with loads of food and other gifts that they take to members of the village.  The event we attended lasted approximately two hours.  This was preceded by a nice meal in the ancient home of the family of the woman who invited us.  Her home was directly across the street from three Kivas, so we literally had a ringside seat (sitting or standing just outside the front, and only, door).

We feel honored to have been invited to and participate in The Bean Dance.

Dine Culture

Dina dancerI learned several years ago that to engage a new culture, one can learn their songs, dance, and food.  When we lived in Kentucky we learned to eat Hot Brown and enjoy Bluegrass Music.  We went with some friends to the granddaddy of all Bluegrass Festivals in Lexington, KY.  It was great.  We saw and heard most of the performers who provided the music for the movie released about a year later – “O, Brother, Where Art Thou.”  We also took clogging lessons.  That was great fun, and it got us accepted into the culture very quickly.

In the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, where much of the population has an Eastern European immigrant heritage, we went to the almost weekly festivals at area churches and other venues.  There we were introduced to the amazing foods new to us – like pierogies and baclava.  And we gained a new appreciation for polka and other folk dances.

On the Navajo Nation, the native music is mostly Navajo language chant, and the dances are part of their religion.  So, we struggle to learn and engage in their culture.  But, we keep trying.

Navajo Nation and Socialism

navajoWhy would I call the Navajo Nation a socialist nation?  I’m glad you asked.

The Diné (Navajo people) receive monthly checks from their government who receives monthly checks from the U.S. government.  They depend on those government checks.  They do not have to work to survive.

Few jobs exist on the reservation – other than governments jobs, school-related jobs, health-care related jobs, and jobs in the few retail businesses that exist – convenience stores and fast-food outlets in the smaller communities – and larger retail stores in the few larger towns.  Other possibilities include mines (coal) and power plants.  Most of the businesses are owned by people outside the Reservation.

Navajo Nation government, local and National, experience corruption typical of governments.  Power, control, and opportunities for fraudent accumulation of wealth corrupt humans.  To be sure, many government officials are very honest and servant-minded.  Nevertheless, corruption frequently harms the Nation’s citizens.  U.S. government corruption also harms.  Some local citizens call the Bureau of Indian Affairs – the BIA – “bossing Indians around.”  🙂

From my perspective, socialism is not working well on the Navajo Nation.

Indians on the Reservation

indiansWhere I teach, at Piñon High School on the Navajo Nation, we have one Indian on staff.  His name is Udai Singh, and he teaches Chemistry.  He has an earned Ph.D. and is originally from India.  Therefore he is an Indian, right?

Columbus Day is coming next month.  We won’t be celebrating it on the Navajo Nation.  When he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and struck land, Columbus thought he had arrived in India.  He called the natives he encountered “Indians.”  Unfortunately, the moniker stuck.  To this day, I have yet to meet a Native American who originated in India. But, on the Navajo Nation, I have an Indian friend, Udai Singh.

Interestingly, Udai (Dr. Singh), tells me the British called his dark-skinned people, native to India, “Niggers.”  Oh, the arrogance of cultures that think they are better than others!

Socialism on the Navajo Nation

100_3833The most difficult challenge that I see on the Navajo Nation (Dinetah) is giving the people incentive.  Incentive to acquire an education, incentive to study, incentive to get a job (if any exist), and incentive to start a business is lacking.  In the public school classrooms, children lack incentive to study and learn.  Yes, that’s true in most public schools, but it appears to be more of a challenge on the Navajo Nation.

Understandably, many Navajo people do not want to leave their homeland to work.  They really love their homeland and most love their culture.  The younger people who do not love their culture at least are more comfortable with it than with “white man culture.”  When they do go to college, off the reservation, they face many cultural challenges.  A high percentage do not persist until graduation.

The Navajo do highly value military service, and a high percentage of them do enlist.  Military service ensures some form of education, including technical, that helps them obtain work after discharge.  Military service also provides opportunities for travel and reasonably safe immersion in another culture.  While many of these enlistees are very patriotic, almost all are willing to die for their country, they primarily enlist to protect their land (the Reservation) and to get off the Reservation and receive an informal and formal education.

I really respect the Navajo.  I really want to provide incentive to start businesses on the Reservation.  The people are highly intelligent and creative.  With a little incentive and encouragement, the sky is the limit for these amazing people!

Navajo Nation

Navajo sealZoe and I have maintained a domicile on the Navajo Nation since December, 2008.   We have lived in Flagstaff, AZ for eight years.  While I have learned some about the Navajo Nation during that time, much, much remains to be learned.  Some experience with the Hopi and Alabama-Coushatta (Texas) informs what I share in this blog about Native Americana.

The Navajo Nation (and many other “Indian Reservations”) are “Third World Countries” inside the borders of the United States.  According to Wikipedia, “The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or neutral with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. Although the term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world, this usage is widely disparaged since the term no longer holds any verifiable meaning after the fall of the Soviet Union deprecated the terms First World and Second World. While there is no identical contemporary replacement, common alternatives include developing world and Global South.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World)

Citizens of the Navajo Nation do enjoy freedoms such as freedom of the press, political rights, and civil liberties.  I chose the descriptor “third world” because of their basic poverty (by U.S. standards) and the fact that they do not align with capitalism.  They can choose to do so, but the U.S. government has effectively converted them to a socialist nation.

Family and community are basic values of the Navajo (Dine), and their religion and culture are closely linked.  These two factors help keep the Navajo Nation strong.  Conversely,  socialism keeps them weak.

Death Mask

John KeatsWe also took a terra cotta bust (actually a death mask) of John Keats by arguably the best female sculptor of all time, Malvina Hoffman.  The Antiques Roadshow appraiser not only didn’t know who John Keats was, he tried to fake  it on his knowledge of Malvina Hoffman.  His face broadcast a puzzled look when we told him who the sculptor was.  When he asked us, “during what period did she do her work?”, we knew he hadn’t a clue.  Malvina Hoffman studied under Rodin.  So, while most of the appraisers impressed us favorably, not all the appraisers are experts.

Processing My Grief

loss2To transform my unprocessed grief, I chose to plan a grieving ritual for each loss I have not fully grieved. First, I created a list of each loss in my life, listing the losses in chronological order from oldest to most recent. Under each loss, I listed the additional resultant losses. Then I verbally acknowledged the significance of the relationship and the impact its loss and the additional resultant losses had on my life. Simply beginning the process proved to be cathartic.

Next, I utilized the suggestions of Imber-Black and Roberts (1993) for creating a ritual:

  • Relating—acknowledging a significant relationship that impacted my life
  • Changing—acknowledging a transition or change in that relationship
  • Healing—being open to healing (or growth) over time
  • Believing—discovering “What I really believe”
  • Celebrating—honoring and celebrating the role and impact the former relationship had in my life (pp. 129-130).

Beginning with the first person on my list, my former brother-in-law, Glynn, I acknowledged each of the losses related to Glynn’s death and spoke aloud how they had impacted my life. I spent some time in silence, meditating on our relationship and the losses I sustained by Glynn’s death. Next, I invited healing to come into any voids those losses had created in my life. After silently pondering, then speaking what I believed about those losses, I chose a celebration ceremony to commemorate the losses. Even this small beginning produced a feeling of liberation.

Far from being free of the baggage of unprocessed grief, I now move to the next loss on my list. I know grieving is a journey, a process. Completion of the process for each of the losses on my list may take months or even years. I am in no hurry, but I will not procrastinate. I sense this process to be important to me as well as to my spouse, extended family, friends, and colleagues. I expect to be changed, transformed as a result of healthily grieving my unprocessed grief.

Fulghum, R. (1995). From beginning to end: The rituals of our lives. New York: Villard Books.

Imber-Black, E., & Roberts, J. (1993). Rituals for our times. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Jason Aronson Publishers.

Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rites of Passage

riteChange, loss, or death all involve leaving someone or something, passing across a threshold (the liminal stage), and going to a new place or situation. Therefore, most change needs to be grieved. This means not only leaving the old but entering the new. Robert Fulghum (1995) suggests a meaningful rite of passage helps with this transition. Rites of passage may include, but are not limited to, such things as:

  • A meal
  • A memory holding object of value (only to you)
  • Candles
  • Smells
  • Special utensils
  • Special dress (attire)
  • A blessing
  • Letter writing
  • Creating a memorial [plaque, pile of stones, a planted tree(s), etc.]
  • An outdoor activity (long hike, backpacking, camping, etc.)
  • Journaling or writing  memorial prose
  • Achieving something you never did before (in memory of the person, experience, or thing lost)
  • Creating a memorial piece of art or craft

Fulghum adds, “A successful rite of passage must leave room for the eloquence of silence” (p. 247).

Fulghum, R. (1995). From beginning to end: The rituals of our lives. New York: Villard Books.