As a woman with Passamaquoddy roots when I first came to Abiquiu I was invited to participate in the seasonal celebrations that occurred in each of the six pueblos that were located along the Chama/ Rio Grande River. These gracious invitations made me feel blessed, grateful, included, and at “home.”
My own people’s lives and traditions were destroyed by colonial peoples centuries ago.
Yesterday, I was invited to attend a river blessing on what I call Red Willow River a tributary of the Rio Grande by folks of Spanish and Indigenous descent who live here in Abiquiu on the mesa. These people, although local, are of mixed descent and do not follow the seasons and cycles of the year as the surrounding Pueblos do. There is a heavy overlay of Spanish colonialism along with a restrictive (to me) Catholicism that sets this village apart from the pueblos.
Still, I was looking forward to this local celebration.
It was supposed to be led by Tewa Women United from the neighboring pueblos. It was a beautiful day, and of course we were all on “Indian Time” which means practically that ceremonies start when the time was right.
However, this blessing of the river didn’t come together at all. People milled around aimlessly. Some left. The children some of whom were dressed in regalia played for a while and eventually got hungry. Some complained they had to get back to school for a game.
Because this celebration was supposed to honor the waters and the river, I had brought one of my Zuni bears to be blessed.
I approached one of the head honchos of Abiquiu village to ask if I could include my little bear in the blessing, and was told curtly that it was my job to watch.
Stunned and deeply distressed, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I am a ritual artist who has been celebrating the eight spokes of the year (akin to the Indigenous way) for almost 40 years. I removed my little bear from my neck and walked down to the river.
Kneeling by her waters, I submerged my small bear three times praying that the wild bears that were being slaughtered throughout this country of unspeakable violence would be spared suffering as they were killed…
My tears of grief spilled into the slowly meandering gray sage green river. On my return to the group I heard the drum…
It was at that moment I saw the gift. Retrieving it instantly I recognized it as an eagle’s breast feather.
Someone had heard this prayer.
Maurice, from Abiquiu village was leading the children and some of the other Genizaros (self defined name the mixed blood population of Abiquiu) in some circle dances after which he invited the public to join in.
Maurice is a dancer that is filled with the Spirit. His feet never touch the ground. Every time I witness his dancing I am struck anew with wonder. I loved watching the children with their colorful ribbons flowing in the wind. The dancing ended abruptly after a few minutes and the people went home.
Although the focus of the gathering had been aborted, it was fun talking with friends under the shelter of the cottonwoods.
As a woman who thrives on rivers, brooks, warm summer rains, and abundant moisture I felt satisfied that I had come to do what was in my heart and to honor the gift of water that brings me life.