Home Turf: A Visit to the Native American Baha’i Institute

I rode “over the hump” last Friday, taking I-40 from Barstow, CA to Winslow, AZ.. I couldn’t see “the Corner”, but I did end up paying homage to rock n’ roll.  After being told a room advertised for $40 would cost me $60, I left America’s Best Value Inn, and went next door to Delta Motel.  Here, a more reasonable room took me to Graceland.  Elvis was everywhere on the walls.


I went through a few brain burps the next day.  The worst was, once I got to the road that I always used to take to the Institute, I found myself battling a sand dune.  A local couple came by, pulled me out with their truck and a chain, got paid for their trouble ( Always offer cash to local people who help you out on a Native American reservation.  Even with casinos, not that many people are working.) and I was on my way to NABI in an hour’s time- by a newer and better route.

I arrived at NABI, at a good time.  An elder, whom we refer to as a Continental Counselor spoke, followed by Mr. Kahn, who, with his brother, organized a Council Fire, a spiritual gathering of two-four days, in their home community of Pine Springs, in 1962.  Thus, we were marking the 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking event in the history of the Baha’i Faith.


Mr. Kahn is an elder in his own right now, but still has a keen mind and led the gathering later in the evening, in a traditional Navajo social dance, known as a Round Dance.  Couples danced clockwise, in a circle, following Mr. Kahn and his wife, who is a local teacher.

Below, a Mexican-American friend from California speaks to the group.


Mr. Bathke, another long-time resident of the area, who is now co-adminstrator, with his wife, of the Native American Baha’i Institute, gave a brief talk on Saturday, as well, and would speak further on Sunday morning.


The Institute has come a very long way, since some of us gathered here in 1981, and engaged in the process of putting up a rudimentary shade house and mainly slept under the stars, or in our tents.  There was one time I was shaving by with the aid of my car’s side view mirror.   A Navajo friend quipped, “What do you need a mirror for?  Don’t you know where your face is?”  Navajo humour has always given timely insight into the ways in which we have separated ourselves from nature.


Above, is the Dining Hall at Native American Baha’i Institute.


Ted Lew, a Chinese-American friend, remembers his visits to Navajo land over the years.


Alfred Kahn, Sr. and his family sang a Baha’i prayer.


The Baha’i Faith, in each country in which it is freely allowed to practice, is governed by a National Spiritual Assembly, which is elected every year by delegates to a National Convention, held in May.  The delegates, in turn, are elected by a gathering of Baha’is in each  electoral unit within the given country.  This election takes place every October.


Above, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States is shown giving a gift to the Kahn family.


Jeff Jentz, a friend from many years ago, speaks of his experiences as a Baha’i on the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo believe, inherently, in the oneness of the human race.  That there are disputes among us is largely due to the abuses of political and social systems on which we’ve depended over the centuries.  More and more Native Americans, along with other ethnic and national groups, are coming to realize the need for people to unify, at the grassroots level, so as to avoid tyranny and oppression, and move forward to a truly global civilization, which honors the vast variety of cultural expressions.


This is why I feel I went home last weekend.

3 thoughts on “Home Turf: A Visit to the Native American Baha’i Institute

  1. LOL! Love your reference to the corner in Winslow. I don’t know why the musical reference surprised me…I guess I haven’t seen you speak of lyrics much. I’m smiling at the “Elvis room.” It’s good to know that you had help when you needed it getting out of the sand dune! Blessings to the folks who stopped to help you. This is all very interesting, Gary. Thank you for sharing it.


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