The Road to 65, Miles 246-7: The Spirit Has Many Homes

August 1-2, 2015, Hano Village-  By way of introduction, Hano is one of three villages atop the Hopi landmark known as First Mesa.  The twentieth-century town of Polacca, named for Chief Tom Polacca-ka, one of those who led the Hopi during the time of transition into a relationship with the U. S. Government, lies at the base of First Mesa, and is the locus of four schools, the Police Department,  the Tour Office, a post office,a small hospital, and an even smaller store.

I set out around mid-day on Saturday, and headed up to I-40, past Flagstaff and Winslow, to Holbrook, the seat of Navajo County.  Some long-time friends and collaborators, from my days as counselor at Jeddito School, live there.  I hadn’t seen them since they suffered a tragic loss, so a visit was well overdue.  After settling into Holbrook Inn, one of the town’s many cheap motels, I went over to visit with Bob and Jacque.  This is one of those times when, as an old Navajo medicine man once put it, “you put your watch away.”  Many recountings of the departed, stories of other aspects of our lives on the Reservation, a fine Tex-Mex chimichanga, and discussions of health-enhancing products, filled nearly five hours on Saturday afternoon and evening, before it was time for all good souls to wind down. So, it was back to the motel for me, with a good night to my friends.

Today, Sunday, came quickly enough.  I dreamed that I was tending to the needs of some close relations, who had been incarcerated.  This was probably a logical outgrowth of the part of the conversation that focused on my friends’ helping those who had found themselves in the County Jail, and some who are in a state prison.  We can’t, in good conscience, forget those among the fallen who have either committed “victimless” crimes, or who have been over-sentenced, which happens a lot in Tribal Courts, and other small-town judicial locales, in the name of “tough love”.

I headed northward, after an adequate breakfast of pancakes and sausage, at a small diner called Tom & Suzie’s.  Highway 77 is a familiar-enough road.  All of the highways between Flagstaff and Gallup are:  It’s what Penny, Aram and I did on weekends, for the seven years we were up this way- mostly to shop, in one or another of the “border towns”.

I stopped in a few spots along the way up the 77, to note some of the geologic gems in the areas known as Indian Wells and White Cone.  This small outcropping, about seven miles south of Indian Wells, looks a bit like the famous Ship Rock, northwest of Farmington, NM. So, I refer to it as “Little Ship Rock”.


The next four frames show the area known as the Hopi Buttes, though they lie somewhat south of the Hopi mesa-top homes.



The Dine, or Navajo, and the Hopi have alternately co-existed and clashed, as many neighbours around the world do, for hundreds of years now.  The two nations are in a co-existence mode again, which does my heart good, especially as I  worked with both peoples, simultaneously, for nearly eleven years.  So, it’s not odd that the Hopi Buttes should be populated, and used, mainly by Dine (pronounced di-NEH).



This large formation, near the settlement of Bidahochi, was given the sobriquet “Gorilla Rock” by some Dine whom I met when first visiting the area, in 1979.


The Twin Buttes, just south southeast, of Indian Wells, are most impressive  land forms in the eastern part of the Hopi Buttes area.


They all certainly invite climbing, but the Hopi Buttes are all on private land, so hiking without authorization, or a Dine guide, would invite trouble.  The Navajo Nation may look empty, but the majority of it, especially along the southern edge, is working ranch land.

Once I arrived in Polacca, a few minutes were spent at the home of a departed Hopi-Tewa grandmother, who was our friend for twenty-five years, until her passing. As her daughter was not home, I visited with two of her grandsons, until they had to tend to a family issue.

Then, it was time to go “up top” to Hano.  Parking at the lower lot, I walked up the two-lane road, taking care to stay out of the way of eastbound traffic, which was relatively light.  It took just a few minutes of being directed, and redirected, before I located my hosts’ residence. I was welcomed as if it had been only last week, since we’d seen each other.  That is the way of these villagers, once trust has been established.

Trust does not come easy here. Photography is officially not allowed, once on the mesa tops, and even photographing the mesas from Polacca, or Kykotsmovi (Third Mesa’s base town), is looked at with raised eyebrows.  I saw several people, both Native American and White, recording the social Rain Dances (as opposed to religious dances, which are usually closed to outsiders) on their devices.  One young man was doing so for the Village of Hano.  There’s no telling about the rest.

I was content, as always, to observe the dances attentively, enjoy my hosts’ fine meal and wide-ranging conversations and take-in the antics of the children, who will keep this small, but dignified, nation’s life going, for another generation, and, I’m sure, will turn the dances and songs over to another generation, and so forth, for as long as these sturdy mesa tops will have them.

The Rain Dance seems to have worked, though this being Arizona, there is always more such dancing to be done.  The little three-and-four year old girls were already practicing, alongside the big people, while I stood under the roof beams and took it all in. I will be back, most likely in September, for the Harvest Dance.  This is, after all, one of my spirit’s many homes.

I will close with two views of Winslow’s Little Painted Desert, one of the side perks of driving back to central Arizona.



8 thoughts on “The Road to 65, Miles 246-7: The Spirit Has Many Homes

  1. It’s stark but beautiful country, Gary! I have very fond memories of visits to Hopi mesas, and to Acoma, where my physician father befriended a native physician — we were invited to their home, where the lady was making piki bread — how delicious that was. I was probably about 10-12 years old at that time!


  2. Great scenic descriptions. Love the terrain. Isn’t it a strong culture that welcomes one as a close friend after many years?


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