June 4-5, 2016, Burntwater, AZ- There are, as I have indicated various times, several places in the world where I feel like family, and not just a passing acquaintance who is forgotten as soon as I leave. Reno/Carson City is one such place, the Prescott area, where I live most of the time, Metro San Diego (where my son lives) – and this small corner of the country’s largest Indian Nation, are among the others. Burntwater used to have a trading post. Now, it has the Native American Baha’i Institute of Learning. That may sound redundant, but educating people of all ages has been the core purpose of this facility, since it was founded, in 1981. I always feel like the Guiding Spirits are with me here. When I arrived here, on Friday night, it was late, so I rolled out the sleeping bag and slept under the stars, as we all had, that first weekend on the property- when there were no buildings.
Thus, about thirty of us gathered here, these past two days- to recount the past thirty-five years and to plan, with a group of service-oriented youth, for its immediate and short-term future. NABIL has come far, since 10-15 of us gathered here, in June, 1981, and sat with a group of Dine’ (Navajo) elders, asking them what they wanted to see here. I remember the first thing on their list was reliable water. So, a dowser came to visit, a well was dug, and the long drive to a pump, of spotty reliability, was over, within three months. That well has been replaced, by an even more reliable water source, in the past ten years. Local residents can get a portion of water that they all agreed upon, in council, with everyone’s opinion heard and considered, by the community. This is how Dine’, and most Native Americans across the country, are used to doing things. A weekly community dinner is offered on Thursday evenings, and this is also a chance for residents to freely air their concerns.
Financial literacy classes, the trades and some college preparatory classes are among the services that the current staff are hoping to see offered here, in the next several years. The Institute has come a long way. I stayed in a comfortable lodge, for the second night I was there.
I was asked, upon getting ready to leave on Sunday morning, to remember that I must not be a stranger here. The permanent staff have been like family to me, for a long time, so I will bear that in mind. Driving across Hopi, also a place that is home, I found the place quiet, though I later learned that there was a social dance, which I apparently missed. No worries, as there were two fires, along the route back to Prescott, and I had to focus on getting back in one piece. It looked as if the fires were under control, though.
I was back, and had my house cooled off, by 6 PM. Now, let’s see what a week in one place will look like.