The three-day celebration of being indigenous and from Alamo kicks off Friday. It’s Indian Days, when the whole reservation turns out. There’s a parade, Indian market, traditional Navajo singing and drumming and dancing, lots of food, arts and crafts, and the Miss Alamo Indian Pageant.
Alamo’s big yearly party is always scheduled around the Columbus Day federal holiday, which I find interesting. There’s a trend across America these days of renaming the holiday to something more appropriate. Since Columbus really didn’t really discover anything that wasn’t already here, some people suggested something like Colonization Day. Well, that didn’t go over too well and considering that 26 stars on Old Glory represent states named after native tribes, Indigenous Peoples Day started catching on.
And as you probably know, with our 19 pueblos and four tribal reservations, the New Mexico legislature earlier this year replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, joining Minnesota, Alaska, South Dakota, Vermont, North Carolina, Maine and Oregon in making the switch.
Fun Fact: Columbus Day is still observed in Ohio, except for Columbus, where it’s a regular workday.
Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed the drive up to Alamo. It’s 30 miles north of Magdalena in a little valley surrounded by mountains and hills.
One time I drove up Highway 169 up past the reservation to Jim Nance’s Field Ranch, where a television film crew was making a documentary on The Long Walk of 1864. It was in January of 2007, and a crew from KUED-TV, a PBS station in Salt Lake City, was filming the documentary at key locations along the walk’s original route, like Canyon de Chelly, Gallup, Fort Sumner and so on.
Charles Mandeville had mustered some of his Civil War reenactment buddies to portray members of the U.S. Cavalry, complete with banner and long rifles. Plus, Jackson Pino of Alamo had recruited a dozen or so women and children to represent the Navajo people that Kit Carson and his cavalry escorted all the way from their homes to a reservation near Fort Sumner called Bosque Redondo.
There were 8,500 or so on the actual Long Walk, so that meant there had to be some movie magic to make the 12-15 look like thousands.
If you can, check it out. You’ll see the familiar faces of a dozen or so ladies from Alamo wearing shawls and blankets, along with a few kids.
Sadly, at least 2,000 perished on The Long Walk, but local legend has it that a few were able to escape and hide amongst the volcanic rocks in the Malpais, eventually settling in the Alamo area.
That day I was at the filming I got to talking with Mr. Pino about the stories his family had passed down of their experiences from that time. He pointed out that those that survived the hardships of The Long Walk and the subsequent conditions at Bosque Redondo were a much stronger and resolute people by the time they were allowed to return home.
By the way, Monday was the birthday of writer Sherman Alexie of the Spokane/Coeur d’Lene tribe in Washington state, who once said he thought American Indians had developed their unique sense of humor because of hardships such as that. His book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven – about two friends named Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-A-Fire – pointed up some of that humor, while depicting an honest picture of daily life on a reservation. Come to think of it, some of the folks I know from Alamo have the same wry sense of humor.
The best time to experience Alamo is during Indian Days, and the best time to experience Indian Days is this Saturday morning when the big parade winds down Highway 169, all the way from the campground to the Walter’s Park.
As for last weekend, we went to a wedding on Saturday. Going to a wedding other than your own is an interesting experience, and I’m speaking as a guy here. As James Thurber once mused, “The most dangerous food is a wedding cake,” but that’s not totally accurate. It’s only dangerous after a slice has been frozen in the freezer for a year. Do you really want to eat that on your first anniversary?
Anyway, it was at the Garcia Opera House, and I’m figuring up to a couple hundred came to see Julian and Troylyn tie the knot and eat brisket. It was a nice ceremony and Judge Darryl Cases made some inspiring remarks before pronouncing them hitched.
The only hitch was when Troylyn seemed to ask for clarification on the “obey” part of “honor and obey.” I was sitting pretty far back so I’m not sure, but then she said “I do” and we all laughed.
It made me think of the old adage, “Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning a handspring, or eating with chopsticks: It looks easy until you try it.”