|The ideal image of an Apache Crown Dancer|
This past weekend we had our annual community celebration in Monument Valley. It is always a great time for the community to get together and celebrate. It has been a long dry spell and it has made life even harder than it usually is, but Native people enjoy getting together and that is cause enough for celebration. One of the activities was mud volleyball. Not traditional, but fun. A tractor dug out the hole and water was hauled in.
|We make our own fun.|
Here is an explanation of the significance of the Crown Dancers...
The Apache (and Navajo) believe that there was once a time when their ancestors lived alongside with supernatural beings. The common belief, even today, is that there are spirits that live within certain mountains and underground realms. Part of the Apache creation story incorporates the belief that they are the blood relatives of the mountains, trees, rocks, and the wind. One of the most important and integral pieces to the beliefs of the Apache is a holy being sometimes referred to as White-Painted Woman, but she also is known as Changing Woman or White Shell Woman. In the beginning, she originally gave birth to two sons, Killer-of-Enemies and Child Born-of-Water and they were said to have ridden the world of evil by killing the evil incarnate monsters, thus making the world safe for the Apache people to live. So, these Mountain Spirit Dancers reflect that story by ensuring the well-being of the people to protect them from not just their enemies, but epidemic diseases as well. The Devil Dancers or Crown Dancers are not considered to be supernatural beings themselves, but simply posses the "special ability" of summoning these mountain spirits. They are a link between the supernatural and natural worlds and they often reflect this in a contradictory fashion. Part of their power is expressed as a "paradox of life". In many Native American cultures, this notion of chaos and disorder is personified as the "trickster", a destructive and simultaneously creative force. In Apache tribes, he is a boy amongst men, in some circles called Libaye, the ritual of "clowning" embodies the Apache beliefs underlying power.
My wife and I attended with all five of our grandaughters (we also have 11 grandsons). The littlest one, Naanibaa wanted to dance and so I took her out to participate. Joe saw her desire and it touched him so that he stopped and presented her with one of his feathers, a real honor.
|Being called out.|
|Naanibaa getting a feather from Joe Tohonnie Jr.|
I really appreciate the Crown Dancers and their efforts to keep alive some of the Warrior spirit. I just wish I could get them into the weight room to recapture the ideal warrior appearance as pictured above. I have always considered it a privilege to live here and if I can make a contribution to preserving the physical warrior traits, I would be honored. I am so proud of the many young warriors who have passed through our program and are learning to take responsibility for their physical well-being.
|Another composite photo created by our friend, Harry Nez.|