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Jack Woody Interview July 2, 2011—Red Willow Springs

February 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Voices from the Land

Jack Woody Interview July 2, 2011—Red Willow Springs
Translation/Interpretation  from Dineh: Bahe Katenay
Transcription: Liza Minno Bloom

What is your purpose [loose translation] staying here on Black Mesa alone and in your old age?

Jack: It began with my late wife.  We met each other long ago.  I grew up here riding horses all about.  My wife and her family lived over the mountain and their animals didn’t have much grazing area—they’d just go to the wash and back.  It was an arranged marriage.  My mother-in-law said, “Now I expect you to be our helper.  I raised my kids with no husband—we wandered—and now you’ll help.”  I thought, okay; that’s how it will be.  I knew a lot of open meadows behind the mountain.   So we built a set of hogans and we moved through them over the years.  We moved logs around from the original hogan like a monument.  I got everyone in the family situated and took care of everyone.
When everyone was situated, I decided to make some money.  There were three nearby schools that had their own little power plants.  I got a job at a little underground coal mine, near Rena’s [Babbit Lane], that took power to the schools.  I worked with Key Horse who became a medicine man.  A wage job took me away from home.  In the late 1950s, I began working for the railroad in California.  I came home on the weekends to see my wife’s family. I provided for them while they took care of the animals.
We started with 20 Churro sheep and goats in the herd when we came together; we brought them over the mountain.  I found a quarry and built a house of sandstone that was burned [doesn’t know by whom]. We had two cows.  I traded work for more cows and then got some more from a dairy.  The cow and sheep herds grew.  We had a few horses too.  We had almost 60 cattle when the whole land dispute began [1970s].  When the land dispute began, they reduced the herds to nothing.  The younger generation didn’t work horses and the horses weren’t returned for two winters.  Now that I am old, I can’t keep up with herds so big alone.  The sheep that are left that I take care of are Key and his wife’s [In the matriarchal society, Jack’s wife owned the sheep, then they went to Key Watchman, her next of kin].  But I keep their life going.
I spend a lot of days by myself. It’s always in the back of my mind—to keep going what I promised to care for.
I see rangers and police drive by.  They stop and look and mostly drive on.  There was a life that I helped to start here.

What would you tell people about life here and how it has changed?
Jack: There was a lot of joy in the land in the past.  Then, you knew you belonged here.  You can still feel that love in the land.  The coal company is way over there.  Maybe this is the territory they want next.
Things have changed a lot.  For years, people grazed their cattle, sheep, horses.  For years there was plenty to eat and now everything is dry and dead and the ground is hard.
There were huge ceremonies for healing and dancing all year long.  There was a lot of joy in the community.  There used to be medicine men in every community and rituals all year long.  The medicine men communed with the Spirit World.  There were corn pollen offerings to plants and springs.  Maybe that’s why it was always green and wet, why there was plenty to eat and it never looked over-grazed.
A lot of people here have turned to Christianity.  It is a simpler way to pray.  It is a simplified religion.
We have been noticed from the Spirit World.  That’s who’s withholding the water and the green.  The leaders of the resistance are gone, and now we don’t have direction.  The Spirit World is aware of how we live today.
What I want people to know: you all have your lives out there.  It’s good. But be willing to hear me and look at me and see how I am.  I am alone.  My children and grandchildren don’t visit.
The relocation situation is disappearing a whole word.  You are now alone even when you’re with your kids and grandkids.  Your family isn’t here anymore and you’re afraid to go see them because you wonder if they’ll reject you.  You are afraid of your own family.  I built new things for my kids and grandkids in Tuba City. It’s a lonely world, though, because everyone stares at the TV and you’re there but not there.  There’s joy in that house and laughter, but in a different language and you wonder if they are laughing at you.  So I prefer to be on the land. I feel better here.

As to why the younger generation isn’t on Black Mesa:
The answer is simple: schools.  American education teaches the American-Anglo way—to follow the trail of white people.  Now the younger generation only sees the trail of the white man.  They don’t see the trail of the sheep or land or the grandmas and grandpas.

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