Monday, January 25, 2010

Dook'o'oosliid (San Francisco Peaks, Arizona)

The San Francisco Peaks surround the city of Flagstaff, Arizona. It's about two hours drive north of Phoenix, but it feels like a completely different world from the Sonoran Desert. Here's what the postcard has to say about the mountains: "Snow-capped the greater part of the year these majestic peaks rise to 12,600 feet, dominating the horizon for well over a hundred miles. Humphrey's Peak in the San Francisco Range is the highest point in Arizona."

The hike up Mt. Humphrey is fairly difficult, but not so arduous as to discourage one from climbing up and having a look around. The day I went, the clouds were rolling in quite ominously and we had to make a decision about a mile or so before the summit whether or not to continue. Obviously, we continued. The view wasn't what it could have been, on account of the clouds, but impressive nonetheless. On a clear day, you can see the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert from on top.

The San Francisco Peaks figure prominently in to Diné (Navajo) Kieje Hatal or Night Chant. The dramatic acts or dramatic rituals of the Night Way were first translated by Washington Matthews and published in English in 1902 as "The Night Chant." Mt. Humphrey's (and the San Francisco Peaks') Diné name is  Dook'o'oosliid and is one of four holy mountains. It represents the west in the Kieje Hatal. The ritual takes nine nights to perform and begins with the beautiful opening "Biké hatáli hakú" or "Come on the trail of song." An opening stanza is repeated four times, referencing the four mountain markers of east, south, west, and north. Dook'o'oosliid is referenced third:

In a holy place with a god I walk, 
In a holy place with a god I walk,
On Dokoslíd with a god I walk,
On a chief of mountains with a god I walk,
In old age wandering with a god I walk,
On a trail of beauty with a god I walk.

In recent years the Diné have protested how Mt. Humphrey has been used for a ski resort. The resort, called the Arizona Snowbowl, want to use reclaimed sewer water to make snow. For the Navajo Nation, as well as the Apache, Hopi, and others who also consider the San Francisco Peaks a holy site, spraying them with sewer water is desecration. The Native Americans have failed in other attempts to stop the practice, but they're still fighting. Read their resolution here. Even with the little I know of U.S. relations with southwestern Native American tribes, this seems like adding insult to injury to me. Who cares if people need to wait for real snow to ski; skiing isn't nearly as important as respecting the traditions of a sovereign group of people who we disenfranchised in the first place.

I'd like to see how many Catholics would like to use treated sewer water for holy water.

Mount Humphrey 1
Mount Humphrey 4

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