Keshmish baa’ hozho – Merry Christmas
A family in Coyote Canyon received their Christmas gifts today. Delivering doesn’t officially start until Tuesday but, two of the teachers from Tse’ii’ahi School, Tammy and Terry, couldn’t “wait” any longer and drove out to the home of Corneil and his parents. Corneil is the adopted child of middle-aged parents. Mr. S is a silversmith (a variable occupation) and Mrs. S used to weave rugs. Arthritis prevents her from weaving now and the three of them live in a very small tar-paper house with no plumbing or electricity. A wood stove, its pipe chimney poking out of a window, provides heat. Corneil does his homework, after chores, by kerosene lamp. I have been to their home several times and the whole place, yard and all, is spotlessly clean. How the family accomplishes this feat, considering the wind, its velocity, and the abundance of loose trash, is a mystery to me. Upon their return, Tammy and Terry reported that the family greeted them with grins, hugs, tears, and many thanks. Dad exclaimed, “It’s a miracle again”. (Last year, when I drove up, he said, “where are your reindeer, Dr. Susan”).
When Tracy and I delivered Christmas food baskets and gifts there at Christmas to the I Family in Pinedale, we were saddened at the condition of the hogan and at Marie herself. All of the windows were boarded up with plywood and, until Marie appeared at the door, I wondered if they were still living there. You may remember that Marie has diabetes and arthritis. Like Mr. Bojangles, she “drinks a bit”. Now she is very thin and fragile and needs a cane to steady herself. While 12 year-old Jeff unloaded the parcels and food, Marie just laid her head on my shoulder. The youngest child, a two year-old toddler, was dressed only in a dirty diaper and the whole picture resembled one of those late-night “Save the Children” appeals in which the announcer assures us that we Americans have never seen the like. I usually holler, “Oh YEAH???!!!”.
When Louise and I were visiting Loretta and Anthony, they wondered out loud how they were going to feed their children over the summer. They have 7, the eldest 4 of whom live in the dorm during the school year. On the day we visited, the 2 toddlers were playing with a car jack in the front yard and I picked fleas off the baby who also appeared to have conjunctivitis. Both parents are low-functioning and the dad suffered a brain injury from a car crash a couple of years ago. Luckily, they have a source of electricity and water – plundered from a relative’s house.
Coral is the single mother of three children – two school-age boys and an infant girl. Until recently, Coral was employed as a home health aide. Due to funding problems, Coral lost her job. She is eligible for assignment to another home health position, but… Like many mothers who try to make do on minimum wages, Coral has been unable to save any money. Now, her vehicle has broken down and requires a $400 part! No transportation, no job. No job, no money. No money, no transportation. Coral and the children live in Mexican Springs, a remote community north of Gallup. Their home is a tiny traditional Hogan. Luckily, the boys go to school at Fort Wingate where there is an on-site dormitory. Despite learning problems, they are hard-working and responsible students.
Genice and David have four young children and are expecting their fifth. They do not have a permanent home and were squatting at Genice’s grandmother’s four-room house – with 14 other family members! Friction in the home escalated and now the family is living at a motel in Gallup. The motel is one of the more notorious Gallup flophouses, specializing in cheap rooms and desperate residents. Drive by any day of the week to watch children playing in the motel parking lot while adults drink themselves into oblivion behind closed doors. Genice and David are talented potters and, like many of our people, peddle their wares at Gallup stores and restaurants. When Louise met with them recently, they had no gas, no food, no prospects for appropriate housing.