After leaving Four Corners National Monument, we wove our way south by southwest through the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. It seemed pertinent to travel across these lands, these wide-open (maybe even desolate) spaces, during our Thanksgiving Holiday. I think we’ve done a better job in America celebrating Thanksgiving as a time for honoring family and friends and life instead of making up stories of Pilgrims and Indians and what good friends we all were back in the 1600s. But we have a long way to go.
Reservation lands are a stark reminder of the atrocities and genocides and abuses we committed against the First People of this continent. There’s a beauty to the wide open desert, but to force entire Native American nations onto tiny parcels of land was absurd and unjust. And then to keep them there through systemic oppression without a modern day apology . . .
From my steel box zipping through this country at 70 miles per hour, it’s surely not my place to make accusations about the quality of life and the general happiness on these lands. I’ve read studies that empirically prove it’s not good. And I know a lot is being done to overcome some of the challenges on reservations, including extensive education efforts. But I can’t avoid comparing what we see out our car window to towns I’ve seen out bus windows in Peru, Mexico, Laos, Cambodia. Somehow in a country that prides itself on progress, that views itself as a democratic, capitalist global leader, we’ve left our hosts far behind.
To complicate the conversation, there are natural elements on this land, (which the Navajos run and use as a source of tourism and income), that astound and amaze. Mid-way through our drive we stopped off to enjoy Canyon de Chelly. Back-dropped by the wanderings of my guilt, the natural beauty of this space speaks for itself, and I am quickly mesmerized by the tragedies and triumphs of this world.