Interview with Albert Laughter (Continued)
I have children and nieces and nephews and a large family with many young people. No one in my family is carrying on these traditions and it worries me. I have enjoyed taking on the tradition of my father, especially at my age. I am 49. But it seems like this long tradition will end with me. My own children do not speak the language. But as far as carrying on with the Anglo society, they can get by much better than even I can do. I do better talking with older people in the traditional ways.
Do you think your children will eventually want to leave this area?
We often talk about it. I try to speak to them about my own experiences. I lived once for six years in Gallup (New Mexico) and Flagstaff. At first the children may want to move there to see what it is like but at a certain age they will want to come back. They want to see what they see here. They often say that they have seen this area in their dreams and they want to come back. They say that even though they do not speak the language - even though they do not understand their grandmother - they have the strong desire to come back. This is the mission that we have in this area. We say that it is important that the traditions be carried on by the next generation and it is very important that they learn the language.
Your destiny is foretold. Like after you pass on someone may mention your name. We may talk about, say, our grandmother. "Remember how grandmother used to say this or that?" Also, we can sometimes see the person who has passed on in a child who has the same expression or temperment. We say, "He or she is just like grandmother!" In this way the person continues. These are some of the ways that a person stays with us. They live on in memories and thoughts. Even tears can mark a continuance. We live within our family who remember us. We all return to the earth and we can come back as the rain.
If you travel around some of the pueblos and the ruins you may hear the conversations of the people who have passed on - you can hear their planning and their laughter, their preparation of food and chatting of the woman folks, old people and the fires. If you close your eyes you can hear the children playing. You can really hear them. These are some of the talk that is left behind within the wind. The winds are the only messengers that we have. As we grew up, that is what our grandparents used to tell us. The only thing that you can have a conversation with is with the wind. There is a certain way that you face yourself and then you can hear them.
The way we were taught was to go out at the dawn - that is the time that you can speak to the old ones. You go out at dawn and make an offering and talk to them. They are the living gods - they are gone to the other side. The only time that you are going to hear them talking back is when there is a thunder or a new plant or a quick glance during which time you can see them. They only come at a certain time but they are around you, they are with you. But they are real and they are your guides. You speak to them in the morning - that is the time to talk to the old ones.
You can make an offering of corn pollen and say something like, "Hear me. You know me." This other side of the culture, the Christianity, you say "My Father in heaven," and you are speaking to the Great Spirit, but I will say, "I am your great grandchild, your grandchild, and I, as your child, would like to say something. I talk to you in beauty." Thats how I learned from my father and he from his grandfather. My grandfather is not here. He is passed on. That is how we say it- we say they have passed on. Some would say that they have passed away but we say that they have passed on, meaning that their life continues. We are their life that carries on.
On History & Tradition
Well, I hate to use the words, but the Hollywood style of viewing us is bad. The "cowboys and indians" view of history is not correct. I can remember when they were filming a John Wayne movie out here and the director had some of our people in the movie. He said that when John Wayne pulled out his gun we were all supposed to fall to the ground. This is what the young people learn about themselves and it is sad.
If I could give a message to any Native children who would listen, I would say to first learn about who you are and then to be proud to be who you are. You should go somewhere very quiet and just feel what kind of person that you are and try to feel the spirit inside and outside and then to not be ashamed or feel bad about who and what you are.
Let nature be nature. Let yourself be who you are. Don't try to improve or cover up your true self. At the same time, some things should be preserved and kept private. Even within the Navajo people there is a great difference between the so-called East and West Navajos. Around Gallup and Albequerque there are Navajo who are selling souvenirs of sacred items and are making a living off of the culture. This only diminishes the culture when you sell it off. Some things ought to be kept to the people as their sacred traditions.
One thing that is harmful is television. Young people see things and get ideas that are difficult for the older people to even understand. As a result we have young people shooting other young people in schools and we have a problem with drugs and alcohol. It is what they see on television. We have a very bad problem among some of our youth in this area. It is a difficult problem to face.