Transcription

1002Landscape, History, and the Pueblo lmaginationDavid Quammen1003In my mind, in my dreams, that great flat sheet of Madison Riverwhiteness spreads out upon the whole state of Montana. I believe, withLeontiev, in salvation by ice.4. SOURCES,3The biologist whose husband I am sometimes says to me: "All right,so where do we go when Montana's been ruined? Alaska? Norway? h e i e ? "This is a dark. joke between us. She grew up in Montana,/lover the place the way some women might love an incorrigiblyselfdestructive man, with pain and fear and pity, and she has nadesireto go anywhere else. bgrew up in Ohio, discovered home in Montanaonly fifteen years ago, and I feel the same. But still we play at the darkjoke. "Not Norway," I say, "and you know why." We're each halfNorwegian and we've actually eaten lutefisk. "How about Antarctica,?say. "Antarctica should be okay for a while yet."On the desk before me now is a pair of books about Antarctica. Alsohere are a book on the Aretic, another book titled The World of lee, abook of excerpts from Leontiev, a master's thesis on the subject of gooserep oductionand water levels in the Madison channels, an extractfrom an unpublished fifty-yeakraldmanuscript on the history of thetown of Ennis, a cassette tape of a conversation with Ralph Paugh, anda fistful of photocopies of technical and not-so-technical articles. Oneof the less technical articles is titled "Ice on the World," from a recentissue of National Geographic. In this article is a full-page photographof strawberry plants coverea with a thick layer of ice.These strawberry plants grew in central Florida. They were sprayedwith water, says the caption, because subfreezing temperatures hadbeen forecast. The growers knew that a layer of ice, giving insulation,even giving up some heat as the water froze, would save them.In the foreground is one large strawberry. The photocopy shows itdark gray, but in my memory it's a deathdefying red.LESLIE MARMON SILK0Lalie silk0 address; the role of ritual and myth in lending order to mntemporary life-in ;helping people both to survive and to grow. Thisthemeis developed i'n her 1977 novel Ceremony, which tells the story of aWorld.War I1 veteran trying to make peace with himself and his world ona New Mexico reservation. Her poems and stories, too, (Laguna Wozan,1974; Storyteller, 1981) portray lives within which traditional beliefi andspirits can make sense of a fragmented social world. Silko's essay aboutnaming as a traditional form of storytelling, making the landscape into asustaining, holy text, brings a crucial element into the American literature of nature. For lndians and non-lndians alike, she suggests that naming may be a form of deep identification, rather than the analyticaldistancing from nature that other writers about wilderness sometimesassume it to be.LANDSCAPE, HISTORY,Ah'D THEPUEBLOIMAGINATIONFROM A HIGH ARID PLATEAU IN NEW MEXICOYou see that after a thing is dead, it dries up. It might take weeks oryears, but eventually if you touch the thing, it crumbles under your fingers. It goes back to dust. The soul of the thing has long since departed.With the plants and wild game the soul may have already been borneback into bones and blood ar thick green stalk and leaves. Nothing iswasted. What cannot be eaten by people or in some way used mustthen be left where other living creatures may benefit. What domesticanimals or wild scavengers can't eat will be fed to the plants. The plantsfeed on the dust of these few remains.The ancient Pueblo people buried the dead in vacant rooms or parIAntaeus, no. 57, Autumn 1986.tI

IIIIIIII1Itially collapsed rooms adjacent to the main living quarters. Sand andclay used to construct the roof make layers many inches deep once theroof has collapsed. The layers qf sand and clay make for easy gravedigging. The vacant room fills with cast-off objects and debris. When avacant room has filled deep enough, a shallow but adequate grave canbe scooped in a far comer. Archaeologists have remarked over formalburials complete with elaborate funerary objects excavated in trashmiddens of abandoned rooms. But the rocks and adobe mortar of collapsed walls were valued by the ancient people. Because each rock hadbeen carefully selected for size and shape, then chiseled to an evenface. Even the pink clay adobe melting with each rainstorm had to beprayed over, then dug and carried some distance. Corn cobs and husks;the rinds a i d stalks and animal bones were not regarded by the ancientpeople as filth or garbage. The remains were merely resting :at amid-point in their journey back to dust. Human remains are not so diEferent. They should rest with the bones and rinds where they all maybenefit living creatures-small rodents and insects-anti1 their retumis completed. The remains of things-animals and plants, the clay andthe stones-were treated with respect. Because for the ancient peopleall these things had spirit and being. The antelope merely consents toreturn home with the hunter. All phases of the hunt are conductedwith love. The love the hunter and the people have for the AntelopePeople. And the love of the antelope who agree to give up their meatand blood so that human beings will not starve. Waste of meat or eventhe thoughtless handling of bones cooked bare will offend the antelopespirits. Next year the hunters will vainly search the dry plains for antelope. Thus it is necessary to return carefully the bones and hair, andthe stalks and leaves to the earth who first created them. The spiritsremain close by. They do not leave us.The dead become dust, and in this becoming they are once morejoined with the Mother. The ancient Pueblo people called the earththe Mother Creator of all things in this world. Her sister, the CornMother, occasionally merges with her because all succulent green liferises out of the depths of the earth.Rocks and clay are part of the Mother. They emerge in various forms,but at some time before, they were smaller particles or great boulders. Ata later time they may again become what they once were. Dust.A rock shares this fate with us and with animals and plants as well. Arock has being or spirit, although we may not understand it. The spiritmay differ from the spirit we know in animals or plants or in ourselves.In the end we all originate from the depths of the earth. Perhaps this ishow all beings share in the spirit of the Creator. We do not know.FROM THE EMERGENCE PLACEPueblo potters, the creators of petroglyphs and oral narratives, neverconceived of removing themselves from the earth and sky. So long asthe human consciousness remains within the hills, canyons, cliffs, andthe plants, clouds, and sky, the term landscape, as it has entered theEnglish language, is misleading. "A portion of territory the eye cancomprehend in a single view" does not correctly describe the relationship between the human being and his or her surroundings. Thisassumes the viewer is somehow outside or separate from the territory heor she surveys. Viewers are as much a part of the landscape as the boulders they stand on. There is no high mesa edge or mountain peakwhere one can stand and not immediately be part of all that surrounds.Human identity is linked with all the elements of Creation through theclam you might belong to the Sun Clan or the Lizard Clan or theCom Clan or the Clay Clan.' Standing deep within the natural world,the ancient Pueblo understood the thing as it was-the squash blossom, grasshopper, or rabbit itself could never be created by the humanhand. Ancient Pueblos took the modest view that the thing itself (thelandscape) could not be improved upon. The ancients did not presumeto tamper with what had already been created. Thus realism, as we nowrecognize it in painting and sculpture, did not catch the imaginationsof Pueblo people until recently.The squash blossom itself is one thing: itself. So the ancient Pueblopotter abstracted what she saw to be the key elements of the squashblossom-the four symmetiical petals, with four symmetrical stamensin the center. These key elements, while suggesting the squash flower,also link it with the four cardinal directions. By representing only itsintrinsic form, the squash flower is released from a limited meaning orrestricted identity. Even in the most sophisticated abstract form, asquash flower or a cloud or a lightning bolt became intricately connected with a complex system of relationships which the ancientPueblo people maintained with each other, and with the populous natural world they lived within. A bolt of lightning is itself, but at the sainetime it may mean much more. It may be a messenger of good fortunewhen summer rains are needed. It may deliver death, perhaps theresult of manipulations by the Gunnadeyahs, destructive necroClan-A social unit composed offimilies sharing common ancestors who trace their lineage back to the Emergence where their ancestors allied themselves with certain plants oranimals or elements. [SilkoS note]

-mancers. Lightning may strike down an evildoer. Or lightning mystrike a person of good will. If the person survives, lightning endoyshim or her with heightened power.Pictographs and petroglyphs of constellations or elk or antdb&draw their magic in part from the process wherein the focus. o f , dprayer and concentration is upon the thing itself, which, in its, tur&guides the hunter's hand. Connection with the spirit &men iog requires a figure or form which is all-inclusive. A "lifelike" r e n d d n g dan elk is too restrictive. Only the elk is itself. A realklie rendering pfiapelk would be only one particular elk anyway. The purpose of the h&rituals and magic is to make contact with all the spirits ofthe Elk. . l bThe land, the sky, and all that is within them-the landrope,includes human beings. Interrelationships in the Pueblo bndscqe amcomplex and fragile. The unpredictability of the weather, the aridityadharshness of much of the terrain in the high plateau country.erplain 16large part the relentless attention the ancient Pueblo peoplegave the skyand the earth around them. Sunival depended upon harmpny and cooperation not only among human beings, but amQng all things-the aniimate and the less animate, since rocks and mountains ,were known temove, to travel occasionally.The ancient Pueblos believed the Earth and the Sky were sisters (orsister and brother in the post-Christian version). As long as good familyrelations are maintained, then the Sky will continue to bless her sister,the Earth, with rain, and the Earth's children will continue tosurvive.But the old stories recall incidents in which troublesome spirits orbeings threaten the earth. In one story, a malicious ka'tsina, called theGambler, seizes the Shiwana, or Rainclouds, the Sun's beloved children.2 The Shiwana are snared in magical power late one afternoon ona high mountain top. The Gambler takes the Rainclouds to his mountain stronghold where he locks them in the north room of his house,What was his idea? The Shiwana were beyond value. They brought lifeto all things on earth. The Gambler wanted a big stake to wager in hisgames of chance. But such greed, even on the part of only one being,had the effect of threatening the survival of all life on earth. Sun Youth,aided by old Grandmother Spider, outsmarts the Gambler and therigged game, and the Rainclouds are set free. The drought ends, andonce more life thrives on earth.-".".,.r',./ tufTHROUGH THE STORIES WE HEAR WHO WE AREL'-Ka'tsina-Ka'tsinas are spirit beings who toam the earth and who inhabit kuchino mmhworn in Pueblo ceremonial dances. [Silkof note]- -.---All summer the people watch the west horizon, scanning the skyfrom south to north for rain clouds, Corn must have moisture at thetime the tassels form. Otherwise pollination will be incomplete, andh e ears will be stunted and shriveled. An inadequate harvest may bringdisaster. Storiestold at Hopi, Zuni, and at Acoma and Laguna describedrought and starvation s recently as 1900. Precipitation in west-centralNew Mexico averages fourteen inches annually. The western pueblosare located at altitudes 'over 5,600 feet above sea level, where wintertemperatures at night fall below freezing. Yet evidence of their presence in the high desert plateau country goes back ten thousand years.The ancient Pueblo people not only survived in this environment, butmany years they thrived. In A.D. 1100 the people at Chaco Canyon hadbuilt cities with apartment buildings of stone five stories high. Theirsophistication as sky-watchers was surpassed only by Mayan and Incaastronomers. Yet this vast complex of knowledge and belief, amassedfor thousands of years, was never recorded in writing.Instead, the ancient Pueblo people depended upon collective memory through successive generations to maintain and transmit an entireculture, a wodd view complete with proven strategies for survival. Theoral narrative, or "story," became the medium in which the complex ofPueblo knowledge and belief was maintained. Whatever the event orthe subject, the ancient people perceived the world and themselveswithin that world as part of an ancient continuous story composed ofinnumerable bundles of other stories.The ancient Pueblo vision of the world was inclusive. The impulsewas to leave nothing out. Pueblo oral tradition necessarily embraced alllevels of human experience. Otherwise, the collective knowledge andbeliefs comprising ancient Pueblo culture would have been incomplete. Thus stories about the Creation and Emergence of humanbeings and animals into this World continue to be retold each year forfour days and four nights during the winter solstice. The "humma-hah"stories related events from the time long ago when human beings werestill able to communicate with animals and other living things. But,beyond these two preceding categories, the Pueblo oral tradition knewno boundaries. Accounts of the appearance of the first Europeans inPueblo country or of the tragic encounters