A Travellerspoint blog

Wrapping Up Arizona

In which I present the last installment of my Flagstaff adventures, with help from my wonderful boyfriend

sunny 30 °C

Among the amazing things I did in Arizona included a trip to the reservation on the second Monday I was there. A bunch of people invited me to a health-promoting walk in Leupp (pronounced "loop") just inside the rez border closest to us. We left after dinner, but had forgotten to account for the time change. Arizona doesn't go on daylight savings, but the Navajo reservation does, so even though we left an hour before the event on our time, we got there just as it was ending.

The rez is to the northeast of Flagstaff (which is south of the Navajo Nation's western mountain) as is at a lower elevation that the town's 7,500 feet. It's also a lot drier and doesn't have the pines that literally blanket the higher plateau areas. The dirt is red, and on our way out they showed me some small mountains that were being stripped for the dirt to be used in making some bath and cosmetics products. They also showed me some hill-sized cone-shaped tar-looking ash piles from the dead volcanoes out there (cinder cones), and a giant crack in the earth that once swallowed up a man and a horse that were never found. It's fenced in these days to keep people and their roaming herds from falling in. They also told me to look for pronghorns, but we didn't see any.

So instead of walking for T-shirts (which are really popular incentives to get people to come to things), we drove along a few washboard roads to go see what's left of a WWII Japanese internment camp on the rez grounds. It was relatively small, bordered by a small embankment of dirt with a space for cars to drive in. There's nothing left in the camp proper except for small artifacts you really have to look for to find. I didn't find anything but they found me a shell casing and a old piece of rusted sheet metal.

One of the grad students showed me some plants, tracks, and other natural phenomena like the salt deposits that form on the ground after it rains and the earth dries up. She explained to me how you go about harvesting plants from the earth, what prayers you say asking and thanking Mother Earth (and Father Sky) for sustenance. She also told me what they were used for, like making a loom or supplementing your cattle's diet. Then we went out to the surrounding area and looked at more tracks, more plants, and some concrete ruins of cisterns, wells, and other unidentifiable piles of rubble.

On our way back we stopped at the trading post in Leupp, which is what thy call the local gas station store. And when I say it was third-world, I mean it was missing a back wall (it had a tarp covering an unfinished frame along the back wall with the cement blocks some ways beyond), it had a toilet you wouldn't want to get within ten feet of, and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned in weeks. There was very little real food there, but also cleaning supplies and toys and other things that made it clear this was the only store within fifty miles. All the drugs, even the OTC ones, were behind the counter, including the energy drinks, which had a sign next to them explaining that their sale had been approved by some local governing body and that anyone could complain about it to them. I asked the grad student about it and she said that some people mix it with alcohol to get high off it, which is very dangerous. Outside these was a mural painted to the side of the store, and someone had spray-painted on it. There were also some feral rez dogs wandering around.

That same Wednesday we went to an event at the Salina Bookshelf, a publishing house of Navajo materials. They were serving Navajo tacos (fry bread with the regular toppings), but I looked at their children's books instead. They'd had a table at the teaching conference, so I was really excited to look at the early readers and most especially their textbook for teaching the language, which is very good. The main entertainment was James Peshlakai, a local singer who won an award for doing a CD of traditional Navajo dance songs. He told stories and jokes and did a few of his songs for us.

Afterwards I talked with some of the teachers and students form the NLA and we looked at a couple maps of the rez. One of them showed all the local chapters of the reservation government, including a big gaping hole where the Hopi reservation is - inside the Navajo one. (Apparently all the Navajo residents there got shipped off to L.A., Chicago, Texas, etc.) There's also checkerboarding at the fringes, where you can two miles on the rex, two miles off, and then be on it again, as a result of old land treaty policies. There was also a topographic map showing the four mountains and a lot of the rivers, lakes, and other landmarks, along with their Navajo names; so I could see that the Navajo Nation sits literally on top of the four corners area. Before we left, one of the teachers showed us her great-great-(great?)-grandfather in a photo of a Navajo delegation that went to Washington in the 19th century, and I got to buy a CD from James' granddaughter. (You can listen to some of his music here.)

Posted by poetisa16 13:42 Tagged nature culture books music Comments (0)

Updates and Apologies

In which I cross states and learn that my vacation has just been extended by two weeks

sunny 32 °C

After getting my wisdom teeth out last Tuesday on he very short notice of 24 hours, I sat around in bed for two days and watched as many documentaries as I could on Netflix and then entire first season of Law and Order SVU while eating tubs of hummus and packets of guacamole. I did nothing constructive, even though I probably could have written all my backlogged blog topics, and for that, dear readers, I apologize. I promise to write at least one more post to wrap up Arizona before I head to the SCBWI conference this Friday.

Then it was Friday and I realized that I had to get up and pack and run errands before I left for Los Angeles. So I ran around all day and then had to wait three hours after dinner to get a cab to the train station and then wait two more hours for the train to stop being late. I was so wired by staying up and riding on a train and getting to see my boyfriend that I couldn't sleep, even though the car manager made me my bed.

Consequently I learned that there is an Amtrak station at the Grand Canyon (literally in them middle of nowhere), a lot of southeastern California is more arid than the Colorado Plateau, and that in the desert the stars are much clearer, and on the plateau, much closer. Every few moments I would lift my head to look at the Big Dipper looming above me to assure myself that we were passing it to the left and still going west.

Somehow I still made the last call to breakfast at 7:30am and had oatmeal with fruit. My server was very nice and when he realized I don't do dairy he got me some soymilk in addition to raisins and brown sugar for my oatmeal and a cupfull of ice so my jaw wouldn't get too hot. The train made up an hour of time so I got in reasonably early and met my boyfriend on the track.

Then we drove downtown past the Angel's Flight inclined railway to Hancock Park, the site of the La brea tar pits and the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA). We went to see LACMA's free outdoor exhibit "Levitated Mass," AKA The Rock. It is literally a huge rock over a concrete ditch that you can walk under and was a huge scandal. Anyway, we got a nice woman with a hyperactive vizsla (the dog) to take photographic evidence of our visit and then went down the street to get some vegan sushi at some of downtown LA's famous street food vendors.

Then we went to the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) across the street from the tar pits, which was closed for renovations the last time I visited. It was mostly a gift shop (a very nice one, though) that we did look around in, and had some newer Japanese pottery cases too. It had two exhibits, one about the history of baseball, which seemed connected with the history of tobacco in the US early last century.

The other one was much more interesting to us, a war exhibit called "Production or Destruction" by Ehren Tool, who used to be in the US military. He's a potter who spent a week out in the back of the museum making hundreds of small cups imprinted with all kinds of photos, quotes, and even small inset sculptures, some at the request of visitors walking through. These took up two sections of one wall. He also made several cups to send to Obama, Rumsfeld (I think), and a CEO in the military-industrial complex, and exhibited a photo of the cup along with his letter and the return letter. Rumsfeld's was the best reply. He also had some small sets of cups made from local clay while in Vietnam, and a floor of several hundred black glazed cups that were broken or smashed, as many as some significant number of soldiers who dies in the "Second Gulf War," which we thought to mean the Iraq War. There was also a running video of close-ups of cups he had made sitting individually on a white backdrop and getting shot with a bullet.

After that we went by the Rocky and Bullwinkle statue on Sunset Boulevard before going home to eat dinner and spend some quality time together.

On Sunday we went to Malibu to see their annual arts festival and their beaches. If the sheer number of expensive cars around us hadn't already been a clue to the elite status of the locals, the prices of the art certainly were. We found some giant chess sets for thousands of dollars, clothes boutiques with regular pieces running into the sixties, and giant garden art pieces. Along with some occasional forays into wood carving and mineral stands, we saw some giant 3D metal wall art that is impossible to describe but beautiful to behold, and one man who somehow makes a mineralizing glaze for pots and jars and even Christmas ornaments.

Then we stopped for food and tried to find a beach. All the big ones were absolutely full, so we went north until we hit one near Matador Beach. We had to hike down to get to the sand, which is almost completely covered during high tide. We missed low tide, so it was too late to go tide pooling, though we did find lots of snails, some crab and lobster shells, and some kelp holdfasts from the small forests directly offshore. We also looked for dolphins from the local pod but didn't spot any.

Then we went home to have dinner with the family and watch some olympic events. We got through gymnastics and swimming before the TV stopped working and called it a day.

Today, bright and early, I called my parents about the rumors of a vacation they're taking. Unless something comes up, they're flying out to meet me here, meet mu boyfriend's family, then take me up to Seattle to see my great-aunt, then out to Minnesota to see some distant cousins, all the while doing some scenic things in between.

And so, dear readers, please let me know if you would like to know more about the West - the Oregon coast, Washington state, and Minnesota - or if I should say farewell to you all after the conference ends. (And yes, you can comment even without an account on this website.)

Posted by poetisa16 16:54 Tagged art food traveling about Comments (0)

Taking a Little Break

In which I disappear for a few days

overcast 17 °C

Dear lovely readers,

I'm going to be taking a break for a few days, since I'm running into some unforeseen problems. I might update a few old topics (like what I was doing last week).

In the meantime, I've made a FaceBook photo album of the NAU campus, with botany and geology documentation, and also my trip out to the rez, with more botany, geology, and general nature documentation. I hope you enjoy it!

Until then,

Posted by poetisa16 13:24 Tagged about Comments (0)

Lessons Learned at a Teaching Conference

In which I crash a Native teacher education conference to learn more about Navajo cultural issues

overcast 25 °C

I've been meaning to write about the events I've been attending here in Flagstaff, but attending them hasn't left me much time to write about them. But today is Sunday so here I am.

Last weekend there was an American Indian teacher education conference here at NAU, called "Honoring Our Heritage." First I went to the opening ceremony, where one of the Indian interns at NAU did a prayer, including part of the Blessingway again. Then we heard the keynote speaker Donna Deyhle on the importance of not losing sight of the strengths and wants of communities by focusing on damage-centered research, with respect to young Indian students.

Then I went to hear David Sanders of U Colorado talk about using strategies from ethnomathematics to teach math in Lakota out in the Dakotas. He did a lot of groundbreaking research on the subject, including expanding the idea of when and how we do math. It turns out that few people have studied this, but some evidence suggests using this approach can help all students, not just Indians. (If you'd like his presentation you can email him at david_sanders(at)colorado.edu.)

Then after lunch I went to a presentation on how to use local Indian "ways of knowing" to meet the STEM initiative goals (science-technology-engineering-math). This includes ethnobotany, ethnogeology, ethnometeorology, etc. for not just Navajos, but in this area Hopis and other nearby tribes. I got a packet on a rocks and minerals lesson plan integrating Navajo culture and the Full Option Science System (FOSS) that stressed local geology. Then a volunteer made us some "native sunscreen" by mixing red ochre with some hand lotion. (Apparently you can also make pudding from some types of white clay.)

My first presentation the next was also about science, but focused on climate change through looking at the Colorado Plateau region. One of the environmental problems here is desertification. Even though this climate is only semiarid, there are people living in the four-corners area with sand dunes in their backyards that get bigger every year, so it is a real problem. This is partly the effect of a lowering level of rainfall and runoff. But "monsoon season," as people call the summer, usually comes with a lot of fast-moving thunderstorms, known in Navajo as "male rain." As opposed to softer "female rain," it isn't soaked up well by the ground and instead causes flash floods and might exacerbate the erosion process as well. The presentation used a Carbon Connections Curriculum activity, where we got to go from station to station as carbon to see how it travels through the ecosystem and atmosphere, specifically that of the Colorado Plateau.

The last presentation was titled the "Power of Reading," which focused on the importance of reading as an indicating factor in how well children do in school. Indian families tend to be poor and not have many books or reading materials in general in the home. A lot of materials and approaches to teaching Indian kids to read is really irrelevant to their lives and focuses too much on phonics, apparently. A lot of what we talked about centered on how to get kids to engage with reading, to see it as a way to learn, and to use it not just with respect to Western culture, but also their own.

As a side note, I see that my last post has 48 views. Are you all really that interested in learning Navajo?

Posted by poetisa16 16:38 Tagged nature education Comments (0)

So you want to learn Navajo?

Or, all the things you know about verbs when you know Navajo (but to understand it you'll probably need some linguistics)

overcast 19 °C

If you've heard anything about Navajo, it's probably been about how ridiculously complicated the language is, most especially the verbs. Although Navajo is technically not polysynthetic (that is, you can't have more than one root per word besides in compounds), it has a massively complex verbal system that makes any Indo-European language look positively like peanuts. Mostly only other indigenous languages of the Americas and Oceania are in the same league in terms of the affixing and inflection of the Athabaskan languages, of which Navajo is perhaps the most famous. (And because I'm lucky, I get to study it every day at 8:30am for an hour and a half in my verb class.)

So what's the deal? How hard can a verb be? Very, very hard. But only some of the time.

First off, you should know that although Navajo is SVO at the sentence level, it is OSV at the word level, because the verb always agrees with both the subject and the direct object (assuming there is one) and even sometimes (maybe always) the indirect object. So you can have one word be a compete sentence - fully detailed nouns are optional. (If you really want to know why, ask someone else who did Navajo with Ted because that whole predicate/modifier/PAL argument is beyond me right now.)

So, we have sentence (1) "The girl kicked the boy" and sentence (2) "I scratch you":

(1) at'ééd ashkii yiztał
(2) ni-sh-ch'id

Looks easy, doesn't it? Actually, if you aren't scared by eons of modes, aspects, classifiers, and phonological and even not-so-phonological rules, then yes, it's quite simple. Everything has an order, because the verb works by a slot-and-filler system. So in (2) we see the O-S-V slots filled with 2s-1s-theme. Except that there are actually twelve slots, not three. There's also a boundary between the two major parts of the verb. So sentence (2) actually looks like this:

(2b) ∅-∅-∅-∅-∅-#-ni-∅-∅-∅-sh-ch'id

But how could you actually need all nine of those spots? Okay, so we know that three of them are taken up by the direct object, the indirect object, and the pospositional stem:

(3a) OP-PP-∅-∅-∅-#-DO-∅-∅-∅-S-theme

So what are the rest of them? Well, first I need to admit to y'all that I lied about the verb theme...it's actually two slots, not one (if you were counting you should have figured this out). Why is this important? Because each slot actually has a number, but no, it's not one through twelve. It's 00 through 10 because 0 and 00 were added later:

(3b) 00-0-1-2-3-#-4-5-6-7-8-9-10

That hash mark between slots three and four is called the disjunct-conjunct boundary (don't ask me why). If you've been keeping track, you'll see that we have so far identified the functions of slots 00, 0, 4, 8, and 9/10:

(3c) OP-PP-1-2-3-#-DO-5-6-7-S-theme

The verb theme is made up of the verb stem plus the classifier, which is nothing like classifiers in ASL (those are actually more similar to Navajo handling verbs). A classifier is essentially a consonant that precedes the verb stem and supposedly classifies the verb in some way, such as being causative, although these are mostly frozen now (some very rare verbs have more than one classifier). So if we split the verb theme into the classifier and the stem, we get this:

(3d) OP-PP-1-2-3-#-DO-5-6-7-S-CL-stem

As it is, the verb "ch'id" doesn't have an audible classifier, so it looks like this:

(2c) ∅-∅-∅-∅-∅-#-ni-∅-∅-∅-sh-∅-ch'id

Slot seven is for expressing mode. Navajo has seven modes, which are somewhat like tense and somewhat like aspect (actual aspect in Navajo is something else). But these modes have submodes, each of which has its own form, which is what actually goes in the slot. As it is, this verb also has an inaudible submodal form, which is why slot seven in example (2c) is filled by the null marker. Together, slots seven through ten make up the verb base:

(3e) OP-PP-1-2-3-#-DO-5-6-mode-S-CL-stem

Now, Navajo has singular, dual, and plural forms for first, second, and third person. However, the verb base of dual and plural forms are identical, at least pre-cooked. What distinguishes them is this so-called distributive "da," in position three, which marks the plural (and also the distributive, which interestingly, ASL also has):

(3f) OP-PP-1-2-distributive-#-DO-5-6-mode-S-CL-stem

Now we come to the famed thematic prefixes, which can express spatial terms like "up and out" or "into the fire" (yes, it has its own prefix) or other more complicated things. Sometimes they are lexically frozen, and sometimes they appear with a certain form just because.

This actually happens a lot. Why does "í" appear between slots seven and eight in the perfective mode? And why doesn't it apply to the ∅/ł-classifier set of the yi-∅-perfective submode? Or dual person in the ł-classifier set of the ni-perfective submode? Why does the stem change based on the transitivity of the verb only in the third person form of the d/l-classifier group of the yi-perfective form but also only in the third person plural form of both the classifier groups of the yi-∅-perfective submode? And what the hell are "adjustment rules"?

Yes, if you know Navajo, you know all these irregular patterns as well T-T

Anyway, position two is basically occupied by one particular prefix "ná." Position three carries the other prefixes:

(3g) OP-PP-prefix-"ná"-distributive-#-DO-5-6-mode-S-CL-stem

Positions five and six are just weird. For instance, the yi-∅-perfective submode is null for position seven, but filled by "yi" in one of the three possible subpositions of position six:

(4) ∅-∅-∅-∅-∅-#-∅-∅-[∅-∅-yii]-∅-sh-l-yizh

For those who want to know, the final cooked form of the above verb template is yiishyiizh, which means something like "I was stooped over on all fours" (a lot of positional verbs are apparently always in the perfective because the movement has happened, even if it's still true in the present).

Just for kicks, here is the precooked template form for the VP in adáádáá baa daniniiłtí, "yesterday we (pl) gave you (sg) to them (sg)" (apologies for the lack of nasal markers, which are not supported here):

(5) b-aa-∅-∅-da-#-ni-∅-∅-ni-ii(d)-ł-tí

(Yes, that pronominal "d" disappears instead of asserting some mysterious d-effect on the classifier. Isn't that interesting?)

So there you have it: the Navajo verb. Of course, if you really knew it all, you'd be able to shift style and register at the very least, at least understand other regional or generational forms (because Navajo is a rapidly changing language), and possibly even account for gender - okay, so not in the verb, but definitely in the family terms.

Sounds fun, right?

Posted by poetisa16 13:40 Tagged navajo Comments (0)

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