21 Feb 2013


Jenny Matlock
more participants at Jenny Matlock's Alphabet Thursday

The first Native Americans I met was during our very first visit to the States in 1971. My American uncle who had married my mother's sister had invited us to show us his country.

And that he did !! In 2 weeks we drove 8000 km (4971 miles) from Madison Wisconsin through North and South Dakota, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone park, Las Vegas, Flagstaff and finally the Grand Canyon. We also admired the 4 corners and sat there on four States, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

I remember then that it was about 4 pm when we arrived in Flagstaff and my aunt wanted to go direction Durango and checked the map. Apparently no problem because there were plenty of towns indicated on the map and therefore also plenty of motels, where we could stop in the evening. What they didn't know was that all these towns were in an Navajo Indian Reservation.

In 1971 Indians were still Indians and not Native Americans and both sides were still like cats and dogs.

We drove and drove and drove through a wonderful desert, in red and sandy colors and yes we passed through the cities mentioned on the map but they were composed of maybe 5 or 6 sheds and a bar. It's strange that after so many years I remember that there had always been a bar. And on purpose because we got hungry and wanted something to eat.

All the way long we saw Native Americans not in the costumes I was used to see in movies but mostly dressed in Jeans and T-Shirts. I was very disappointed ! Hunger made us stop in one of these "towns" parked the car in front of a "Saloon" and opened the swinging doors, just as I had seen in Western movies, but without a single cowboy.

The "Indians" looked at us as if we were ET in person, they probably had never seen a "Paleface" coming in their bar. We were received politely but rather cool and the older men glanced at us with hostile looks. We really didn't feel at ease. But then they realized that we spoke another language then English because we spoke German.  Suddenly their attitude changed completely. Now they all came to our table most of them still wearing  pigtails,  which I found terribly  romantic. They welcomed us in English and became very friendly and invited us to share their food. 

The only one who was ignored completely was my poor uncle because he spoke English and they immediately had noticed that he was American. We chatted together and it was very interesting. Then two women came unfortunately not in a leather dress and  feathers in their hair, but with Jeans and T-shirt and brought us food.

I don't remember what it was,  but it was very good and anyway I was so hungry I would even have eaten a roasted rat ! My uncle got nothing. They just ignored him as if he in person had killed all Indians and put the rest of them in this reservation which indeed was very beautiful but nothing could grow here it was just a desert. I don't know how this place is today, they probably all live from tourism but at that time it just was like this, they were very poor. We shared our food with my uncle and then left, still chatting and laughing and promised to come back ! (without the uncle of course)

I remember sitting in the car I was so excited !! I had met real Native Americans !  not movie Indians but real once and  the only thing I was missing so much were their headdress   !

In my imagination ....The truth was so different !


A Lady's Life said...

We have many native Indians in BC. They put on shows and dances in their native costumes.
In Montreal we have the Iroquois Indians and I have to say I have never met one who was unkind or hostile. I love their way of thinking.Maybe you were somewhere where they were having problems with government. But it passes.
I would think they would welcome tourist money no matter where it came from.

Fun60 said...

It is so interesting to have travelled in places before tourism had become the norm. As you say an experience you will never forget and one can understand a hostlie atmosphere during that period.

Tracy Cook said...

It is a shame their identify has been changed . They are the original inhabitants just like the aborigines

Anonymous said...

Great post for N and what a wonderful trip you had ~ ^_^

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Utah has a rich history of Native Americans...

It's fun to go the POW Wow's..

A Lady's Life said...

Gattina in 1961 they had many rights but I think activists were fighting for rights to keep their culture, have their own infrastructure, schools etc...
They were doing this here in Canada too but they were still very nice people. I know cause I worked with them.Caughnawaga Indian Reservation was a place we kids went to for school trips and there you could buy Indian souvenirs and see people in their traditional costume. Here in BC the Native Americand put on their traditonal outfits for special occasion and teach others how to make their kind of decorated clothing. They are very beutiful.
I guess every culture is the same, not just Indians. Here you go into East Indian stores and they don;t speak English and refuse to serve you. They don;t understand anything you say and tell you to go away.
Thats wy I say everyone should learn the coutry's language to work with the public otherwise you get anger and discrimination.

Loree said...

What an interesting story. You should write a book about all the adventures you get up to on your travels. We should be going to Yellowstone this summer.

Sue said...

My sister taught school on the Navajo reservation at the 4 corners back in the early 1970s. Happily, unlike your experience, the native Americans treated her with great kindness. She lived with them for two years and grew to love them very much.

They only used native dress when performing their rituals, which many of them participated in on a regular basis.


Linens and Royals said...

A very memorable and interesting trip. I think the same trip now would be very different.

storybeader said...

amazing that they neglected your uncle entirely. I moved from New Jersey to Oklahoma, the land of the "Red Man." But where I was at school, I didn't see any Indians, except from the country India (they were all Engineering students!) When I moved to southwestern Oklahoma, that's when I "met" my first Native Americans! {:-D

Jenny said...

What a neat memory.

It would be interesting to retrace these vacation steps now and compare and contrast.

I love reading travel memoirs.

Yours are always fascinating to me.