night I attended a pow-wow while visiting a friend in Santa Ynez, California. Nearby was the Chumash Indian Reservation. This tribe hosted the pow-wow that attracted Indians from all over America, thousands. It was simply amazing. The drum beats and chanting were hypnotic, and brought back memories from similar ritual occasions in Africa, Asia, and even in the South where voo-doo was practiced.
The sounds and swirls were infectious, and we found ourselves in step before we even arrived at the central enclosure where the dance contest was in process. Even little children dressed to the most extreme with beads and feathers of every color knew the steps. It was spectacular!
Even the most jaded observer could not help but be embraced by the spectacle. It was actually a contest as the dancers stepped lively to outdo one another. The festivities ended at 10 o'clock with a parade of the participants.
I had witnessed other Indian Dance occasions. I recall one at El Tovar, on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. I was ten at the time and remember vividly the thrills that the dancers provided.
Alphonso Ortiz was a patient of mine.
I recall his first entry to my office in Palo Alto...moon-faced, ruddy, and a long pigtail. He must be an Indian! He was. Full blooded Hopi. A professor of Anthropology at Princeton, out here on a sabbatical at Stanford, but most impressively he was the chosen head of the Indian Nation. Very imperial in his bearing.
BUT, I took his blood pressure and it was over 300. I gasped, "You must be hospitalized". "I can't possibly, I must testify in Congress in 2 days." He was paying a big price for his responsibilities that also included getting his drunken brother out of jail.
I conceded to his demands, immediately started medicines and checked him every 6 hours until he flew East.
We bonded and had many wonderful encounters during the rest of his year here. He taught me much about his culture, and provided grand contacts for my wife and me during an Arizona car tour that featured visits to his homeland. The village of his birth was grim, with litter everywhere, broken glass in windows, abandoned cars.
On return, I reflected our sadness at the sordidness of his village. He acknowledged our reaction, but said "you just don't grasp our priorities. Do you remember the house on the corner with all the litter? That fellow has a Lear jet."
A few years later on a speaking date at the Santa Fe Institute I had the opportunity to inquire about Alphonso. Every one knew his name, he was virtually sainted for his good works. He had recently suffered a severe stroke and died in his late fifties. I mourned.
The pow-wow rekindled my respect and affection for Indians. I wish that I had some Apache blood in my veins. I would be proud.