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  • We visited Stanley in Santa Fe when he decided to retire there. On one occasion we visited Bandelier National Park to see the Pueblo ruins. We hiked a trail to the base of a cliff and then climbed four wooden ladders and a bunch of stone stairs. Inside what was then called “Ceremonial Cave” [now Alcove House] where there was a reconstructed kiva. As we climbed down the ladder into the kiva I was hit with a wave of uncertainty and confusion. Was this the right thing to do? Were we somehow violating ancient religious practices by being there? Why did I feel a strange sense of foreboding accompanied by a flushed face? I felt hemmed in and did not stay long. These feelings followed me on our return trip to the car.

    The last time I had felt this way was when we attended a community Ojibway powwow on the Bad River reservation in northern Wisconsin. Over the years we were lucky to have a number of Native American foster children. We went out of our way to locate relatives or to introduce them to the tribe. But it wasn’t until we fostered twins and found out that their grandmother had been rejected as a foster parent that we really got involved. We made contact with her and she and her son visited our house on a number of occasions. She was kind and understanding; he was hostile and oozed contempt for us. Given the situation it was perfectly understandable. However, we kept at it and made sure that the girls got to go to visit their grandmother and attend various events and ceremonies on a regular basis. One day the tribal chairman visited and invited our family to a community powwow. When the time came our four kids and the twins piled into our VW bus and drove out to the reservation.

    No sooner had we stopped when the van door was pulled open and a bunch of kids grabbed ours and off they went. The tribal chairman and his wife escorted me and my wife to a circle of people surrounding a large campfire and sat us down next to them. Food was passed around and everyone was talking; a number of people nodded and smiled at us, which made us feel both welcome and comfortable. Then the powwow began in earnest. Singers and drummers created a lively atmosphere for those who got up to dance. Many had on traditional costumes which were quite colorful and greatly added to the effect of the dancing and singing. At one point we were invited to dance with the tribe. We declined feeling that we were interlopers and that’s where the various strange feelings described earlier hit me.

    When the powwow was over the tribal leader invited us to come anytime we wanted and to be sure to bring the twins and our own children who had returned exhausted by their new found friends.

    A few days later the archeology professor at the college came into my office in a rage. It seems that he had found out that we had attended the powwow. He had been trying to invite himself for years but was told that only Native Americans were allowed to attend a community powwow. He was invited to attend the various public ones instead. I guess that they really didn’t want to be researched.

    BTW, unfortunately Stanley moved on and we have yet to return to New Mexico. The trail [two miles round trip] to Alcove House, which bridges the stream in a number of places, was wiped out by fires and floods during 2011.
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