Sisterhood is Ceremony
Kinaalda Femmes: Ceremonial Sisterhood
In the summer of 2017 I got word of a local family hosting a Diné (Navajo) Kinaaldá (coming of age ceremony). The location of this immense gathering was on top of the Chuska Mountains. This mountain range is part of the Defiance Plateau located on the Navajo Nation.
The patient, Lilly along with her family and devoted participants conducted 4 days of ceremony and 4 days of reverence. My cousin, Nizhoni was one of the few who accompanied Lilly the entire time. The summer before Nizhoni endured her Kinaaldá on the same mountain with Lilly by her side. Both supported one another at this special time.
During the celebration many family members and friends traveled up and down the mountain to witness this powerful tradition.
We made our journey up the mountain on a dirt road, deep into dense forest land. Giant Ponderosa Pines and a group of young cousins greeted us as we drove up to the family’s summer camp. Normally secluded, i could see that the mountain became a home for the ceremony.
I decided my place in the ceremony was to help prepare food. Confident in my “rez” cooking skills I felt comfortable and accustomed to the vailing shade house. Along with several other female relatives we prepared many meals thought out the days.
Numerous ceremonial duties were completed to insure Lilly had a future of wealth, prosperity, and abundance. Along with running long distances a particular ceremonial cake was made with cornmeal that Lilly and her crew spent days hand grinding. When the grinding was completed they mixed the meal into cake batter. Some of the younger children helped prepare a sweetener by chewing and spitting out cornmeal. Afterwards adding the masticated corn to the cake batter. My nephew was amongst the children chosen.
Meanwhile, Lilly’s father and brothers carefully dug out a perfectly shaped circular pit deep in the ground, next they built a fire in the pit. when it was hot enough a wet woven mat of corn husks was layered into the pit. After the pit was lined they begin pouring the cake batter into the carefully made pit and built another fire on top. The cake was left to cook in the ground all night.
As we all began to shift into the next phase of the ceremony the Hogan was prepared for the all night singing. They started when the medicine man and his crew arrived. They sang so many Beauty Way and Hogan songs.
A couple of female relatives and myself stayed up all night and watched over a giant pot of corn stew, cooking over the fire. We made sure to brew coffee and prepare small meals for all the participants who were singing.
Slowly, morning approached, it was time for the Kinaaldá to run one last time. Everyone ran behind her down the designated trail. I could hear the loud yells of the Kinaaldá and her runners, alerting the holy people of their presence.
After the run I received a piece of the laboriously made cake. I felt accomplished. This piece of cake represented 2 things to me. First thing, “I am a capable being who embodies all i need to practice self-healing and self-care”. Second thing, “It is my duty to know what i want and to ask for the blessings to make it happen, the holy people are waiting to hear me.”
Defend the Chuskas; Protect Home of Ceremony
The Chuska Mountain has always provided longevity to all neighboring communities. The opulence of wildlife and plantlife maintains a biosphere created to sustain life. Many community members resort to the Chuska’s for livestock grazing, medicinal herbs, ceremony, wood, hunting, farming, and most importantly water. About ⅔ of the surface water on Navajo Nation comes from the Defiance Plateau and the Chuska Mountains. Making this watershed essential to the people, wildlife, plantlife and the land.
Unfortunately since the early 1900’s the Chuska Mountain has been a target for resource extraction. At the time many Diné people opposed oil drilling. They were aware of what could happen if the land was to be drilled. This caused many oil prospectors to use aggressive tactics, yielding land for the oil companies. At this time the U.S. Department of Interior established the Navajo Tribal Council to grant and legitimize mineral leases. Pretty much to legitimized stealing.
The Diné people at the time were reluctant to sign oil leases. They knew the violation of the lands could create hardship. Still this didn’t stop the oil exploitation in Diné territory. Oil leases and other Leasing Acts created bad policies allowing further exploitation. Politicians and “government elected officials” would fight over oil royalties and protocol. Not ever thinking of what would happen to the land.
Fast forward to today and it's still a growing problem, if not worse. At this very moment the Chuska Mountain range is being fracked for helium. As of september 2015 industrial gas company Praxair signed a non-specified but “long termed helium purchase agreement” with Nacogdoches Oil & Gas for its operations in Apache County AZ. They agreed to “supply up to 100 million standard cubic feet per year of helium” with the “potential for future expansion”.
Several months ago after after a resistance camp was established on the mountain, we went to the minerals department of the navajo nation and asked questions. We were told by Steven Price, that there is no fracking on the mountain. A flat out lie. All the departments we went to the employees told us no fracking is happening. Some were nervous to speak us and avoided us.
In January i was invited to participate in a tour of the oil and gas field near Red Valley, AZ in the Lukachukai Mountains. I was asked to help scout the area and track potential sites to visit. A local community member of the Chuskas, also my homegirl, organized the tour. The organizer invited a crew from Colorado, who had a FLIR GF 320 camera. This camera can film invisible gas emissions.
Recently I attended a follow up tour, once more we scouted the area, we were able to visit several sites. A potential oil leak was discovered along with invisible gas emissions that could be very dangerous, even deadly.
A lot of the gas emissions we saw with the special camera, have potential to harm our bodys in many ways. The elderly, children and womyn are at higher risk of being affected. The emissions being released have many toxins in them that are endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems at certain doses. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed by hormone disruptors.
PAHs or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are chemicals found in coal, crude oil, produced water, and gasoline. They also are produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, and tobacco are burned. PAHs generated from these sources can bind to or form small particles in the air that can travel long distances. They can go from lungs directly into bloodstream, can also be ingested.
Our endocrine system controls our reproductive system and is directly related to fertility. This can cause our bodies to be imbalance. Especially young people who are still developing from children to young adults.
The gas being released is disrupting our ceremonial relationship to the mountain, as well as all who have family gatherings. It also affects all the plant life, this mean medicinal herbs are being contaminated. Our livestock is also at high risk due to grazing in these oil and and fields.