Showing posts with label Native American. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Native American. Show all posts

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Tender Loving Care

Corn is one of the most venerated of plants in the world. Especially, in Native American culture it plays a central role. “Corn, also called Indian corn or maize, is a cereal plant of the grass family (Poaceae) with edible grain. The domesticated crop originated in the Americas and is one of the most widely distributed of the world’s food crops. Corn is used as livestock feed, as human food, as biofuel, and as raw material in industry. In the United States the colorful variegated strains known as Indian corn are traditionally used in autumn harvest decorations.” — 

One of my earliest memories is when as a child of two years, my parents would take a drive out of Chicago on Sunday afternoon. I was in the backseat, peering out the window as they drove into farmlands, through corn fields. For a little child, the corn stood immensely tall, in closely knit rows—plant after plant as far as the eye could see. 

About one year ago, during Santa Fe’s Summer Bandstand, (now cancelled) a Native American artist from Taos performed. Robert Mirabal is well known and well liked. He is a grammy award winning performer, though for the last number of years he has mostly stayed close to home on Taos Pueblo. Anyway, I had a small group of high school friends visiting town and after a social gathering with pizza at the Boone Gallery, we walked out onto the plaza to hear music. 

Usually when Robert plays at the end of August, it rains. Last year was no different, with rain coming midway after the concert started. For us Santa Feans, who live in arid high-desert mountains, rain is a good thing anytime. It is as if Robert brings good fortune with him. He talked about his culture and the world and at one point, stepped into the crowd with a big bowl of native corn kernels, giving them away. Amy and I took a palmful.

This spring, we planted a small garden in our front yard, including our blue corn kernels. Blue corn was developed by Hopi Indians of the American southwest. 

Our plants grew, with tender loving care, and Amy and I marveled, watching the tender green stalks shoot upward and make tassels, that pollinated from its neighbors. Soon we had corn “ears”. 

“We must send Robert pictures”, I commented to Amy one day. 

A small cob Amy made into a bird. 


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Indian Meeting Place Of The Universe

A life size wooden Indian faces my gallery every day. He wears a war bonnet, is dressed in buckskin and holds a tomahawk. Each morning he is dragged out of the shop called Shalako that sells old Native American Indian silver jewelry and adornments. Then he goes back inside at closing time. He stands sentinel at the door and tourists from all over the world have stopped to have their picture taken next to him.

Santa Fe is the meeting place of the universe for Indians this weekend. Indian Market is in progress. Today, a real Indian stood next to the wooden one as I took a picture. He grabbed the ax from the wooden Indian's hand and smiled while I photographed. He is from the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico, and is here among tribe people from all over the United States, including Alaska, and also some from Canada. 

Tents line every street going out from the plaza. The Indians sell their pottery, jewelry, weavings, artwork and more. Tourists come from all over. They can be seen waiting at the booth of a favorite artist for over an hour before opening time at 8 AM on Saturday morning. 
Throughout the two days, there are continual performances of native music with colorful dancing in traditional costume . . . and a spirit of happiness and excitement pervades everywhere.

My gallery is only 100 feet from the plaza. Often, downtown businesses complain that shoppers are so fixated on the Indian crafts that their businesses go into a sales slump. Last year I had the good fortune to sell a big painting during the market.

I show up with a positive attitude and am thankful for what fate brings . . . and this year some collectors came in and bought art from me; including a portrait that I had just completed. You might call it a “native” portrait. It is of an indigenous woman from South America, wearing her native costume, including a bright red felt hat.

"The Red Hat", oil on linen, 20 x 20 inches
by Steven Boone

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Petaga Yuha Mani, (American Indian, born March 17, 1912 - died December 3, 1993).

A holy man or woman who is powerful in spirit will have great influences wherever they are. Continually in communion with the Creator, they shed the musk of hidden meanings as they breath. Their presence changes lives. A simple brief meeting with such a soul might have more impact than a lifetime of encounters with others. 

During the course of my life, I have met people like this, but rarely, since they are unusual. 

Years ago, in my youth, I chanced to find myself with a holy man, and the episode deeply touched my life. A living experience dwells in my heart ever since. Here is the story:


With his back to the early morning sun, he stood beside his small wood slat home on the South Dakota Indian reservation. Despite being at a distance, he had a bigger-than-life presence, such as a grand, magnificent oak tree might have; full of character, deep roots and strong trunk, with branches reaching far off to the sky. He gazed imperturbably at us, a little gang of hippies that had arrived improbably at his house in the early summer. Our elder leader popped her head out of the old Dodge Dart we were packed inside and smiling, called out, “Pete, long time no see!” He smiled and replied, “Yeah, on the Big Island wasn't it?”
The others filed inside, and as I reached the threshold, I stood a moment, reaching out my hand. A slanting ray of light fell across his figure. The tall older man stood almost a head above me. Deep furrows creased his long face. Black braided hair fell behind immense ears and over his shoulders. He wore a faded western shirt, black trousers and boots and reached out to me with both hands open. I moved to stand face to face as he took my hands in his. Looking at me with utter kindness and humility, he stood for what seemed like a long time, not saying anything, simply gazing with great tenderness, warmth and curiosity. I was startled to suddenly feel truly recognized, like we had known each other forever, even as dear friends from a time before birth when we had gathered together on the shores of dawn. The moment burned indelibly into my being, and I was given a lasting gift of deep peace and comfort. Though not a word had been spoken, volumes were imparted in the briefest moments.

His English name was Pete Catches, Sr. the last part shortened from Catches The Enemy. He lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota all his life. For decades he healed and instructed both Natives and non-Natives near his home and off the reservation. He revived the Sundance among the Lakota in the early 1960's and in 1964, he was named Sundance chief by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, the only such distinction in tribal history. His Oglala Sioux name was Petaga Yuha Mani, or Petaga for short, and during a gathering in his home, he told us how he got his name, meaning “Hands in Fire.”
Petaga sat on a wood chair, long legs outstretched and hand on his knee. “It was the early days of my being a medicine man, and I had been called to visit a sick man. When I went in his home, he was laying on a bed in the corner . He looked at me and I could see he did not believe I could help him. I needed his faith. I walked to the fireplace and reached into the fire, gathering hot coals in both of my hands, and then went to him. As I stood in front of him, he got faith and I was able to cure him. From then on, I had the name Petaga, meaning hands in fire.

We stayed three days. The last evening, we gathered at a sweat lodge near the house, and did a sweat with his two grown sons. It was surprising how hot it became inside the hut made of bowed branches covered with burlap and blankets. A pit dug in the middle contained hot stones taken from a nearby wood fire. Occasionally someone sprinkled water on them making them hiss and steam. Prayers and offerings were made to the four directions and Great Spirit. Sage was thrown on the stones and burned with a sweet pungent aroma. A peace pipe was passed around.

He told us he had two wives, and when he had taken the younger wife his first wife did not like it. Saying this, he grinned and explained the Sioux are allowed to take more than one wife. Always absolutely honest, he was deep as a river and as broad.

During a moment of silence, when he sat near to me, I found myself praying for him. I imagined the innumerable hardships he faced. His little house with makeshift furnishings would barely keep out the harsh winters. Closing my eyes, as my prayer went out, I had the unusual experience of feeling Petaga block my thoughts. I felt hurt at being strongly rebuffed—his door suddenly shut. His pride did not allow for sympathy from strangers. Inwardly, he spoke to me then, saying, little brother, why do you pray for me? Everything is contained here . . . and more! It is you that is poor. Be content with me in the Kingdom of our Father.

© by Steven Boone
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Indian Market

The Santa Fe Indian Market bills itself as the “largest and most prestigious intertribal fine art market in the world.“ Truly, it is a celebration of indigenous peoples of North America and their handiwork as they arrive each year in Santa Fe, New Mexico to sell their arts and crafts. 

Having lived in Santa Fe for almost forty years, I have seen many markets. It depends on my mood whether I go or not. Sometimes I think of the big crowds and say “no way!” Other times, my curiosity takes me to the plaza to wander amid the tents.

This year, I am almost part of the festivities. I opened a temporary “boutique” gallery only fifty feet from the plaza—the heart of the market. (See Gallery.)

I am glad to be so close. I feel the warmth and excitement generated by the natives and a reciprocal response of non-native participants that buy the goods. I love the pride that the Indians have of their heritage and how they celebrate in dress, crafts, music and dance. It is quite awesome to see the tribes represented from coast to coast and Alaska too.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

When Our Hands Touched

The two best handshakes that I ever received were from strangers. The first time was when I was a 20 year old student at New Mexico State University and William Sears, a prominent and important Baha’i, was visiting. He entered a room before he was to deliver a lecture and came to greet me. I knew who he was and felt amazed and slightly bashful to be suddenly in his presence. He outstretched his hand, and bowing slightly, greeted me warmly. When our hands touched, I was surprised at his humbleness. With humility and love that was palpable, I felt him put his whole being into our very brief encounter—so much that I felt lifted up. It has been thirty years since that handshake and I still remember the warmth and goodwill.
A couple years later I was traveling around the western USA in a car, visiting Indian reservations with four other young people, all Baha’ís. We arrived at the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation where a couple of my friends sought out an old medicine man they were acquainted with. We found him outside his small wood house out on the prairie. He stood tall, and deep lines furrowed his almond brown, weather-beaten face. His black hair flowed over his shoulders and as I approached him, he smiled kindly, and looking with great favor upon me, stretched out both of his hands to take mine. We stood silently for moments, our hands touching, without saying a word, and I felt as if I had come home. He gave me great love, even though I was a stranger. I can never forget that moment.
His name was Padagah, which in Sioux language means, “Hands in fire.” He told how he got his name: he was just beginning to do work as a healer and was called to the home of a sick man. When he saw the patient, who was in bed, their eyes met and he discerned that the man did not believe Padagah could heal him. Padagah went to the hearth, where a fire burned, and reaching into it, he pulled out a handful of red-hot embers and held them before his patient. After that, the sick man gained faith, and Padagah got his name.
One day, we were gathered in a room and I began praying for Padagah. I had my eyes shut, and immediately I felt his presence rebuff me, as if he put his hand out to stop my prayer with an emphatic, “No!” I halted my praying and felt embarrassed and surprised. I think that Padagah had such great inner integrity and native honor, that he resisted any aspect of my trying to impart a “message” to him. At the time, I felt humbled by his affirmation of his own native sacredness.
Another day, my group returned by car to his house along a dirt road. Padagah was outside in his yard, squatted, with his pants around his ankles, looking straight down at the ground, shitting. He did not flinch as we drove by, but remained perfectly calm in his contemplative place of pleasure.
Some years ago, I called the Pine Ridge Reservation, asking after Padagah and was told he had died.
William Sears died in 1992.
After so many greetings and introductions in my life, it is amazing that two of the most powerful and lasting impressions were from these two strangers who made me feel embraced in their presence.