Returning to one’s ancestral homeland offers time for reflection, but also reminds us that even these sacred places are often threatened. Read more →
Journey to the Canyon Floor
Deep down into the canyon where the spires live, breathing in the dust of histories, our feet move slowly through the long trail, blistered and tender they move on.
Passing foot and handholds along the rock edge, we run our fingers along their crests, absorbing the ancient oils of our ancestors as we make our decent.
Reddened walls interrupted only by the occasional ribbon of white and black laying out the archive of seasons — of fires and ash.
Down on the canyon floor, where the once vibrant and life giving soil has turned to sand — a fine soot of lifeless young glass.
Nothing lives anymore.
The only glimpses of life illustrated by the old knotted roots and trunks of ancient orchards, burnt down by the hate and disgust of a million soldiers and pencil pushing bureaucrats.
That is all that is left down here at the bottom. The sad histories of days gone by — of once plentiful fields and happy children, cooling their feet in the canyon streams – you can hear their laughter but you can also hear their cries.
My grandmother had only made it halfway down. She cried gently as she sat on the stool and asked us to say a prayer for her — to sprinkle the last of her corn pollen on the bottom of the canyon where the old corn fields and peach orchards stood.
That was years ago.
As I sit here now, my own flesh and blood making his way toward the canyon bottom, I wish we could have brought her with us.
I wish we could have let her rub her old hands on the smoothed, burnt bark that stood.
Ramona Emerson is an MFA student in creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is currently working on her first novel, Shutter, as part of her degree requirements. Emerson has also worked as a filmmaker for over 15 years, and is in the post-production phase of her latest documentary, The Mayor of Shiprock.