Storm Over Hotevillabyjthserra©
Dan watched the snake dancers and huggers prepare for their dance. Far away from the Apache, Navajo, and white spectators they finished applying paint to their chest, arms and face. The large white circles on their chest and back contrasted against their dark tanned skin. They were painted white from their elbows to their hands, and their mouth and lower jaw was also white. Bright feathers hung down from their head like so much disheveled hair. The huggers and snake dancers wore matching cloth blankets at their waists.
Dan looked into the large kiva. The snakes that the Snake Clan collected last week were spread about the kiva. He estimated that about fifty snakes, many deadly, slithered about in the circular pit. He anxiously watched the laborious preparations of the dancers, and looked southward. Dark clouds were building toward his ancestral home: Oriabi. Suddenly, a gust of wind kicked up a plume of dust and Dan closed his eyes . . .
. . . The priest stood near the edge of the mesa surrounded by the members of the Bear Clan. He had lived with the Hopi for two years, teaching them Christianity. He was nervous, he had heard of recent pueblo uprisings against Spanish Missionaries south of Oriabi and now, in the summer of 1682, he saw increasing hostility. He spoke quietly to Howenai, the leader of the clan.
"You brought me here to look at your crops. I know they have failed, they need rain. We simply need to pray for the rain. The Lord will provide somehow."
"Provide? Provide? The people starve. There is no rain; there is no food. When you came, you brought your God, your Christ. You ordered we stop the cycle. The flute dance, the snake dance, and the sun dance, we stopped for you, for your God. And the rains stopped."
"They stopped because there is sin," the priest replied.
"No, they stopped because you brought us a false God!" Howenai shouted.
The Bear Clan members grabbed the priest and carried him to the cliff. He struggled, trying to escape, but there were too many. They threw him over the cliff, watching his silent descent onto the rocks. Howenai hoped the Earth Mother was pleased. The rains returned three days later.
Dan blinked and rubbed his eyes. He watched fingers of lightning dance in the dark skies over Oriabi. He heard thunder in the distance, the storm moved towards them. Dan looked over the pueblo. Hotevilla was smaller than Oriabi, with only about two hundred residents. All of them left Oriabi several years ago, when the tribe split. The battles over the influx of outsiders had finally split the tribe.
The spectators circled around the kiva. Dan watched snake dancers and huggers slowly climb into the kiva. The huggers carried "snake whips", long sticks decorated with eagle feathers. The huggers used the whips to hypnotize the snakes, allowing the dancers to handle them. The dancers waited until the huggers coaxed the snakes to uncoil, then they grabbed them by the head and began the dance. They held the snake with their mouth as they danced to the beat of nearby drums. The huggers danced around them distracting the snakes with the whips.
Dan looked back towards the south. The storm approached quickly, he could smell the rain in the wind. Lightning flashed and Dan closed his eyes . . .
. . . Nellie awoke to her mother's screams. Then she heard men shouting. Her mother ran into her room: "Nel, quickly, get dressed."
"Mama, what is happening."
"The men with guns, you must go to school. Get dressed."
Nellie quickly put on her dress and her badly worn shoes. She walked with her mother out of the house. All around her were the other children and their parents. Some of them were rushed out of the houses so fast they didn't have time to dress. Everyone marched toward the school surrounded by men with guns. Nellie heard her mother say they were Navajo, but Nellie also saw white men telling them what to do.
In the darkness they walked through the snow toward the school. No one was allowed to talk. They went into the school. Nellie heard a white man say: "Today is February Third, Nineteen Hundred and Two. From this day forth, every Indian child will attend this school. Any children who are not at school every day will be taken to a school far away." He waited until the children were counted.
"One hundred twenty five? I know there are more children up there," the white man shouted. "Go find them."
Nellie watched the men with guns go back out. The other men at the school made the parents go home and separated the children into two classes. Nellie looked around and saw Minnie and her baby sister. Minnie's little sister was only four!
Dan felt the first drops of rain as the snake dancers continued. The spectators were leaving now, trying to beat the storm. The dancers wouldn't stop for the rain. The ceremony lasts nine days. The snake dancers and huggers would remain in the kiva the whole time. Other members of the Snake Clan would bring them food and water.
Dan was glad the spectators left. He never felt comfortable with the outsiders watching the sacred ceremonies. The elders argued that the ceremonies were for all mankind, so outsiders were allowed to watch. This angered Dan. The outsiders trampled them with no regard for sacred land and ceremony. All they do is come to watch the dance with snakes.
Dan knew they brought money too. Just like the government men taking the land for the mines. They paid money, but took something more valuable. They took our way of life! Dan spun the arguments in his head as he ran for cover. Rain poured from the sky, thunder boomed angrily as the storm rolled over Hotevilla. Dan knew nothing would be the same.