A Disappearing Act
They are one of the oldest legumes known to mankind. They grow along the Rocky Mountains and were a staple of the tribe for which they are named. Along with a blue maize or corn, they are all that remains of a most interesting group of indigenous people to live in North America.
The tribe is known as the Anasazi Tribe and they lived and then disappeared between 550 and 1300 ACE in an area now called Mesa Verde, Colorado. IIN 1870 a photographer accidentally discovered remnants of the Anasazi civilization, a most sophisticated culture for its day and time. Their life was based on agriculture and they invented innovative and creative ways for irrigation as well as constructed hundreds of miles of roads. They did not have the wheel nor do we believe they had the means to transport animals except by foot. Their homes literally hung on the hillsides and mountains and even today are accessed only by the most skilled of mountain climbers using modern ropes and pulley systems.
The word “Anasazi” exists in the Navajo language and translates as “ancient ones” when spelled Anaasazi. However, it is also very similar to the Greek “Anasa” and “Zi” which translates as breath lives. Some believe the name was the name of their queen and literally meant “Long live the Queen!” Archaeologists have found evidence of the Anasazi in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, the “four corners region” as it is now known. Many consider the tribe disappeared due to drought and a subsequent lack of food. However, then the question is asked – Why not simply move elsewhere? Others believe the tribe became disenchanted with their deities, the gods of their mythology and, once angry with the gods of their culture, they left, disappeared to…?
Today the closest neighbors of what would have been the Anasazi lands are the Hopi Indians. Theirs is a culture very different from the Anasazi and no one believes they are descended from them. It is very interesting that, while the Anasazi people have disappeared, one of their most prominent deities has not. The Anasazi were the first to have myths about Kokopelli, the god of harvest, fertility, and plenty. The Anasazi believed that a visit from Kokopelli would bring a bountiful harvest and good luck.
Kokopelli is claimed today by most American Indians and indeed many tribes have myths about him or a similar character. Most described him in like fashion: “ . . . everyone in the village would sing and dance throughout the night when they heard Kokopelli play his flute. The next morning, every maiden in the village would be with child.” In modern times Kokopelli was compared to A Shakespearean character from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, Puck.
With these myths from the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, the newest lands of mankind’s living, we can see the similarities between all people. Whether named for a Greek Queen or being used for a Shakespearean character, the history of myths and cultures follows similar paths. Sadly, what does not disappear are our less than admirable traits – discrimination, fear, jealousy, and greed, among others.
What legacy has remained of the Anasazi includes their beans, a legume similar to the pinto or kidney bean and their blue corn. What remains of the American Indians, even those extinct tribes are their words and names. Almost half of the fifty states within the United States of America have American Indian names. Other words, though create their own mythology. American Indian words are often used to evoke images of might and strength. A four-wheel drive vehicle originally created for military use became popular with the general population and one of their first models was named after a southeastern tribe – Cherokee. Another model used mainly for off-roading was given the name of a southwestern tribe – Apache. The military also appropriated American Indian names for one of their helicopters, the Chinook, and a missile, the Tomahawk. Currently sports teams of all levels use American Indian names and the National Football league is embroiled in a dispute of such regarding the Washington Redskins.
For many, such appropriation of words from these indigenous peoples ensures that they will not be forgotten. History sometimes is written for the victor and, in many cases, these indigenous tribes were not victorious in maintaining their lands or the ability to continue their culture. Colonization sometimes becomes annihilation.
We can face that same dilemma when we are confronted with societal pressures ourselves. Maintaining a lifestyle that adheres to one’s beliefs is not an easy task. Remembering that faith is the strongest weapon is sometimes forgotten when we see the stories that terrorists create. Nonetheless, faith is strong and it becomes stronger when we live it. Faith is to be used, exercised, displayed, illustrated, and renewed each and every day. We and we alone are responsible if our faith disappears. It isn’t a magic act to live one’s beliefs. It just takes doing it and that is the strongest force of all.