Jim Enote is an elder of the Ashiwi Nation, a Pueblo group in what is now New Mexico and Northern Arizona known as the Zuni. He says that when his people come to water they lift it and splash themselves with it and then they throw it in the direction of Zuni to encourage rain. They have a name for this very large area in Northern Arizona. They call it the place of emergence. It includes what we now call the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon. I visited large parts of the area on a number of occasions. It is incredibly beautiful. Perhaps the most beautiful on earth.
I don’t know the exact boundaries of Zuni territory but I believe these photos are from in or near their historical territory.
Monument Valley is in my opinion one of the most beautiful places on earth and I am surprised how few people who winter in Arizona never visit it or haven’t even heard of it.
In that region the Zuni produced petroglyphs that have been there for more than a thousand years. To the Zuni this is not just art; it is history. One of them shows a row of sheep descending to the water. It is an ancient lesson. To find water follow the animals.
Jim and the Zuni have been using ancient petroglyphs, images from pottery, and from tapestries, and have considered their thoughts and prayers and together with all that have been making unique maps based on these images. Those maps are unlike any other maps in the world. “Not limited by lines or topography, they depict cultural landscapes and living memories.” Jim Enote put it this way, in the documentary series Native America that I watched this past winter, “The Zuni maps represent the world without defined boundaries.”
Many people are familiar with maps that contain streets and roads. But there is another way. The Zuni have found one of those other ways. As Enote said, “When they see Zuni hand painted maps, they realize there is a different way of looking at the world.” Isn’t that what travel and education are all about, finding different ways of looking at the world? Isn’t this why we converse with people of different cultures? Is this not what the world of ideas is all about? This is why I watch television shows like this one.
This different way of looking at the world is shared across North America. It is a reverence for place. Sacred caves, underground sanctuaries, grand canyons, real physical connections to earth. Its why many call it Mother Earth.
People like Enote when they visit a place like the Grand Canyon, with its steep walls of red rock, like those I saw at Canyon de Chelly, or Monument Valley, both in the same area, get the feeling that they are in a womb. They are inside Mother Earth. That is a deep and powerful connection! Enote said, in front of an incredible film of Horseshoe Canyon where I stood 2 years, “This is the place we came from so the river is like an umbilical cord. It’s all part of the Mother. The Mother is where we begin. Its our ultimate reference point.” Now that is a real connection to the physical earth.
I took this photo of Horseshoe Canyon getting as close to the edge as a person who is deathly afraid of heights could get. When he said that, I could not help but recollect the words of Paul Tillich that profound German theologian who defined God as our ultimate concern.