No.61 Be Respectful.

The exact quote is : ” Would you like some coffee?”  From the movie series Skinwalkers The Navaho Mysteries. Season 1. Episode 1. ” Shirtwalker” Stories are from Tony Hillerman’s Navaho Mystery novels. Director: Chris Eyre. Writer: James Redford.

It’s a very simple quote. “Would you like some coffee?” It’s  said numerous times throughout the movie. It felt like it was a part of a greeting …Like saying hello…I thought there must of been a bet going on in the background to see how many times Emma Leaphorn could ask Jim Chee this  question. Joe Leaphorn her husband who was always described as stoic… seemed at times  to have trouble keeping his face straight  each time after she asked the coffee question.  So I read up on what is expected if you travel to the Navaho nation near Tuscon, Arizona. How you greet and talk to others and on what not to do. To me, these two words reverberated throughout all my research- Be respectiful. People forget that Native Americans treasure their privacy- just as much as a farmer outside of HInkely, Minnesota does. No one likes tourists that forget that where they traverse is someone elses’s space. It’s a human trait to be wary of other humans we don’t know…so be respectful. If you are unsure of a custom -ask -never assume anything. Remember, just because it’s hot outside- to wear clothing that’s not too revealing. Some  tribal customs look down upon this as do many elders. Don’t forget there is such a thing called sunburn….It would be the same way in Italy. If you find something interesting on the ground -Leave it. There are stiff penalties for confiscating bones or pottery shards. Remember, as with all other nations and countries some people will speak English but it isn’t the main language spoken. Try to learn some basic greetings-Like good morning …or things like ..I’d like some coffee -please..in Navaho. It will endear you to those around you.  Remember to stay away from the stereotypical language  like the word Chiefs… it can get you in trouble. Don’t forget John Wayne was an actor…and his scripts were written people that were clueless and  racist to the core of their beliefs. He got paid big bucks to spew all that gunk and most white americans believed it . Remember, unless you are a member of the tribe you don’t have jurisdiction on anything. You won’t have a legal foot to stand on if you do anything stupid. So the importance of things like state licenses to hunt and fish…and tribal permits for boating and backpacking will be really important if you see a police officer walking towards you and you know it’s not in your wallet. Do your homework. This also includes taking pictures…of people. their homes , rituals and ceremonies. Ask permission. Be respectful . Wasn’t that one of the ten commandments?  Be respectful. Be polite. If someone is talking especially an elder ..be quiet…listen.

Sherry R. Curley, a Navaho and research associate with the University of Arizona Native American Research and Training Center says “It is a basic, basic belief that the elders hold the wisdom of a tribe and when they speak -you listen.’

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