I am Johnny Ramirez, and I am writing to keep my Grandfathers’ stories alive. It is our way of life, the Ndee way. Though in our native tradition we were not to use the name of the dead, we can and do repeat his events and stories without using his name, there by he has life through the stories and events he told, by me telling the story again and again.
But first let me share a bit about the author of this story, Johnny the writer of his grandfather’s story is. He was born in the land of the blazing sun that was once referred to as Apacheria by the Spaniards and the area of Arizonaic. In a sleepy little mining town that no longer exist today, as it was swallowed up whole by the mine as the towns people left. But back in 1941, seven days after Pearl Harbor, and ten days before Christmas, this package arrived for Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez, the start of a family for Mrs. Ramirez and a continuation for Mr. Ramirez after his first wife died.
I, Johnny remember starting school with my two full blood half sisters for a short period at the reservation, and I’ve written a manuscript of that time period. It was a year and a half before the school pilot project was shut down for good, and the children had to be bussed and shipped.
Shortly after the school was shut down we moved to White Hills where my father worked for John’s Mansvile mining diatematious earth. My father went first to get the job, and a place for family, then he sent for my Mom and I, and shortly after we arrived, about a month, two of my full blood Tinde’ half sisters were sent for and arrived. We settled into the company house that sat back away from the other company houses as more children were added to the family. This is found in my manuscript, ‘White Hills.’
My two full blood half sister’s were of the Ti’nde’ people, a sub-division of the Nde’ndaa people and I am of the N’dee people from my father’s side of the family. Have I confused you yet? Well, let me explain it for you so you can catch up.
Normally, when a man and a women got married, the man becomes a part of the wife’s family. That is of the old ways. Tradition dictate’s that the woman stays within the family, clan, band, tribe, Nation, because that is where the linage is for the people, threw the women. The man, husband travels from his family to his wife’s family.
Now why is that? Because the women own everything that belongs to the family! Sorry guys! At least today, in this society, you get half of everything in most states. But, back then, in the European American society, a woman was lucky if she got to walk out with her clothes on her back. It was a man’s world outside of the Indigenous Native American’s.
Though the Native Americans believe that no one owned the land, for the land was of Mother Earth, the women had their own piece of the land that they farmed every season, and so, every time they returned to that part of the land, she worked it and no one else would out of respect for one another. It was just understood as a people. They knew where each woman worked the land to supply food for her family. She also owned the bik ih which can be a lean-to, wickiup, teepee or a hogan, plus she owned the blankets, furs, bowls, cooking tools, etc.
Where the man, on the other hand, owned his hunting and fighting equipment and that was all. Later on, they also owned the horses they captured or stole. Now, women could also own those items, and she could choose to become a warrior, just as a man could choose to keep house and farm. And neither of them would be looked down on for their choice in life style. It was an excepted fact of life by all. We had famous women warriors, and Lozen was one of them. She was the sister of Chief Victorio. I will write about her at a later date. As I’ve got to get on to doing a story from my Grandfather.
When the first indaa saw the Native American men lying around, these Europeans and later the European Americans could not understand why the men didn't help the women with the fields or help them with the building of the house. They thought that the men were lazy, and didn’t understand why the women would work, while the men laid around. Another reason they didn’t tend to the fields our build the house, is because they had to be ready at all times to defend their people and village of any intruders. They also spent not just one day hunting, but as much as four days hunting for game to feed their people, and before the Spanish introduced them to the Horses; it was all done on foot. I need to move on if I am going to get to Shichoo Stories. I can come back and cover this at another time.
So, if I kept to the tradition of my father’s people, I would be an indaa, (white person), and not an N’dee. So, why aren’t I an indaa if I am following the tradition. I really am following the tradition of the Ndee, and can call myself an N’dee and not an indaa. My mother was adopted by my fathers’ mother, making my Mother an Ndee, so she began a new family of Ndee, and I am the first of that line, so I am an N’dee. Did you get that one! I sure hope you did get it. Because my Mother became a Ndee, I became N’dee and not a French indaa. I can also cover this at a later date now that I am a member of True West.
White Hill’s has a story by it self, and I have it in my manuscript in one of the chapters. (Not Published)
Years have gone by for the family up on White Hills, and summer is going be held in the sun of my Grandparent’s place. This is the first time I remember going to their home. School is out, and it is time for the trip, the Willy’s truck is all loaded, the tarp covering the back of the truck bed is tied down, the trunks are pushed all the way to the back of the bed, next to the cab. The blankets are down, and our pillows are rolled up, arms tied, (jackets for pillows), a bucket with a lid to it is at the gate end of the truck for emergencies’. All the kids are loaded up; all five of us are excited, because we are going on a trip to visit ‘ndee shimaa shichoo’, (father’s mother and father).
The trip is a story in of itself, but I need to keep moving on if I am going to get to the stories of Shichoo, (Grandfather).
We’ve arrived early in the morning as the sun was coming up from behind the low level hills and breaking through some low level bush type chish, (trees), that grew along the dry-wash and creek bed, as it crept toward a three room adobe house, but for us under the tarp, we only new when it was daylight because of the heat generated by the tarp absorbing the sun raise into heat. So, when the Willy came to a complete stop, and the engine was turned off, we just thought we stopped for gas again.
We three young’ins had gone way past the saying; “Are we there yet?” to our older sisters, after two days and nights riding in the back of the truck under that tarp.
We could hear the ropes being released, and then the back flap flew open as it always did every time we stopped, so all of us in the back could relieve ourselves and empty the smelly pot. That turned out to be my job on all the trips, because I was the only boy in the group.
This time, while brushing the sandiness from the eyes, we heard our Mother say; “We’re here at last!” The sun was flooding the back of the truck and filling the darkness under the tarp with its light. We got our marching orders as well as orders to start unloading the two trunks.
The morning was soft and light, while the air was fresh, with a wisp of wood burning every now and them when a breeze filtered over the top of the house with the metal tin roof, as we five children did our duties to the truck parked at the small ranchito. My grandparents came out from behind the screen door of their small adobe house and greeted my father first, then my Mother who had been practicing her Mexican Spanish and a few Apache words.
The day was fielded with discovery for all of us children, but maybe more with me, as I got to go with my Shichoo, (Grandfather), with his go’she’, (dog), and on his bi ii’, (horse). We moved the sheep and goats out of the pen with the help of the go’she’, (dog). It wasn’t a large heard, about 30 to 50, but I thought that was large.
I was not yet at the place where I could talk or understand much of what my Shichoo said at that age. Because my shitaa’, (father), never talk the language at home or around us, so I just heard gibberish coming from my Shichoo. I guess the look on my face was enough for him, so he would always laugh after trying to speak with me.
After sometime riding and walking, all the while keeping an eye on the herd, and some close calls for me, we headed back to the house, as the sun got down low. After opening the gate to the pen and watching the go’she’, (dog), I closed the gate and then went to the well while Grandfather drew the tu, (water), from the well for the goats and sheep. We finished the work he does every day, seven days a week.
You are probably wondering what we eat while we were out there all day. Mesquite beans from those low bush type chish, (trees) that grow out there. You just pick them off the chish, (tree), but watch out they are thorny, trying to get to the bean from the, chish, (tree). We had tu, (water), in his water gored.
We washed up in a small wash pan, and through the water we washed with on the ground by the plants next to the bik ih, (house), and dry our face with our sleeves. The meal was ready as everyone sat on the ground on a big rug under a shade tree.
I asked my Mother why they didn’t eat at a table, and she explained that they like to be as close to ground, (Mother Earth), as possible when they eat. We eat a variety of foods; many that I never thought to eat before with a lot of pan, (bread), fried and roasted in a mud built oven. We, kids played hide and seek until we were called to come into the circle where Grandfather started a large fire where are blankets were close by it,
First, my Grandfather said something in his own tongue while raising his arms and facing east, then he did the same facing north, then south and west. My father sat in the background, the shadows, almost in the dark.
Grandfather then turned to us and began speaking and making motions, but we did not understand a word he said. Then we heard a coyote off in the distance, then another, and grandfather turned in the direction of the coyote and pointed and began to talk. In the darkness came the translation after Grandfather to a break, or breathe. It went something like this;
Ilk’ida’ k oo ya’ e’dina’a. ‘A’koo t’izhe hooghei da’a’ina’ biko’ ‘olina’a . ‘A’koo t’zhei’ gota’l yiis’ana’a. ‘A’koo Shoodi mai’a’ee hilghona’a.
Ages long no fire was. Flies who were called only fire. Flies ceremony held then. There Coyote came
Long ago, there was no fire. Then only those who are called flies had fire. Then the flies held a ceremony. And Coyote came there
Gota’l jiis ‘ai ‘aee. Shoodii ts ‘iyiltswego da’ ya’ dee ntoo ‘e ts ‘idits ‘e doodago ntoo ‘e ii.
Ceremony there held place. Coyote seeing it every it is bad hearing it or it is bad one. one who sees him and coyote one who hears him. That place where they held ceremony. It is very bad to see or hear a coyote.
Ts iiltse shii shoodii ts’ iilts ‘ego ge miich ‘I keshdiidlii kadndin mee. Keshdiidliigo ntoo ‘e nowoch ‘igo ayiile.
At just him to you pray pollen it with. If you pray evil away he makes it.
Pray to him with offering of pollen. Praying to him will make the evil go away.
You must remember I am using an English key board that doesn’t have the keys that is needed for the Language. Plus, this is a tail that is shared with children to teach them as well as entertain them, and it has a moral story to it, or as my people say, good taboo behind the story.
Now, my people’s folklore shows the Coyote as a trickster. The Coyote is neither good nor bad, he is just what he is, a sly one, and he will take advantage of you if you don’t take care. As a people, we are known for our gambling, we gamble on everything and anything, and the Coyote’s always tricks people out of their positions if you don’t pay close attention. So we honor his craftiness as being wise. And at the same time for the children, this story tells them to stay as close to the fire as they can, and stay far away from the Coyote as if the Coyote will be a danger to them if he is hungry.
The fire is dying down, and just the hot glow of the embers light the dark night. I roll over on my back, and see more stars than I ever believed there could ever be. Then a star shoots across, and then another and still yet another star falls in the darkness of the night. I fall asleep in the warmth of the night as the others also gather into their own land of dreams.
Folks, I hope that you where able to enjoy this. My next one will be a story that happens to my Grandfather that he shared with us, and I won’t have to set the stage, but give you more about the man I grew to know through my childhood.
So, today you got a story, Apache words, some historical back ground, a bit about me as I grew up. You now know I wrote a book that was never published.
This is just a start, but it turned out to be a three page short story. I hope you liked it and I am open for any comments you have. For every negative one you give, you’ve got to produce two positive ones. It started in the 1940’s and is in the 1950’s, and though this one wasn’t Western-ish, I promise you, it will get there. The next one is during that time period. So, any constructive criticism is much appreciative. But be kind!