Re: Native American (understanding)
golden cliff (c60clg1@CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Wed, 31 Jan 1996 18:51:11 -0600
WARNING. WARNING. THIS IS A LONG POST. OK, you've been warned.
Ted Burton told a great story in his post on Native American Regalia. I
also have a story concerning understanding. This is a true story.
My troop was backpacking in Mexico. We were in one of the most remote
areas of Mexico, the Copper Canyon region. Specifically, we were
backpacking the Batopilas canyon, which is 1,000 feet deeper than the
Grand Canyon of Arizona.
It was the night before Easter 1988. We were in the village of Batopilas,
Mexico enjoying their great fiesta. As we returned to our campsite
downriver from the village, we saw the flickering light of fire. We ran
to our campsite to see what was wrong. What we found was a Tarahumara
indian sitting in the center of our campsite tending to a small fire he'd
In the firelight we saw the young man; with black hair, dark eyes, red
blouse, white loin cloth, dark brown skin, muscular legs, and sandals. He
held a large machete that was driven into the sand. He looked up at us
with eyes filled with caution and suspicion. We looked at him with
similar eyes. We tried to communicate to him in english and spanish. He
did not respond. A discussion arose among our group concerning our
mysterious stranger. Why was he here and all alone? Was he a renegade?,
...driven out by his tribe?, ...a fugitive? ...criminal? What did he
want? Why does he hold a weapon? All types of sinister reasons for his
presence were discussed. I finally sent part of our group to the village to
bring back the sheriff, someone to take this dangerous intruder away.
After a time they returned to our campsite. They hadn't found a sheriff,
but found a missionary instead. He was accompanied by an englishman whom
we had met earlier in Batopilas. The missionary sat down next to the
indian and in a quiet patient voice spoke in an exotic language I had
never before heard, the language of the Tarahumara.
After awhile the indian let go of his machete and started to laugh. The
missionary had told him all of our suspicions. The missionary then told
us that it was the custom of the Tarahumara to recieve hospitality at the
camps of others as they journeyed on a religious pilgrimage. The indian's
name was Meteu. Yes, it was Meteu. Meteu was on such a journey.
We suddenly felt very ashamed. We offered Meteu food, drink, and
welcome. With the missionary as our interpreter, we introduced ourselves
and exchanged a pleasant conversation. Meteu spoke in a soft voice and
seemed very kind and gentle in manner. He was 19 years old and was
journeying to a place where he could speak directly into the ear of God.
After the missionary and englishman left, some of my boys went to bed, a
few of us stayed at the campfire with our new friend Meteu. I drew
cartoons of animals in my notebook and spoke their names. Meteu
responded by saying the animal's name in Tarahumara. He was amused by
this game. Much of the night we played this game or just sat quietly
staring into the fire and listening to the sounds of the canyon.
We offered Meteu a place to lay in our tent, but he declined. We retired
to the tent with the door open toward the fire and Meteu. In the
early hours of the morning, still in blackness, Meteu kicked out the fire
and walked to our tent. He said something in Tarahumara and extended his
hand to each of us, then walked off into the darkness.
The next day was Easter. We hiked down the canyon to a village called
Satevo. Located there is the "Lost Mission of Satevo", a large beautiful
baroque church presumably built by the Spaniards in the 1750's. It was
unknown to the outside world until a backpacker/explorer named Richard D.
Fisher of Tucson, Arizona photographed it in 1984.
There is a legend of the Tarahumara indians of northwest Mexico that deep
within a remote canyon, a piece of heaven was placed on earth so that the
Tarahumara people could speak directly into the ear of God. It is
believed the source of that legend is the place known today as the "Lost
Mission of Satevo". Hiking to that ancient church was the greatest Easter
experience I have ever known, an experience that I believe was shared
ealier that same day by Meteu. He would have arrived as the first rays of
morning light struck the great dome and bell tower.
When we first met Meteu the previous night, our meeting had been
filled with fear and suspicion. After the missionary gave us the gift of
understanding, those negative feelings were replaced with newfound
friendship. After the missionary left, friendship and goodwill became the
basis of our understanding. Putting away your fear and extending your
hand in friendship is always the key to understanding others. That was the
lesson we all learned that night.
The "Lost Mission of Satevo" has stood for centuries as a symbol of the
faith of those that built it, and those that continue to seek it. We
shared a similar journey with Meteu through our experience that Easter.
Even though we spoke different languages, held different beliefs, and were
members of different cultures, we found much in common through our brief
friendship. Those commonalities transcended culture, language, and beliefs;
they resided in our common humanity.
Our boys learned a very valuable lesson about understanding others on that
night in April 1988, the night we met a young man named Meteu.
YIS, Cliff Golden firstname.lastname@example.org First Lutheran Church; DeKalb, IL
Scoutmaster Troop 33 Three Fires Council, Illinois
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City