31 July 2012


Dá'ák'eh: the whole family goes out and works the fields

Every one plays a part in the preparation of the fields. The youngest members are given seeds. "They represent life, innocence and purity." They represent the seeds themselves. They place the seeds into the broken earth—with their own hands. We rely on them. This becomes a part of who they are, these young people working the field with their elders.

As they grow they experience the process and take the prayers inside their mind and soul. They see their family, from toddlers to elders, out upon the earth taking care of it. She takes care of them in return. This a relationship. They have been a part of this themselves, growing alongside the crops, over the years, some years better than others, but always the process of going out and working the field together.

A lot of people say dá'ák'eh means cornfield. One person is responsible for that field. The person with the tractor. They sit on the seat and start the engine. The engine muffles the prayers of the planter. "The tractor prevents families from passing on tradition and precludes family unity." Ha'ní. They say.

When you understand the word in the context of the life it creates you understand that the whole family goes out and works the field speaks to a unique process of cultivation and a particular experience of time and place. The whole family goes out and works the field requires seasons to accomplish. Winter: tools are prepared, seeds are sorted and stored. Spring: we wait for thunder. Prayers are made. People take their feet out on the earth and bring them together. There is a language between the soles of one and the surface of the other. It is spoken at these moments. Summer: everyone is involved, the plant people (weeds and seedlings), the birds and animals who desire food of their own, and the corn tassels that begin to spill from the husks. Prayers for rain abound. Water is life giving the stalks their reach. Fall: within it there is a harvest, a thin one and a big one.

Late in the season everyone is tired. The earth is weary and she needs rest. The tools need rest too. After every empty stalk has been cleared everyone is given leisure. This time we share to relax and relieve ourselves from fatigue. We lie down. We recline. We stretch ourselves into the shape of sleep beneath cloaks of night and snowfall.

All quotes are from Diné Bizaad: Bínáhoo'aah: Rediscovering the Navajo Language by Evangline Parsons Yazzi, Ed.D. and Margaret Speas, Ph.D.

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