Doctor, Doctor

April 30 , 2007

The way it works, especially in the first year of Law school is that where you sit, is, for the rest of the semester, where you sit.

I prefer the back row and for me, the empty spot was just another empty spot. Granted, it was right in the middle of the five person row but it didn't seem conspicuous at the time.

Robert, immediately to my right welcomed me with a "Hey Doctor."

"Doctor" Why in the hell would you call me Doctor?"

Robert looked to his right, and then to his left. Well he said, "The only white man who ever comes onto the reservation is a Doctor. Welcome to the res!"

Then I noticed that yes indeed, I had plunked my self down right smack in the middle of the "tribe."

"Oh well. Can I stay?"

"Sure, Doctor."

Since that time I've driven through lots of reservations here in New Mexico and have spent a couple of "feast days" at two of them.

The first one I attended was in November of 05, and I wanted to write about it, but I guess I just got too lazy. Besides, I didn't take notes and photography on the reservation is strictly forbidden. "No cameras, sketching or recording is allowed."

I watched a girl's cell phone get taken away by the elders at the first feast dance that I attended.

The second one was on August the 15th of last year when two of the kids and I attended the Zia Pueblo festival and watched, among lots of others, Robert dance.

It's bad enough that I can't draw, but what I should have done was sit down immediately afterwards and try to recall all that I saw, but I did not.

Some of you are better artisans with words than I, and quite frankly, for what you will see, words just don't it justice.

Maybe next time I'll try my hand with the pen.

Anyway, 23 years ago someone decided to host an "event" at the University of New Mexico. They called it a Pow-Wow and offered prize money for contestants who danced or sang or played the drums. Four thousand Five Hundred dollars was up for grabs back then.

In Indian culture, such a "gathering" is called a pow-wow.

The event has grown to the point where today it is known as the "Gathering of the Nations" and occurs in the "pit" (basketball arena) at the University of New Mexico the last weekend in April.

The official web site says that over 3,000 indigenous Native American Indian dancers and singers representing more than 500 tribes from Canada and the United States come to Albuquerque annually to participate socially and competitively.

By this year the purse has grown to over $150,000 in cash and prizes.

They allow cameras.

And yes, I do have a really good telephoto lens, not as good as some who shoot here, but good enough, especially when you an get up close and personal with the eagles.

Besides that, when you hang a camera or two around you neck, especially one with a great big lens and maybe even mount it on a monopod, people think you must belong to some news thing or another, and generally don't challenge you when you move around and take lots of photos.
I think I mentioned that I ran out of digital storage.

The group here on the floor was, I am pretty sure, representatives of all of the Cherokee Nation that had come to attend and compete.

If they were on the floor, I didn't ask, but if someone was in the stands, I asked if it was ok to shoot. Only once was I turned down.

Those caught with eagle feathers for religious use without permits can be arrested and face fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment.

This is part of the costume of the man with the red paint.

Wife of the one in the very first part of this series, she is braiding the hair of another participant.

Just outside the arena was an exhibition tent, and in the tent was as some of you suspected, a raptor rescue group from Colorado that had a big display.

The birds are real and as a fund raiser, they were taking photos of people in front of a mountain scene - complete with the bald eagle, or the golden eagle, whichever was your preference.

I paid the ten bucks as a donation and they told me to shoot away. I wanted photos of the eagles, I know what I look like, and besides the two of us are generally not suited for a staged combo photo.

The tough part was to shooting without a flash and trying to get the image I wanted in the 30 seconds or so that I could see the bird's head before they put a hood over it to keep it calm.

I was there 45 minutes and took over 50 shots to get the three I really like.

Next, after my tuesday exam at the earliest, will be the dancers.

And Robert?

He still calls me Doctor.

(In case you missed it, the eagles are <------ that away one entry)