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UCB DECAL Fall '11

Project Pueblo UCB Spring Break 11...from the eyes of Robyn Comfort PDF Print E-mail
The 14 hour car ride was totally worth it.  Pushing myself out of the looming 'Berkeley Bubble,' I was excited to sign up for a trip that would be a glimpse into peoples' lives that I've only read about in books; their experiences the subjects of numerous 'Environment and Society' lectures.  I wanted to see with my own eyes and meet the people behind these texts and sermons, and Project Pueblo gave me the opportunity to do just that.  I see this first visit as really only experiencing the tip of the iceberg; it was a surreal six days of  talking with people and attempting to grasp the livlihood of a community trying to function and rebuild after four plus decades of careless, discriminating  policy by the US government concerning Native lands and Native people.  We stayed with an incredibly hospitable Navjo woman on the Navajo Reservation in Tuba City; she opened her home to us after just recently being able to extend her living room and fulfilling the small dream of having a dining room in her one bedroom home.  Project Pueblo works closely with the non-profit organization Forgotten People which is a forceful, active voice for the Navajo people when their own Navajo government rarely speaks out for their own community's needs and rights as human beings.

Forgotten People and the people of the Navajo community shared their stories and opened their lives to us students who were only passing through their lives to try to make a difference. We were split into project groups, and I was a part of the team who visited a housing site to help a woman who had recently lost her Veteran husband; the US Veterans Association had dumped materials at her doorstep for her to build a home, without providing the proper skill or workers to help actually construct the building. That's where we came in as unskilled students working under the skilled site supervisors- the woman's brother and cousin who had stepped in with construction experience to assist with the project.  Unskilled workers yet undoubtedly enthusiastic, our site leaders shared their knowledge and we were able to assist with construction projects while at the house site, making visible progress so that the materians wouldn't be recalled by the government.

A night of food and talks about Navajo culture and history was a highlight, with a number of speakers who tapped into their personal histories to spread the livelihood of the Navajo people with us.  We even attempted to make clay figurines with clay from the land, instructed by a sweet, smiling elder in the community, assisted by our other hosts as she is most comfortable conversing in the Navajo language, such exchanges common in Navajo between adults of the community, the language a cultural asset, yet a modern, often marginal concern for younger generations.

The land is a central aspect to understanding the lives of the Navajo people, and because of racism stemming from the US Government, the relationship and control over their own native lands was compromised for decades; as a student interested in people's experiences and their connections with the political and natural world within which they live, it was important for me to be exposed to the reservation before I drown in a more narrow view of the world characterized by my Northern California experiences.  This trip was step one of learning about the diversity of life in the world, and it was essential to see that I did not even have to leave my home country in order to meet people who would teach me about a life's experience immeasurably different and equally honorable and worthy as that of mine and my Berkeley neighbors.

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