“None of your business,” she said. The short, curly, white hair bounced as she shook her head, but the brown eyes smiled in her beautiful, tanned and weathered face. Half Navajo, Suzie (not her real name) has lived in Rio Grand pueblos in New Mexico all her life. We were sitting in a rambling adobe house near the village where she lives with her husband. Grandchildren and daughters droppied in from time to time as we talked. The smell of cedar wood smoke curled around us, and tin-framed pictures of saints glinted on the walls.
I travel to find new ways of seeing the world. Although all humans deal with some basic questions, various cultures find different answers. How do we show respect to others? Where did we come from? Who created us? How do we ensure good fortune, food, and shelter? What do we need to know? The more the answers differ from our own, the more exotic the culture seems.
The curt reply, “None of your business,” came from Suzie, a lively Pueblo elder who fervently believes in the Catholic religion, but just as devotedly follows ancient ways. People come to her for counsel and healing. Although Suzie inherited an outgoing personality and sense of humor from her Navajo mother, she got her sense of propriety from living in her father's Pueblo culture for all of her 80 years.
I visited Suzie's husband Joe (not his real name) while writing a book about Navajo artist, Quincy Tahoma. Finding this couple turned out to be a grand slam for a biographer. Tahoma, a little older than Joe, had been a mentor to Joe when they both attended Santa Fe Indian School. Joe's father gained fame as one of the first Pueblo painters to sell his work, and, now in his eighties, Joe has returned to painting that he had abandoned after his school days.