It’s been a couple of weeks now since I returned home to Colorado from a trip South to Albuquerque New Mexico with Dene elder Caroline Bjorklund from Churchill, MB. The trip was inspiring to me and a lifelong dream fulfilled for Caroline.

Native dancer at the Gathering of Nations. Steve Selden photo.


Gathering of Nations pow wow. Steve Selden photo.

The highlight and focal point of the journey was the Gathering of Nations powwow held at the Pit on the University of New Mexico campus. The largest first nations gathering in the world featured an incredible mixture of native dancers, drummers and singers occupying the floor for two full days of magical transcendence. Even the wry humor of the master of ceremonies added to the unique event…heyyy.

Another amazing moment of the trip for both Caroline and myself was meeting three of the original Navajo Code- Talkers. These men recruited during WWII to provide secret dialogue disguised by intermixed Navajo words to confuse the enemy-mainly the Japanese in the Pacific theater-are heroes that in essence saved the United States from defeat. They are held in total high esteem..although very few people know much about them. The movie, “Wind Talkers”, was maid to portray their effort but fell short of the real story.

Caroline and the code – talkers. Steve Selden photo.

Caroline was amazed to find that many of the Navajo words were quite similar to her native Dene language. I guess “amazed” should better be described as relieved as she has always believed that a link between the two separate tribes has existed. This was the first indication that the theory could be quite true. And to discover this from men whose job and mission stemmed from the use of those and other actual Navajo words was pretty thought-provoking.

Navajo code-talkers. Steve Selden photo.


Native dancer looking on.

Young native dancer looking on. Steve Selden photo.

So, from the dancers, drummers and singers to the Navajo code -talkers then on to the native historical museums and Navajo reservation out West at Window Rock, Caroline sewed together some semblance of fabric encompassing some long “uprooted” roots. People she and I spoke with seemed vague in their thoughts regarding a link between the two native groups though a constant feeling of one nation prevailed. The most poignant statement or concept on the whole thing came from one of the curator’s at the Navajo native museum out near Window Rock when he told Caroline that his people “came from Mother Earth”. In that sense the truth is we are all related.

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