Reminiscing with Pá-Pa (Grandmother) About Ka-tse-Ma1


Manuel Pino

"Try to remember, pá-pa2, as I will also try to remember, when the old ones of Acomatra (people of Acoma) were very well off spiritually and in harmony with everything around them." Pá-pa reminds me of the peaceful times when Acomatra lived on Ka-tse-Ma.

"The mountains around Acó3 were also in harmony with all that was around them -- the four-leggeds, the trees and the rocks. Our fields were plentiful with crops.

"Our people were strong at this peaceful time." Pá-pa reminds me of the time before our people had ever seen Ma-tash-cana.4 I give Pá-pa my undivided attention, amazed at the seriousness in her beautiful squinting little black eyes. "If your Na-Na (Grandfather) were alive, he would have told you this story, for it teaches many things.

"It is good to know the story of the old ones. They have taught us to try and correct our mistakes at times when we are most fortunate. Greed is one thing the old ones told us to be careful of. We, as Acomatra, should never have that greed enter our lives.

"There was a most sorrowful incident that happened at this time when our people were most happy. It has been said greed made us lose two generations of our loved ones on Ka-tse-Ma.

"At this time it was decided that the Pá-pas would stay on Ka-tse-Ma with the babies while the healthy ones were working in the fields on the valley floor. You see, as I am getting old in my years, I am unable to do the work in the fields as I used to when I was young. The Pá-pas were like me, unable to work in the fields. The babies were too young.

"The young healthy ones who were busily working in the fields below Ka-tse-Ma overworked the land. The rains had been good that spring and had provided good moisture for a good growing season. The old ones said we had enough crops to feed everyone on Ka-tse-Ma for the coming winter. However, our people continued to overwork Mother Earth.

"One day, while our young ones worked in the fields, a rainstorm approached Acoma Valley. But the young ones ignored the approaching storm and continued working. Soon rain was pouring from the sky like Acomatra had never seen before. The fields began to erode. As our people ran back to the stairway which went to the top of Ka-tse-Ma, they found it was washed out by the tremendous rain. Thunder roared in the sky. Jagged formations of lightning lit up the sky.

"The concern turned to the old ones and young ones on top of Ka-tse-Ma. Everyone panicked and began to weep, and as the people wept, the storm became worse, destroying our crops, and the stairway was completely washing out. The rain continued for many days, causing great sorrow among our people. Some became very sick and died.

"You see, pá-pa, our people felt the sorrow after it was too late. the greed shown by our people in overworking Mother Earth caused a separating of our people. By making the judgment that some of us were too weak to help out is something Great Spirit had to teach us out of that experience.

"We lost two generations and it caused great sorrow, but Great Spirit had a reason for this. Without our old ones, we are weak, just like the young ones who were left with the old ones. And without our young, we lost strength in a generation we had already created to carry on the teachings the old ones would have handed down to them.

"This is why we tell you today to respect your elders, respect the unborn, respect the young, respect Mother Earth and all that is around her. At that time when our bellies were full, we wanted still more. So you see, grandson, Great Spirit watches over us, but when we abuse Mother Earth by overworking her, it is wrong.

"The old ones learned many ways of respect after this sorrowful time of our people. This is why I tell you this today. The hardest part of our people to overcome was to hear our ancestors crying on top of Ka-tse-Ma. There was nothing they could do but cry too and ask Great Spirit to help us overcome our ignorance.

"This is why we listened very intently to one of the four birds of wisdom who told us to move to Acó -- where we now sit -- and we should give our thanksgiving every day to great Spirit for allowing us to become a strong people after this sorrowful incident. We also give thanks to the ones who were left on Ka-tse-Ma so that we could correct our mistakes of greed.

"If you listen sometines, pá-pa, you will hear these old ones on Ka-tse-Ma calling us and advising us. Listen to them pá-pa, for you will learn from them. Their advice is said to always be good for they were the last of our people to live on our most beloved Ka-tse-Ma.

"You will be a man soon, pá-pa, remember all these things. They are for your own good. In your lifetime you will encounter these situations. I always look back at this story of the great suffering of our people. I am old, but this story makes me grateful for my lifetime. I hope it will make you grateful for yours. And always remember to respect all that is around you, for this is the greatest lesson Acomatra were taught by Great Spirit. Remember our lost generations."

1 Ka-tse-Ma is the ancient home of the Acoma people. the Spanish called it Enchanted Mesa when they first saw it.
2 pá-pa, though pronounced the same as Pá-pa (Grandmother), is grandson. Many Keres words look and sound the same but have different meanings.
3 Acó is Acoma Pueblo, oldest inhabited village in the U.S.
4Ma-tash-cana is the name first given to non-Indians.
From The Remembered Earth edited by Geary Hobson © 1979 Red Earth Press, all rights transferred to the University of New Mexico Press 1981.
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