Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Big Dance in Ku:pk

For those of you who know my church going habits, you're probably wondering why I'm making such a big deal about this year's Ge'e Piast.  I've written about my beliefs before, you can read about it here: Carrying Traditions With a Smile On Your Face.

The road to Ku:pk
My uncle, Lu:ga spent his time straightening this road to perfection especially for Ge'e Piast.
(And yes, I fully stopped my car to get this photo) 

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ge'e Piast, it literally translates to "The Big Dance."   

This is an event which has blended O'odham Culture and Catholicism together into one giant event. 

The Agenda, should you decide to join us. 
10:00 Mass with Father Alfonso Ponchi Vasquez OFM
11:00 Welcome Pisinemo District Chairman, Stanley Cruz
St. Francis Committee Chair, Margie Lopez
11:30-12:30 Bayou Ceco Fiddler Band
1:00-1:30 Singer, Shania Manual
1:30-3:00 Waila Band Big John
3:00-4:00 Hunter Family Hopi Dance Group
4:00-6:00 Waila Band Cruz Band
6:00 Procession followed by Exchanging of Ribbons
8:00pm-6:00am- Dance
Music by Native Creed and Native Thunder

Feeding begins after Mass until food runs out

Pascolas, Deer Dancers, Mathchina Group and Rosary Groups @ the St. Francis Food Booths, Arts and Crafts and Bingo

Drug and Alcohol Free Event!!

Each year on October 4th, there is a big feast for St. Francis Day on the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Each year, a different community is chosen to host the dance.  There is a St. Francis Committee, who organizes the events, and the host community simply provides the space. 

For years and years and years, my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat (My late, great-uncle) was a part of the St. Francis Committee.  He was a very active member and he submitted a request for Ge'e Piast to be held in Ku:pk, the community where our family is from, probably before I was even born.  I remember he and my Hu'uli-bat (my late grandmother) talking about it when I was a little girl of maybe only 5 or 6 years old. 

It's been many years now since my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat made his journey to the Spirit World, but this year, the St. Francis Committee is honoring him by hosting Ge'e Piast in our community!

Left: The Seal of the Pisin' Mo'o (Pisinemo) District
Center: The Church in Ku:pk
Right: A statue of St. Francis

Vincent JoseMaria -My Hu'ul Ke:li
The nickname literally translates to "Grandma Man"
He was the younger brother of my maternal grandmother, which, in mainstream culture would make him a "Great Uncle." But I don't like referring him as that, because it makes him seem less important in my family, when in fact, he was simply our grandpa.  I didn't realize there was a specific definition to "grandpa" until I was an adult. 
Ku:pk is very tiny village of maybe 5 or 6 houses, a church, feast house, dance floor and a cemetery.  It's one of my favorite places in the world.  My grandparents and my late brother, Adrian are buried there, and the one thing that brings me a sliver of comfort is that it is a beautiful place.

The church in Ku:pk
Inside the church in Ku:pk
This is what it looks like all the time. (Not for special occasions)
It's a little on the dirty side, because of the preparations going on.
When I was a kid, my Hu'uli-bat and Hu'ul Ke:li-bat had a mud house there.  We used to stay there in the summers.  My Hu'ul Ke:li-bat had a garden that I wasn't careful enough to be in.  My Hu'uli-bat constantly had a fire (or just coals) going outside so she could cook our meals.  Sometimes I helped. 
My Niece, Hu'ul Ke:li-bat and Hu'uli-bat in Hu'ul Ke:li's house. 

We had metal frame cots that we used both indoor and outdoors.  We'd sleep on blankets and large pieces of canvas.  Hu'uli had us roll them up during the day to keep them clean.  We didn't have electricity, but we did have running water (due to a generator).  We were still careful with how much water we used.  We used to have a basin and pitcher to wash up in.  The dirty water was splashed on the dirt wherever it was needed, to help pack the earth down. 

There was always plenty to do each day.  We'd walk to the wo'o, look for usap, walk along the trails that the cows made, help Hu'uli grind corn, sweep the dirt floor, refill the kerosene lamps with oil, watch Hu'ul Ke:li skin rabbits, help Hu'uli cook, sit under the mesquite trees and listen to the wind, watch the stars come out.  My favorite thing to do was to shower outside, though we didn't do it everyday, and Hu'uli didn't let us waste water. 
Hu'uli's mud house is gone now.  One year, the monsoon winds and rains blew off the tin roof.  The rain washed away the mud.  Each year, the storms and the winds took more and more of the house away.  There was nothing left but a heap of dirt and a few forgotten items. 

The last of the house was cleared out in preparation of Ge'e Piast. 

We expect to have people walk to Ku:pk from wherever they're from on the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Not everyone does this, usually people who are asking for special prayers, or giving special thanks for a granted blessing.  A lot more people will drive.  The dance will go on into the morning.   

On October 4th, there will be mass and food will be served.  There will be entertainment and lots and lots of music.  

My cousins have been working on this event for over 2 years.  They did fundraising.  They had a dance floor installed.  They brought in electricity and so many other things, that it's really incredible.  

I can't wait to be there and see everything and visit and laugh with my family.  I can't wait for the delicious things to eat and the music that will go until the sun comes up the next day.

If you find yourself there, think of my Hu'ul Ke:li, say a prayer for him and most definitely, dance a cumbia in his honor.  :)

I thought this map of Arizona, with Ku:pk highlighted was interesting.  Please note that my iPhone doesn't outline the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Dammit, Apple!

Ku:pk is LITERALLY on the map!!!
(Just spell it without the colon)

According to my iPhone, you should go "the back way" if you're coming from Tucson.
I'm assuming the road is clear that way by now, BUT, historically, it's been a rougher road, and especially after the rains, you should plan to drive through Pisin' Mo'o (You can put "Pisinimo" in the map app and it'll pop up.)

For very specific directions which include going through Pisin' Mo'o, click here: Rez Directions (Ku:pk)

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