Sunday, January 08, 2017

A visit with an Apache Family

This past weekend, we took a 3 1/2 hour drive from Apache Junction to the Fort Apache Reservation in the upper elevations of Arizona. While there, we had a special opportunity to visit an Apache couple. Bonnie is the kindergarten teacher at East Fork Lutheran School. Her husband Francis is an evangelist within the Apache reservation. 
Steps in making a cradeboard
First Bonnie showed us how she makes a cradleboard. The slats are made from the stalk of a yucca plant. For the canopy part, the wooden pieces are bnt through heat; sturdy wire is on the underside. The cradleboard fame is made from local wood and is bent with moisture. She uses foam for padding, but traditionally local fibers were used. 

Cradleboard with Cabbage Patch Baby
The baby was typically secured with two sets of ties; the lower pair could be loosened to change the baby's diaper without much disruption. Bonnie recalled that most infants were quite content within the cradleboard, finding the swaddling nature very comforting. Mothers either strapped the cradleboard over their shoulders or on their foreheads. This baby carrier enabled mothers to continue their chores while maintaining close contact with their infants.
Beaded Bolo Ties with Christian theme
Bonnie then brought out some beaded pieces; some were done by her, while many others were gifts to her and her husband. 
Jesus Wept bolo tie
Bonnie was especially proud of the Christian-themed bolo ties  - a beautiful indication of the Christian faith she and her husband shares. 

Burden Basket with family name

Bonnie also showed us a few other pieces, including a "burden basket" with the family name. Bonnie explained that the metal "tassels" at the ends once served as alarm signals. While the women were gathering berries or other items with the basket, if the metal began clanking excitedly, the men would know the women might be in some sort of danger (i.e. from warring tribes). 

With the football game completed, Francis joined in the conversation, sharing with us his experience coming to faith, as an evangelist to his community, and being a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Both shared some touching personal experiences and their concerns for their Apache brethren. When I later found out that our visit within the home on the reservation was quite unusual, I felt quite honored. Such a personal touch made the experience so much more powerful.

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