Forrest newtonphoenix at mindspring.com
Sun Feb 3 02:54:45 EST 2013

On Feb 2, 2013, at 6:03 PM, Lord Groundhog <lordgroundhog at gmail.com> wrote:

> (A
> bit like Native Americans who amuse themselves by selling made-up "authentic
> ancient traditions" to the gullible "new age" hobbyists and tourists that
> come to pillage their cultures.) 

On that note, I have to tell you a story.

Monument Valley is one of the most well-known (certainly, one of the most photographed) places in the US. The strange terrain has been seen in many films, for example "Back to the Future Part III," "Forrest Gump," etc.

It is probably my favorite place on Earth. I've only been there several times, but that's mostly because it's a mostly-lonely 4 hour drive on mostly two-lane roads from where I live in Phoenix. Such a drive practically demands an overnight stay somewhere along the journey.

Alongside the highway on the road there are several crude roadside stands, little more than a table with a roof over it. The Navajo people often display their handmade jewelry in this way. During my very first trip there 20 years ago I stopped at one. There was a a little old woman sitting behind the table, and as I was at that time unfamiliar with the Navajo culture I asked her a few questions. One of the first was, "Is this authentic handmade Navajo jewelry?" She responded that indeed it was...which looking back was a stupid question, as if she was going to tell me it was all fake.

I picked up a pair of pretty dangly-style earrings to give to a then-girlfriend, and I saw stamped on them--I swear I am not making this up--"Made in Vietnam." Still holding them, I asked the old woman, "Just how many Navajo live in Vietnam, and isn't it expensive to have their crafts shipped here?"

I showed her the stamping, and she quickly directed my attention to some "quality" jewelry at the end of the table. After a few moments when I returned to the woman, all the earrings in the display case similar to the ones I had seen were gone, replaced by something else. The pair that I had been looking at were also nowhere to be found.

I have purchased a lot of Navajo crafts since then, and none of the quality has ever been in question. But I'll never forget that day.


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