Chapter 5

I learned more about David Tejanna on my next trip to Yuma. We met again at The Crossing. David brought his wife, Sharon, and their three children who were 8, 10, and 14. I learned that David worked a 14-hour day as one of three social workers, and I observed some friction between David and his wife in their exchanges about his busy life. Sharon explained that David was a spiritual leader as well, a Bird Singer, and he participated on several committees.

The kids were quiet but lively. I explained to Sharon about my job at the university as an environmental educator, and how I hoped that we could organize an interesting project for youth. The older boys made suggestions, mostly about sports, and the youngest, a girl, wanted to do an art project. I was glad to see that at least children thought it was a good idea.

We ordered. David went for the fried foods again for which Sharon admonished him and patted his round stomach. Later he slathered butter on his corn tortillas as Sharon looked on and he laughed. Ah, married life. I was divorced and at that moment rather
glad of it. My children were grown and living in other places. To be truthful, I was a lonely person. Tonight’s dinner was welcome all together.

“So, I managed to get a small grant for whatever project the People may wish to do,” I said. “$5,000.”

David nodded approval and said that would be good for the meeting with the elders, to show we had some skin in the game. I marveled at his use of language and how he seamlessly managed the two worlds he navigated with apparent ease.

“Do you know what the elders have in mind?” I asked.

“Not a clue. They don’t share much with me either.”

I laughed. “That makes me feel better.” Sharon smiled in recognition of my position. David had filled her in on the Tribal Chairperson’s welcome.

“I heard that you told him you did not trust him either. That was brave.” She was smiling.

“More self-defense, I believe!” I said.

“You were honest. That goes a long way among our people.” Her voice trailed away.

David filled me in on where to meet him as we parted ways.

I took a carton of flan back to the hotel, a caramel custard to rival my mother’s egg custard. I was feeling more comfortable in Yuma, and with the idea that I might be able to establish a lasting relationship with the nation, I was feeling more confident in  a project with the people. They were still present and they were reviving their cultural traditions. I admired their resilience even as I recognized the violence that had caused its rising. How could the United States achieve recompense, if perchance it was willing?