“All lives, all dances and all is loud.” — a song of the Gabon Pygmy tribe in Africa.
It is held in the middle of summer, the middle of July. The temperatures are hot and feel hotter with the humidity rising from the monsoons.
People drive through the front gate and park on the side of the road winding up Chimney Rock. The walk, depending on the visitor’s acclimation to the elevation and climate, can seem long. Arriving early, it’s true, will shorten the uphill walk.
“I used to have dreams about being in Chimney Rock,” Terry Sloan remembers. Sloan was not involved with Chimney Rock Archeological Area when the dreams began. Now he is director of Southwest Native Cultures and director of the cultural gathering at Chimney Rock.
Sloan continues, “It was a dream of being in school. I was sitting at the large plaza down below Chimney waiting for class to start with my friend, who was actually my girl in real life, and then the Shaman came out and all the students silenced. We were told our assignments to individual groups of two, and what we had to do was act out the assignment like charades, and interestingly enough my friend and I got ours right. This continued and occurred a few more times after that. I do believe Chimney Rock is an institution of higher learning.”
Sloan is Navajo and Hopi.
It is not certain whether or not Chimney Rock ever was a school, but the spiritual element reverberates within many people’s beings.
Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Southwest Native Cultures will present the 18th annual Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering, where dances that have been performed for millennia will once again be performed in the Great Kiva.
“The dances expose people to the passion and the spirituality of the event, and the family camaraderie that is created by the dancers and all the groups. We are together there like one big family, and everyone is invited to stay and hang out at the campground,” Sloan says, then adds, “But the greatest part is seeing the dances performed. They are participating and seeing ancient Pueblo dances … It’s a pretty spiritual event.”
Sloan is not a dancer himself. He does not enter the Great Kiva in full traditional clothes carefully made in accordance with the tradition each dance dictates. Nor has Sloan been attending the dances all 18 years.
It started for him when he was at Chaco Canyon during the summer solstice in 2002. It was there that Sloan met Caroline Brown, a woman he said he began talking to because, “she looked official.” It was Brown who began the Chimney Rock dances all those 18 years ago. Though not Native American herself, Brown is very close with the Hopi tribe. Brown invited Sloan to come to the Chimney Rock dances, and, after that, a partnership was formed.
Sloan explained that Brown was the director of the dances for 15 years, then handed the reins over to him.
“She wanted someone to keep it going. Someone with the same spiritual philosophy,” Sloan said. That was him.
Chimney Rock made the news this year for the push to make the archaeological area and sacred site a national monument, whether by congressional vote or by presidential sanction via the Antiquities Act. Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, along with congressman Scott Tipton, all have expressed their support of this measure. Sloan said that all three had been invited to the native dances; as of press time, none had confirmed attendance.
Sloan said that, at the dances, people should not feel self-conscious, regardless of their background.
“Once you come in and are there with us, we are one big family, the human race,” Sloan said.
The Chimney Rock Native American Cultural Gathering will be held the weekend of July 21-22. Each day will have two event times — at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per person. The dancers and singers come from the Pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, Laguna, Hopi, Ohkay Owingeh and Isleta, as well as Aztecan dancers.
For further information, contact Sloan by phone, (505) 301-4122, or e-mail, email@example.com. The event is sponsored by Southwest Native Cultures in cooperation with Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, Inc., and USDA Forest Service, San Juan National Forest, Pagosa Ranger District.
And yes, there will be frybread.