Three years ago today, I was enjoying one of the perks of being a high school teacher: spring break. I was in the Phoenix area to watch spring training baseball, and I went for a morning run in the Arizona desert. I was lucky enough to make a new friend and learn a really cool story.
The day before, I had came across a beautiful cemetery on the Ak-Chin reservation. I had questions. I wanted to find someone to talk to.
The next morning I went for a run by the cemetery again. I found a Native American man in a wheel chair in his front yard. I introduced myself and asked if we could talk.
His name is Joseph Smith. He was 67 years old. He grew up in a mud shack with no water or electricity. He used to hunt rabbits with a sling shot to eat. He said, “we had to live off the desert.”
He talked to me about the cemetery. I asked if it was all native Americans in there. He said,”no, There are some black and white people in there. They didn’t have any friends or family around, so we took them in.”
He invited me in his home.
He is an artist. He showed me some of his paintings. They were beautiful. He told me that no one has any respect for the old culture, and he is trying to preserve it. He gave me a magazine with an article about him to show my students.
He flies an American flag in his front yard. I asked him about it, and if he had any anger about the past treatment of his people. He said: “No, it does no good. We have to move on.”
There are a lot of great stories out there for those who seek to find them.