Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Monday, January 17, 2011

Star parties at Crownpoint, NM

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An astronomer asked me how to start star parties there, after I suggested it in a comment to a YouTube video that complains of Crownpoint's light polution in Chaco Canyon.

my reply
 Navajo Technical College has a NASA funded alternative energy program. They also have an IT department. I can't get college email to work, so you may have to telephone initially, at least to get active email addresses.

Before you contact them (as they are outsiders, not locals), you may want to grant local government the courtesy of contact. The Crownpoint Chapter has not replied to an email I sent a week ago, so a phone call there might be an idea, too. I don't know if they have formal hours.

Here's the URL for Crownpoint High School. I'll bet email there will be an issue, too.

Google mapping of the area is woefully inaccurate. I'm debating moving to an old ranch in the area. The address for the nearby grocery lead me to an empty highway, miles from the actual address. Know this is an issue when locating addresses in Crownpoint.

So, don't be surprised that the New Mexico State Library, with an address in Crownpoint, shoes a street view of a field with a cow, or something, in it.

I am non-Navajo and am NO EXPERT on any of this. I will tell you this is a DEEPLY impoverished area, a high percentage of whom are over 50, poorly educated and infested with missionary evangelism.

I suggest you walk humbly among them. For most, their only exposure to non-Navajos has been painful, abusive, disrespectful, frightening, deadly, threatening. I suggest you listen to advice, not charge in there telling them what you'll do for them, but asking them, with every idea you present, for their patience and understanding. Be very friendly and cheerful; they can relate to silly jokes and big smiles.

I also suggest you get together with some affluent friends and investigate a grant or donation of light blockers for Crownpoint, once you've GENTLY let the people know what the challenge is to THEIR heritage of studying the sacred sky, if light makes your telescopes blind. I suggest you gently REQUEST to get together a SMALL group of your friends who have driven through town, seen the brightest lights and know how to fix the challenge and ask if you may have permission to install the blockers at various locations.

But I would definitely start with star parties. And I mean PARTIES! Bring food & drink, have activities for kids, play music (Native popular music is a good idea, but not necessary. You can make a "mix tape" by recording a 4-hour broadcast of "Singing Wire" on Sundays, noon to 4 pm on KUNMfm http://kunm.org ). Show how to use red filters, how to shield camp fires, etc. Bring your digital telescopes as well as your lens scopes. If you can get that tall, white ranger with the white beard up at Chaco who lectures on archeoastronomy to come down, that'd be fun. If you can get NAVAJO who work at one of the canyons to come down, THAT would be AWESOME! You will want a translator.

I may be moving up there in a month or so. I am VERY low income and it is VERY high elevation, so I am waiting for warmer weather and possible alternatives to being so remote, without a car, in such poverty. Anyway, keep in touch with me. If you decide to have some parties in later spring and summer, I may have a HUGE ranch, with a good road and NO neighbors, only 3 miles out of town, where you could set up a nice camp. I'll have utilities & water there, if I move there.

Remember: white people brought Kit Carson, coal & uranium mining, poverty, disease, starvation, abuse, theft of land . . . Now you're coming to them, wanting something from them, but you don't even know them or they you. Why should they trust you or believe anything you say? To you, they're just a gas station on the way to your tourist location. Thanks for the money, now please leave.

Crownpoint doesn't even qualify as a village or a town. It's a Navajo Chapter. By white standards, it's a little settlement with no formal self-government besides a few people who keep things patched together as best they can with nothing and no help.

Be gentle. They are.

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