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Chaco Canyon and the Cellicion Zuni Dancers

Riding into Chaco Canyon is like a journey into the past, traveling along the dusty unimproved roads that lead to Chaco Culture National Historic Park. In the distance, Fajada Butte towers over the surrounding landscape, appearing and disappearing around the many twists and turns of the dirt road as you draw ever closer to this ancient marker of the Sunís Solstice.

Chaco Canyon was inhabited some 800 years ago, and contains a variety of Pueblo ruins, scattered throughout the surrounding countryside. Pueblo Bonito is the largest great house in this area, and contained more than 600 rooms. In its heyday, it was the center of the Chacoan world, a location frequented by travelers, home of a thriving culture, and a spiritual site, containing over 40 Kivas, or Ceremonial Chambers. It is a site sacred to many of the neighboring tribes and pueblos, including the Hopi, Navajo, and the Zuni, and a site where their Ancestors are honored, and has been for many centuries.

Native Americans have been celebrating Summer Solstice at Chaco Canyon for thousands of years. This year, as they have since 2001, the Cellicion Zuni Dancers performed several dances on the Plaza at Pueblo Bonito. In addition, Fernando Cellicion enchanted us with his flute music, his mystical notes echoing through the ruins, and he told of the history of the dances performed, and of the importance of continuing these ceremonies at Chaco Culture, for all to experience, and for the prayers to continue for us all.

To dance is to pray, and the White Buffalo Dance, performed beautifully on this day, is a prayer for the animals, to thank them for their sacrifices on our behalf, and to pray for their prosperity. This ties into the legend of the White Buffalo, an omen in our time, that portends the coming together of all the races, therefore, we pray for peace and for unity for us all on this day.

Another exceptional dance performed for the Solstice, was the Pottery Dance. This is a womenís dance, and is a dying tradition, with less than 15 women now performing it. This dance tells the story of the women going to the river for water, carrying their water jars on their heads, and singing and dancing along the way to give thanks to the Creator for the water. The women of the Cellicion Dancers poignantly performed this Pottery Dance, making it a true work of art.

The Cellicion Zuni Dancers have been performing all over the world since 1983, and have danced in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and were the first Native American dancers to perform in Mongolia.

Their traditional costumes brightened up the Plaza at Pueblo Bonito, while their dancing brightened our hearts; the words awakened our minds to the importance of the Solstice, and the flute music brought the Ancestors who lived in these great pueblos to life.

To dance on the Solstice is to honor the Ancestors, and to give thanks. The resonating notes of the drum are punctuated by the dancers footsteps, reminding us of the heartbeat of the Mother, that which connects and sustains us all. For this, we give thanks.

Chaco Culture National Historic Park

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