It was with uncharacteristic smugness that I read “Snow Job: Ski Resorts Call on Higher Authorities to Save Season…After a Native American Ceremony, Vail Gets Blanketed; ‘Pray to Ullr’.” It wasn’t so much a chest popping moment for myself as it was an “aha” moment for all indigents whose cultures have been trampled by white settlers…here on the mainland…and in Hawaii, my ancestral home and place of birth.
Native American Indians and Hawaiians have regained considerable pride in their ethnicity, owing in part to tourism and government intervention on their behalves. What amazes me is the respect assigned cultural superstitions in modern society.
It’s been a long-standing practice in Hawaii, that a new construction site is blest by a religious minister as well as a representative of native beliefs. The latter is especially required if the land is known to have been a Hawaiian burial site, or a heiau. The tenants of the building would not want to co-habit with island ghosts. Take my word as a native Hawaiian…you wouldn’t want to see one of my ancestors coming at you in the dark. Imagine your worst nightmare…it’d be even more hair-raising than that. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes…and I’m one of their own.
According to the article, written by Ben Cohen, Vail Resorts invited Eddie Box Jr to “perform a snow dance.” A member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe of Colorado, 66-year-old Mr. Box hasn’t skied in 40 years. Since his intervention on January 7, Vail Mountain back bowls have had 25 inches of snow.
As a result of Vail’s success, other resorts followed suit. Park City Mountain Resort in Utah “invited 30 Northern Utes to a plaza near its base for a mountain blessing at high noon. Park City had reached out to them around Christmas. ‘We felt like it was time for Mother Nature to kick in,’ said Park City marketing director Krista Parry, as she watched five inches of snow drop outside her window Wednesday.”
Lake Tahoe skiing areas expect “enough snow to salvage the season’s dismal opening,” after a snow dance was performed by descendants of several Native American tribes at a nearby state park.
So what exactly does a snow dance entail? Read on …
In Colorado, conditions on New Year’s Day were the driest since 2002, according to the National Resources Conservation Service. Mr. Box received an email from Vail on Jan. 2. The Southern Utes had been to Vail before, including in 1999, the year the mountain hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships.
“We would love to celebrate the Native history of the area, and hopefully help put an end to our ongoing drought of snow,” the email read. Mr. Box chose Jan. 7. The weekly forecast then called for more dry weather. Immediately he incorporated requests for precipitation into his daily prayers and sweat-lodge ceremonies.
In Vail, he began the ritual at 8:30 a.m. Snow showers already swirled around a few hundred spectators. In the colorful regalia he might wear to a powwow, Mr. Box danced to the rhythm of hums, drums and an eagle-bone whistle. He also led what he called a “friendship dance,” in which skiers and onlookers joined hands and moved in a circle.
Vail promoted the event using Twitter and Facebook, but not through advertisements or media invitations. The resort covered Mr. Box’s expenses and lodging while he was in town. Mr. Box says he doesn’t accept money for snow dances.
Before closing, Mr. Box presented Mr. Jarnot, the COO, with a package of tobacco and asked that he find a special place on the mountain and sprinkle it in all four directions.
Mr. Jarnot and three others rode up to a run that overlooks the back bowls. They skied down a trail, clicked out of their skis and hiked five minutes to a secluded location. “We took a little moment to make our offering and show respect,” Mr. Jarnot said. “Then we snapped our skis back on and skied down.”
It was snowing so fiercely by then that Mr. Box’s wife, Betty, had convinced him to drive home to beat the storm. “My honey said, ‘We have to get out of here before it gets really bad,’ ” Mr. Box recalled. “We had to four-wheel it.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if all cultures could reach out to one another as easily as the skiers and the Indians did earlier this month. One of the finer moments of our capitalistic society, I think. The rich looking to sustain their wealth by asking the not-so-rich for a little help. And the not-so-rich offering it for room and board…and nothing else. Except perhaps…respect for their heritage…
…and that’s priceless…don’t you agree?…