his Christian Indian radio broadcast on KSKY. Reverend Bobb left feeling that LeValdo was beyond the pale and would probably remain so. BE RTR AM Bobb was a single-minded savior of men, but sometimes he had to admit that the devil had gotten there first and had done his damage to some poor soul, rendering him beyond redemption. One had to take these losses in stride. The way of the righteous was straight and narrow, and many fell by the wayside. Bobb himself had always seen the way very plainly, thanks to his parents. They had been Methodist missionaries among the Choctaws. Bobb had begun his own ministry in the Methodist church, but he had left it because of the liberal theology he thought it had begun promoting. He was now an independent preacher, connected with no church but his own out in Oak Cliff, and he saw his mission as that of meeting the spiritual needs of the growing Indian population in Dallas. He had been fairly successful, if he did say so himself. He could count 12 tribes on the membership roll of his church. The preaching and praying was in English because none of the tribes could understand one another in Indian. Well that was not entirely true, Bobb was fond of pointing out. The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole could converse fairly well among themselves. But when they sang in Reverend Bobb’s church, they often sang in Indian, first one tribe’s tongue and then another. Many of the hymns they sang were first sung during the Trail of Tears marches of the 1830’s, when thousands of Indians died as they were forced to walk to the new reservations in Oklahoma. The songs had what the Indians called a mourning sound. Still, Reverend Bobb lamented, Christian work among American Indians was very slow. And often it was of the wrong kind. He believed in the literal truth of the Bible, and he felt that too many of the denominations were getting away from The Word. The shame of it, he thought, was that the basic religious nature of the Indians was being wasted on paganism. Its hold was still strong on the Indian: young Chavez LeValdo was an example. Bobb couldn’t help but like LeValdo the boy had a good mind. He wondered if LeValdo was on peyote. He sighed and went on about his business. And then one Sunday he looked up from his pulpit to see Chavez LeValdo in the congregation. It was true LeValdo sat on the very last row, next to the door, and that there was about him an air of subtle defiance he wore dark sun shades and his arms were sternly folded but nonetheless he was present, presumably to listen with an open mind. Even in a congregation which was mostly Indian, LeValdo stood out because of his long hair and head-band. There were others there just as Indian in their blood Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Comanche, Cheyenne and Sioux, and Seminole but not so Indian, perhaps, in their dress or attitude. Reverend Bobb made note of LeValdo to the congregation. Every face turned to the young man. He sat there awkwardly for a moment, and then rose hesitantly to his feet to acknowledge the introduction. The singing began. Good old fundamentalist hymns. “Come thou Fount,” first in English and then in Choctaw. The song, “He hideth my Soul,” said it all for Reverend Bobb. It was his reason for being and he saw no conflict between being both a Choctaw and a Christian. He hideth my soul In the cleft of a rock That shadows a dry thirsty land; He hideth my life In the depths of his love And covers me there with his hand. He sang his love for Christ in English, and now he sang it in Choctaw. And then he prayed it and preached it. BUT CHAVEZ LeValdo was unmoved. This was the second time he had ever sat in on a Protestant service, and he felt the same disappointment as he had before. The word sacred came to mind. That was what was missing here, it seemed to him. LeValdo had been taught, as a child, in a Catholic school on the reservation at Shiprock, New Mexico, and although he was now wrestling with himself over Catholicism more and more he felt himself being drawn to the faith of his Acoma forefathers he still liked the mystic feeling and formality of the Roman church. There was a magic, an other-worldness in the rites of the Catholics and the Acomas that was missing , in this plain little church next to the Central Expressway. He did not question Reverend Bobb’s sincerity, but what he regretted in this Choctaw Christian preacher was his Anglo-Saxon informality, his rather pedestrian and matter-of-fact approach to the spiritual. A “Rally Day” banner hung above the pulpit. Bobb could have been a well-fed coach speaking to the quarterback club or a program chairman at a Rotarian luncheon. As LeValdo left the church, shaking the preacher’s hand at the door, the only generous thing he could say was that he liked the Choctaw hymns. He could not understand the words. Indians, from tribe to tribe, were as different as white men from nation to nation. And yet there were similarities between LeValdo and Reverend Bobb. They were both brown-skinned aboriginal Americans, both had been raised on reservations Bobb in Oklahoma, LeValdo in New Mexico both had attended Christian schools in their youth and both had served in the U.S. Navy Bobb during World War II and LeValdo aboard an aircraft carrier in Vietnam. The difference between them, perhaps, was that out in the desert of LeValdo’s youth the memory of the ancients was stronger and more binding than it was in Reverend Bobb’s Oklahoma. It was a fact that the Choctaw Bobb’s tribe was one of the five civilized tribes, so called by the white man because they had more easily adapted to the white man’s ways than had other Indians. On the other hand, the Navajo and the Acoma whose blood and heritage LeValdo carried had been among the last to capitulate to the white man. High up in the hot cliffs of the Acoma, LeValdo knew that Catholicism was a white man’s medicine which had not entirely replaced the notions and potions of pueblo prophets. The old prayers and practices yet remained, the externals of a spirit pervasive after 400 years of ex-communication. It was true that LeValdo would have his baby daughter baptized by a Catholic priest, but it was also true that he fancied himself being buried, when his time came, in the Indian way with his moccasins and warpaint on. The ways of his ancestors rose up in him and made him reluctant to cut his hair, and they worked in him when he carved dolls and made drums and shields of rawhide. Chavez LeValdo did not consider himself a throwback to the past. There was enough of the white man’s influence in him to cause him to count time and to measure it by the Newtonian dimensions of past, present, and future. And he saw himself as being in tune with these three references, like the Paisano bird which was painted on Indian drums. The Paisano had four toes on each foot. Two pointed to the back, the past, and two pointed to the front, the future. The leg itself came right down upon the ground of the present. And here was LeValdo himself, living in the urban clot of modern Dallas, taking advantage of a government grant which allowed him to learn how to repair and maintain a computer. He spoke six languages: Navajo, Acoma, English, Fortran, Cobal, and Compass the latter three being computer idiom. Pagan? Peyote? Well, he had never tasted the cactus bud, and he had never understood why white men called the faith of his forefathers pagan. The Old Man of the Sky was the husband of the Old Woman of the Earth, and all things came from their union, just as Raquel came from Chavez’s union with his wife Eunice. Mankind and the animals, the earth and the sky with their elements, all had the same kind of life. And a person had to be in harmony with the life in all things. The way was in religion, in a prayerful reverence for every stick and stone and bird and flower and brother. It was beautiful, he thought. December 27, 1974 17
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