Sometimes we have little or no control over what happens or what we do. Every April 15, we have to file and pay our income taxes or face fines or even jail. If we want to fly on an airplane, we have no choice but to go through a metal detector and perhaps be searched. On a much more serious level, sometimes we face cancer or a heart attack or stroke and have no choice but to undergo medical treatment.
Wednesday, we faced a situation where we felt we had no control. It ended up costing a couple hours out of our day and untold frustration and some embarrassment. It is times like this when I realize just how important it is to me to be in control. That is almost always the issue when I have conflicts with the people in my life or issues with the circumstances life presents.
Two years ago we spent several days in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and visited Bandelier National Monument. We saw some information about Tent Rocks NM and wanted to check it out this time, while staying at the Cochiti Lake COE Campground, about 15 miles from Tent Rocks. We drove there Wednesday morning. Just before the monument entrance, we saw a Cochiti Pueblo graveyard. Because of our experience owning a funeral home, we often visit cemeteries examine the monuments and markers and take photos.
As we drove past, I took 2 pictures with my iPhone; then, I saw a sign that said, “No Photographs.” I turned off the camera. Moments later were stopped at the guard house. An attendant appeared and we gave him our Annual Pass. Our attention was quickly diverted by a knock on my passenger side window. It was a man who motioned for me to open my window. When I did he said he saw me take pictures of the cemetery and he would have to confiscate my iPhone. What! You have to be kidding. Those were my thoughts, not my words. I explained that as soon as I saw the “no photos” sign, I stopped taking pictures. He asked if I had deleted them. I said no, but I would be happy to do so right then. He said there were 3 signs saying no photographs and he would have to seize the camera and take it to the “Cochiti Pueblo Governor, who would decide if I could have it back or not. As it turned out, there was a funeral that day and he wouldn’t be able to give the iPhone to the governor until at least 2 in the afternoon.
I have learned that, though the squeaky wheel gets the grease, an uproar often makes the situation worse. So, we tried to reason with the man. John asked the man for identification and he produced a badge. If we had been on property governed by the United States and New Mexico, no one could seize our camera that way. But we were on an Indian reservation and they have their own laws. The man would not consider any alternative, he demanded our iPhone. We surrendered the phone after he gave us his name.
We felt we had no control. We couldn’t even appeal to the laws of our country. Although I felt like spitting nails, we quietly asked for directions to the governor’s office. Although not in any way nasty, the encounter had been decidedly unpleasant.
At the tribal headquarters, we learned the governor was at the funeral. His secretary told us she would call us when the governor returned from the funeral. We told her the seized cell phone was the only one we had with us. She responded saying the governor may not return for two to three hours. Our response was to sit in her office and wait for the governor no matter how long it took. About 20-30 minutes later, another reservation police officer (the chief?) appeared in the secretary’s office. Naturally he wanted to know why two old Anglos were quietly sitting in the governor’s reception area. We explained to him the same thing we told the secretary. His response was to invite us to go to the free lunch at the community center while we waited. We politely declined.
Our presence, two old white people sitting in the tribal office, was a subtle form of pressure, or at least discomfort to those there. The Post Office is next door to the governor’s office, and residents of the Pueblo kept walking into the governor’s office. Every one of them greeted us with a smile and a friendly “hello”. They were friendly people...each probably wondering who we were.
About 1 ½ hours after our arrival, the governor returned from the funeral. When he encountered us he had obviously already been informed of the situation. He simply told us he was sending someone to pick up the cell phone from the officer who had seized it. In another few minutes, a woman came in and informed us she were retrieve the phone and return in a few minutes.
Someone going through everything on my phone felt like a real violation—search and seizure without a warrant. She returned shortly, said she had deleted the two photos and cautioned us that photography was no allowed anywhere on the reservation.
So we left. Needless to say, we didn’t visit Tent Rocks NM, which is located within the reservation. We wanted out of there. It didn’t feel safe. And I guess when I don’t feel safe; I know I am not in control.
The Daily Office gospel for Wednesday from Luke said, “if anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat, to not withhold even your shirt likewise.” Those words reverberated through our thoughts as we were sitting in that reception area. Our situation…our emotions…our response was framed in the passage we had both read before we found ourselves in this situation.
I am afraid that surrender of control was something we both really struggled with Wednesday. Thursday, we drove to Santa Fe and rewarded ourselves with a lunch at the La Fonda Hotel , but that is part of another post.