JUNE 2013 BACK ISSUE by John Running
It was the time of the new moon, September 2010, when Mary JAne Pusher was honoured by her extended family in an Apache Girl’s Puberty Ceremony, Na’ii’ees, the Sun Rise Ceremony. The ceremony was conducted on the Yavapai Apache Reservation near Camp Verde, AZ.  Three days of intense ceremony and celebration during which Mary Jane Pusher embodied the spirit of the Apache’s most important holy being, White Painted Lady. On the second night of the three day ceremony a huge fire is started and the Mountain Spirit Dancers appear, four men and a boy. The four men dancers wear head dresses made of carved Yucca or Agave stalks, painted with symbolic designs and tipped with fluffs of eagle feathers - some say these represent the four directions, and the boy, the mischievous ‘Clown’. Here you see the ‘Clown’.  He is masked, young, maybe early teens and mysterious as he darts around the camp. He runs, stops, bends over leaning on sticks, he stares at you, he whirls a bull roarer (a flat carved stick attached to a string) that makes a roaring sound. He moves fast, darts about and is almost un-nerving as he stares at you. The bonfire - see the mysterious light effects above the dancer, I don't know what it is, or what caused it, perhaps caused by camera lens and the light.  The huge fire fueled with Cottonwood logs. My Apache friends were a little spooked by this photo seeing the ghost like shape over the line of dancers, a few said they could not look at the photo, others acknowledged surprise and a little awe at seeing the shape. What is that? They touched the photo with the backs of their fingers. The dancer and the young girl who is the center and reason for this ceremony. I photographed the dancers by fire light, I did not want to use a flash, as I thought that would be a distraction and would disrespect the sacred ceremony. Details of the dancers silhouetted against the blazing fire. I watched and waited for the dancers to pass in front of the fire. I had to be patient. Back to current issue