Indigenous communities honor solar eclipse with sacred traditions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This Saturday, people will pack Balloon Fiesta Park, UNM and other places to celebrate the annular solar eclipse.

Many Indigenous people in our area will not be taking part in those celebrations, though.

“When the eclipse happens, we give it great respect. It’s not a play thing to us.”

That is Arnold Joe. Also known as Returns With Authority, he belongs to the Navajo clan of Tsi’naajinii, the Black-Streaked Wood People.

According to traditional Navajo beliefs, a death occurs during an eclipse.

Birth and death are sacred. That means there are certain practices to follow during the eclipse.

“You can’t go outside. You have to stay inside. If you’re inside, we’re not even supposed to drink water, not even eat anything, not even touch the food,” Joe said.

Doing this, he explained, can have consequences.

“Your body develops sickness, whether it be diabetic, cancer, whatever, a bad cold. This is our belief in the Navajo tradition,” he said.

Pictures of the eclipse will likely be all over social media and news outlets – so what happens if someone practicing these beliefs stumbles upon it?

“It’s not your fault, it’s an accident. You came upon it. It’s dismissed. But, if you know it’s there, don’t even mess with it,” Joe affirmed.

Still, with younger generations moving away and not following these beliefs as closely, it’s harder to control what comes a family’s way.

That’s where, as Joe says, a simple act can go a long way.

“Say you’re in New Mexico, and some of your family is in New York or back east somewhere, the best thing to do is call them. Tell them, ‘Hey, the eclipse is coming, this is our tradition. This is the way we do it, so respect that,'” Joe said.

Ahead of the eclipse, the City of Albuquerque’s Indian Affairs released a statement recognizing Indigenous people like Arnold Joe and others who won’t partake in celebrations.

Navajo Tribal Parks will close from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for the eclipse. That includes the Four Corners Monument.

Taos Pueblo will also closed on Saturday.