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Irish Christmas in America Returns December 10, 2023!

Sense of Place : Heaven in the West

The smell of freshly made beans and the sounds of drums in the air, the beauty of seeing the sun rise in the mountain and seeing it set with all of its glorious colors that captivate the human eye. This is the place in the American West that has connection to me more than anywhere else I have ever been or read about. This is the land of the proudest people I know, and is full of history that one cannot ever stop learning. This is my home, The Kwat’san Tribe Reservation; this is my heaven in the West.

Audio File

Heaven in the West by Joslyn Van Wey
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Gourd music of the people, Spirit of ancestors land, Ancient and tranquil

As I drive down Picacho Road, I can see the last remains of the old west. There are mud houses that the people of my tribe made to stay cool in the hot summers. When I think of the American West, automatically I think of desert, and that means heat. It is extremely hot and the people that live on my reservation have lived with the heat for generations. The mud house is a perfect example of how they have adapted and survived. As I look closer at the house I noticed that there inside the mud were boards made from wood. An elder once told me that if you ever saw boards on a mud house, that those whom live there are traitors. The story is that whenever the United States Army went looking for a tribal member that they would give people wooden planks if they helped in the capture of the person. It is a sad story that a neighbor would turn against a neighbor, but one from the American West.

Indian Hill is where my people and I go when we need to do business or need to go to the doctor. The buildings that they use have been there for over a century and a half. They have been used by soldiers and were once used as a school for my people. The American West means to me as a land full of history, though it might not be as known as the history on the east coast. A land that has seen its own sadness and heartbreak, yet was supposed to bring fortune and fame. It is sad to see that the West is not as wild as it used to be, however we are able to spot it on occasion.The land I live on, from the dirt that blows in the wind, to the fields that produce crops that the farmers grow, and all the way to Picacho Peak, has a lot to tell us. How it was conquered by those that have changed history, or how it was covered in tears by those whom wept for lost ones in wars.

As a child growing in Northern Wisconsin, my friends would ask me how going out west was like and they were so full of questions. I would describe my home, I also would describe how a river runs so close, and at the end my friends would ask me to take them whenever I would go back next. The Colorado River is important to my people because they used it to survive in the past and use it for recreational use now. The American West was tamed by the ingenuity of the people who conquered it by making a living using the river. My people used to help transport people and items across for a small price.

Finally, when I think of the American West I cannot help but think of all the people who fought to keep their lands. As I lightly touched on the topic of Indian hill earlier, on that same hill there is a Catholic church located there and in front of it is a statue of priest with who was trying to make peace but sadly was beaten to death on that same spot after a war broke out between the Spaniards and my people. Though they knew that they were losing land, at least they received a good piece of land near what is now the city of Yuma. You can feel the stories of all my ancestors in the blowing of the wind as you stand here in the desert. That is what the American West is about; the stories that have been passed on by our elders and the making of our own.

My native land is my own version of the American West. Having to survive in the heat and yet being able to freeze in the winters, is what makes this the West. There are moments that connect the entire West with the Kwat’san Reservation. Those moments could include the never-ending beauty that surrounds us, from the graceful roadrunner that crosses the road, to the never-ending sky, and to those lonely cacti that stand alone in the untamed desert. If we just only take the time to notice them.

Biography of Joslyn Van Wey

I am from Tomahawk, Wisconsin. I am a member of the Kwat’san Nation and my family lives on the reservation so I came here to live with them in the West. My goal at this moment is to complete and receive my Associates in Hotel and Restaurant Management, but my future goal is to finish my bachelors at Northern Arizona University. I love to travel, however, my favorite hobby is writing horror fiction in my spare time.