Several weeks ago the DukeEngage group made our way from Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. We needed to see some trees (although the Saguaros are lovely) and were seeking cooler temperatures, however part of our trip was to learn about the history of the migration Native Peoples in the American Southwest. One of the things that my time on the border has taught me is that migration is part of our shared human story. The story of people who are compelled to leave their homes because of scant resources is one that has been told for millennia. We all have legends, stories and myths to explain how we came to be who we are and where we came from. Those of the Judeo-Christian tradition are taught that the Isrealites wandered in the desert before coming the promised Land of Canaan, a land of milk and honey. An example from the Americas is that of the the Hopi people, a Native American tribe in the Southwest. They say this about their migration history:
And now before Masaw turned his face from them and became invisible, he explained that every clan must make four directional migrations before they all arrived at their common, permanent home. They must go the ends of the land--west, south, east and north--to the farthest place where the land meets the sea in each direction." (Waters, Book of the Hopi)
The first place we stopped is pictured above, Montezuma's Castle. Explorers "discovered" the dwellings around 1860 and mistook these cliff dwellings as part of the Aztec Empire and named the dwellings after Montezuma II. What we learned about these cliff dwellings was that a pre-Colombian group of people called the Sinagua lived there until about 500 years before the Spanish Conquest. Archeologist believed that they left the dwellings, which are still largely intact, in search of better resources. The Hopi people even trace some of their own origins to this same area where the cliff dwellings are.
As I stood in front of the ruins, thinking about the people who lived there and raised families in the centuries prior, I realized that maybe their story wasn't that different than my own. In fact, the Hopi's migration story didn't sound too different than the story I learned as a child, when God told Noah and his sons, "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." (Genesis 9:7). Not only did the myth resonate with me, but the actual migration story seemed relatable. At some point in my own family's history, someone decided to leave their home, a familiar land, in search of different resources and opportunities. So when I think about the current state of migration in my country, it's not just political. For me, it is another chapter in our shared history of survival.