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About Anita Endrezze Essay, Research Paper

Anita Endrezze

Hi, my name is Anita Endrezze. My father was Yaqui and my mother is a combination of

Italian, Slovenian, and German-Romanian. Although I’m Yaqui I don’t speak for all

Yaquis. I speak for me and my experiences as a woman, a half-Yaqui, and a wife and mother.

I have two children, a teenage son and a daughter in 1st grade. We are all

complicated humans, with many influences in our lives. My tribe comes from northwestern

Mexico. Look at a map. South of Arizona is the state of Sonora. You will find the Gulf

of California. Look for the Rio Yaqui. It is a river named after my tribe and where most

Yaquis live. In Mexico they speak Spanish. Some Yaquis speak Yaqui, which is a language

that has been spoken for thousands of years. I don’t speak it. My grandparents left Mexico

about 1900 and moved to California. Some Yaquis also live in Arizona. I live in Washington

state. Leslie Ullman

Endrezze’s collection, her first, is

luxuriant with fragments of myth, the voices of different personae, striking visual images

and always, as a backdrop, metaphors interweaving the natural world with the landscape of

human emotion. Her heritage is half-European and half-Yaqui Indian; in these poems, native

American sensibility manifests itself in the earthbound nature of her images and in her

deep sensitivity to the rhythms of nature rather than in the subject matter. Endrezze is

also a professional storyteller and a painter (one of her vivid, dreamlike paintings is

the book’s cover.) These abilities, which also arise from a warm, primal sensibility,

surface in her beautifully visualized images and in the strong narrative movement of many


Endrezze’s is a voice, or vision, that constantly

redefines familiar things, sure of itself at every turn but respectful of an abiding

mystery. Throughout these poems Endrezze strikes arresting balances, via metaphors,

between the human world and the natural world, as in these opening lines from


the days are circles of bread, paper-words, the

light in the egg

the nights are grass-moons, volcanic glass

the dark wine of the body

The calendar of water is lightning-flint, the dew that scars

the iris, the bitter salt of blood

my wrist is time’s turning on bone, the sinew of


Often she seems to be translating passionate

feeling directly into landscape, which allows her to speak from the very personal realm of

desire and loss in such a way as to link personal dynamics to the less personal, more

encompassing workings of nature. In "Searching for the One in My Dreams," she

conjures the searched-for lover through a metaphor, making him more a natural force rather

than a specific person: "Your name is a red branch. Your eyes have been the western

twilight …. Though you be the only rain on a high plateau, I will find you."

And in "There Are Roses You’ve Never Given Me," she uses images of roses

to honor, with particular grace, the sensual, expansive, powerful feminity of the speaker:

"I carry …. Roses made of teeth / and threads of rain."

Passion in Endrezze’s work is enduring, yet full

of ebb and flow, linked as it is with natural laws. In the example above, it has a lyrical

quality, something gentle and plantlike. Elsewhere, however, passion has the heat and

rankness of animal life. In a poem called "Fox-Woman Goes Man-Hunting,"

Endrezze’s Yaqui background and her skills as a storyteller come into full play, as a fox

"take[s] on the illusion of womanskin" in order to find the man who killed her

"Kits" and to become impregnated by him so that she can have more. She hitches a

ride into town and enters a bar where she sees:

…. the evasive eyes of gray-suited men who

think they are wolves. There are hands that snap-trap the flesh in dark comers. There are

the growly words that smell like old meat on the teeth of urging men. But I got savvy. I

know some tricks of my own! I take the smoky light into my nails and scratch my sign on

their groins. Now there’s some action!

from a review in the Kenyon Review ? 1993 by Leslie Ullman.

Anita Endrezee

from "A Journey to the Heart"

The faces of my ancestors are both luminous and shadowy. I’m standing in a

long line, holding the memory of their hands. My own hands are bone and muscle,

sinew and threadlike veins of blood. We’re dreaming about each other or maybe

playing a game of "telephone," hundreds of years old. You know, where

one person whispers a message or story to another, who then whispers it to the

next person in line. Pass it on. The message is changed, perhaps only

slightly but continually, until it has created a new language, a different shape

of itself. Or maybe the words become the dimple in your mother’s cheek or the

stubborn cowlick in your sister’s hair. Still, there is a connection of breath,

heart, mind, and spirit.

Not one of my immediate ancestors was a professional storyteller, yet all

told stories about our families, and collectively the stories of their lives

have influenced me.

I’m half Indian and half white. Most people assume it’s my mother who is

Indian. Not so. My mother’s grandparents came from Vinica (Slovenia), Fai Della

Paganella (alpine Italy), and Curciu (Romania). For sociopolitical reasons, they

all probably spoke German in addition to their national languages. They were two

men and two women, traveling individually from their small villages to the end

of the earth: Butte, Montana. They came in the late 1890s: Johanna Ostronic,

Joseph Kambic, Elizabeth Yaeger, Eugenio Endrizzi.

Like many young men, Eugenio Endrizzi intended to work for a few years in

America, make his fortune, and return to Italy. In Butte, he met Elizabeth

Yaeger, and they married and had children (my grandfather, William Eugene

"Papa Billy," was one of them). Eugenio had already sent his family

back to Italy when he was killed in a mining accident on October 11, 1905. He

was thirty-eight.

I have a copy of the newspaper article about his death. The headline reads: Dead

Miners Careless. Below that it says "Endrizzi and O’Neill failed to

follow instructions of the shift boss."

Further headlines add: Crushed Beneath Tons of Rock in Speculator Mine.

The detailed article goes on to say that "suddenly and without warning,

an immense quantity of rock came down from the hanging wall and caught O’Neill

and Endrizzi. One of them spoke a few words after falling, but the other appeared

to be dead."

I’d like to think it was my great-grandfather passing on that message,

speaking his last few words. What did he say? I’m still listening. Maybe my son

was learning as he arranged his rock collection. The beauty of each rock was

formed under certain immense pressures in the heart of the earth. Each rock

exists, singular in its own beauty, and ageless. Like people.

Eugenio’s widow and children returned to that raw city of bricks and trees

burnt leafless by the sulfuric acid in the air. Butte was a city of great

wealth, vitality, and death. A town that heaved itself up and out of the earth,

home to immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Scandinavia. My mother was

born there.

Her name is Jean and she is Papa Billy’s daughter. She’s fair-skinned with

amber-colored eyes and blondish brown hair. I have photos of her when she was a

little girl, wearing her blond hair in a Dutch-boy haircut. She’s told me how

she played on the mine tailings.

Shortly before World War II, she moved to Long Beach, California, and worked

in the naval shipyards, drafting. She was very good at it. The blue lines were

clean, neat, and precise.

My maternal grandmother, Ann, or Nana, was also a quiet woman. Deeply

religious, she tried to get me to go to mass. My mother wouldn’t let her. Even

so, I grew up with ideas and experiences in both Catholic and Protestant

churches. Nana was ninety-two when she died in 1994, and she taught me a lot

about patience. She was a nurse in a time when nurses were instructed how to

formulate their own disinfectants and told how to prepare a kitchen for a

woman’s birth labor. She was born in Butte, Montana.

She was a good shot; they called her "Annie Oakley." But she was

also fearful, didn’t like taking risks, avoided changes. I have tried to follow

my mother’s example of saying yes to life’s possibilities. Still, I can

understand my grandmother. In her lifetime, the world went through changes

tremendous and frightening to the timid soul.

Her husband, my Papa Billy, was a steamfitter by trade and an inventor by

inclination. He invented an ore classifier used in the Montana mines.

He had a rock collection: stunning purple crystals and clusters of yellow

crystals that caught and refracted the light. We set them all on our mantel.

Blue-green rocks?copper?that we were warned not to lick. Solid "fool’s

gold," or pyrite, which made our childish eyes glitter. Heavy chunks of

lead. I learned the names of rocks before I learned my multiplication tables.

Although Papa Billy’s father had been killed in that mining accident, he was

fascinated with the deep earth?and the deep sea. Papa Billy invented a

nuclear-powered submarine with a conical-shaped hull. I still have all his

patent drawings. I can see his drafting table, set square in the golden light of

a lace-curtained window. Pens. Straightedge. Crumbly erasers. A small penknife

to sharpen thin-leaded pencils. The implements of his creativity were just as

exciting to me as his creations.

Someday I’d like to write a book about my mother’s side of the family.

My father, Alexander Raymond Diaz, was Yaqui. A full-blood with a dark moon face

and hair so black it shone blue at times. When he met my mother, he was a

divorced motorcycle mechanic for the Long Beach Police Department. After they

were married, they tried to buy a house, but because he was Indian, no one would

sell one to him. And because my mother was a woman, she wasn’t allowed to buy

one either.

I wrote about this in "La Morena as the Sad-Eyed Jaguar Priest." La

Morena means "the dark woman." and she is one aspect of the female

presence in many of the poems and prose poems I have included in this book. I am

also related to the Moreno family. My godfather was Alex Moreno (see the poem

"Anonymous Is Coyote Girl"). Additionally, the Virgin of Guadalupe is

known as "La Morenita," which is an affectionate way of saying

"the little dark one," since she is of indio blood.

"Someday, your daughter’s going to write about this," La Morena

promises in "La Morena as the Sad-Eyed Jaguar Priest." "Doesn’t

matter if she gets it the way it really happened. Nothing happens the way we

remember it."

While collecting stories for this book, I asked relatives for their memories

and discovered that people remember things differently. One story might be told

three different ways, filtered by individual perceptions and by time. I was

intrigued by something Stravinsky said: that we live by memory, not by truth. In

gathering material for this book, I learned that the truth is not often found in

fact. The reporting of history is always subjective, no matter who is telling

it. This discovery freed me: I was able to figure out how I wanted to approach

my family history?as fact or fiction? Long troubled by the question, I decided

to do it in both ways. This book, therefore. is history, myth, family anecdotes,

poetry, and short stories, and they are all the same thing.

Yaquis have had centuries of contact with Europeans. The first Spaniard went

through in about 1533 on a slave-raiding expedition. Another explorer, Francisco

de Ulloa, saw "naked people " and smoke signals on the beach as he

sailed up the Gulf of California sometime between 1539 and 1541. There have been

periods of relative peace, but consider this: at one time, there were thirty

thousand Yaquis living in eighty rancherias. Three hundred years later,

there were only ten thousand left. For better and for worse, Spanish culture,

language, and religion have influenced Yaqui culture.

Other tribes in the region have fared worse. Of the ten original Cahita-speaking

tribes, only the Mayos and Yaquis survived.

The Yaquis have lived near the Rio Yaqui in northwestern Sonora for thousands

of years. In fact, one name given to us is Ria Hiaqui, which means "People

Who Shout across the River." Another name used by native speakers is Yoemem.

It means "the People."

My father’s parents, Carlotta Ramos and Emiterio (Meetah) Diaz, were Yaquis

from Mexico. It was a terrible time. Just before my grandparents were born, more

than one hundred Yaquis were burned to death in a church in Bacum, one of the

eight Yaqui pueblos. This is what happened: six hundred men, women, and children

surrendered to a Mexican colonel, who ordered four hundred fifty of them into

the church. The others were let go. He kept ten leaders as hostages and promised

that if there were any attempts to escape, all hostages would be shot. He

trained his artillery on the church door. I tell about this in the poem

"Red at Bacum."

There were constant battles against the Mexican government and the soldiers,

the federales, who enforced the tax collections and took away Yaqui

rights and land. Reprisals against the Yaquis included deportation to Yucatan,

enslavement, rape, murder, and starvation. My grandfather, Meetah, was just a

boy when he saw his father murdered by Mexicans. Meetah escaped by hiding under

the porch and later walked north. In "Bones Resembling My

Grandfather," I relate how he "scooped up handfuls of mud and made a

turban of wet earth" as he crossed the Salton Sea. This is how he avoided

sunstroke. Since the Salton Sea wasn’t formed until after 1905-1906, when the

area was flooded by the releasing of a dike damming the Colorado River, he must

have been there after that date.

In 1886, when Carlotta was a child. the Yaquis suffered a defeat at the hands

of the Mexican general Carbo, military commander of Sonora. Two hundred Yaquis

died and two thousand became prisoners of war. Diseases claimed the lives of

many civilian Yaquis. Many Yaquis were settled in the eight pueblos, under the

control of the government, but the majority left the Yaqui Valley, seeking work

and freedom. Some fled to the rugged Bacatete Mountains. They raided the

Mexicans and the pueblo Yaquis.

In 1900, General Torres battled the mountain Yaquis and killed four hundred

men. Many others committed suicide by jumping off cliffs. More than a thousand

women and children were forced to march down the trail. Most died along the way.

This is called the Massacre of Mazocoba. Only eighteen federales were killed and

sixty wounded. Thirty-five guns were taken from the Yaquis during the


By 1907, Yaquis were a cash commodity, selling for sixty pesos a head to the

owners of henequen plantations in Yucatan and sugar fields in Oaxaca.

Many Yaquis left Mexico at this time, some fleeing to Arizona, refugees from

their homeland, always hoping they would be able to return. My grandparents

(separately, since they were not married at this time) went to California.

Although Yaqui history continued hand in hand with Mexican history (in 1910

the Mexican Revolution changed the country), my grandparents had removed

themselves from those dangers?and begun to merge with American history and


The Arizona Yaquis maintained a more unified identity as a tribal people than

did those who lived in California, who blended into a Mexican American identity.

My grandparents struggled with making a living and raising children. Although my

father grew up knowing he was Yaqui and heard the family stories, he was not

political. Even after my parents divorced and he moved to Green Valley. Arizona,

he didn’t participate in the Yaqui effort to establish a reservation outside of

Tucson. Instead, he was busy with his nursery business and raising my two

younger half- siblings. In ill health for a number of years, he died in 1979.

the same year the Pascua reservation was approved by the federal government.

My grandmother Carlotta Ramos came to the United States before 1916 (when my

father was born here)?probably around 1902. An astute businesswoman, she later

owned property in several California counties: produce fields and houses for

field workers. She carried her money wrapped up in her shawl. My father clearly

remembered the early days, when they all had to pick lettuce and strawberries

and walnuts in order to survive. They went as far as San Francisco, working in

the fields.

Carlotta had been raped by Mexican soldiers. I wrote about it in the poem

"Angelina," which appears in Part Two of this book. A bad thing

happened to Carlotta, but by all accounts she was a good and kind person. She

was not the bad thing. She was stronger than that.

Carlotta’s father, Pedro Ramos, had been a merchant in Sonora. He had a

caravan of burros loaded with supplies that he traded and sold along the coast

near Guaymas, Sonora. It is possible that he was also a smuggler, perhaps a

gunrunner for the Yaquis in the mountains.

Pedro was murdered, "shot by Mexicans dressed as Indians,"

according to family legend. This phrase always made me wonder until I learned

more about Yaqui history. I think that the mountain Yaquis had a disdain for the

pueblo Yaquis and would have characterized them as "Mexicans dressed as

Indians." In other words, the pueblo Yaquis may have dressed like other

Yaquis but were really Mexican at heart, living and accepting Mexican rule. Or

perhaps he was simply shot by Mexican bandits.

In any case, his wife, my great-grandmother Estefana Garica, marched to the

local law authority. With a gun on each tiny hip, she demanded that he find the

killers or die himself.

Another story is told about her. She had a tooth pulled?and it was the

wrong one. She swore she’d kill the "dentist." For more about her,

read "Estefana’s Necklace of Bullets."

My Yaqui grandmothers were strong women, educated, clever, and fearless.

Carlotta was also graceful, exceedingly beautiful, and kind. She fed hoboes,

loved music (she played the twelve-string guitar), and sang. She was only four

feet, eleven inches tall, with masses of dark hair piled up on top of her head.

Her eyes were deep black. I have her photo on my office wall, next to one of her

husband, Meetah. He’s posed stiffly in a suit, with a shock of unruly hair

escaping out from under a dark hat. He didn’t like Mexicans. He lived his life

like an Indian, he’d say to anyone. He could easily lift four hundred pounds,

according to my father. Meetah was five-ten and stocky. As a young man, he

trained horses all over California and Arizona. He died from a hit-and-run

accident in the middle of the night in Long Beach, California, on September 19,

1937. He’d probably been drinking. I wrote about it in "Grandfather Sun

Falls in Love with a Moon-Faced Woman." The story is actually a retelling

of an old Yaqui story about the sun falling in love with the moon, but I wove it

into our family history.

Meetah owned a junkyard that now is just part of the neighborhood across the

street from the Long Beach Community Hospital, where I was born. His was a long

journey; from his experience as a boy witnessing his father, Valentino, being

murdered by soldiers to the experiences of a man living not far from Hollywood,

town of illusions and fantasy.

Valentino also dealt with his father’s death. Valentino and his

brother and father had been up in the mountains in Sonora, hunting for honey,

when something happened. I don’t know what, maybe a heart attack or a fall down

the mountain trail. The boys had to bury their father there among the red rocks

and crumbling earth.

Diaz is not a Yaqui name but one given to our family. It is a Mexican name,

specifically that of the Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, who was in power from

1876 to 1910. Sometime during that period, we acquired that last name. I was

born Anita Diaz. Other family surnames were Flores, Garica, and Ramos?all

Mexican names, not Yaqui. Many Yaquis had both a Yaqui name and a Mexican name,

along with nicknames by which they were more commonly known. My childhood

nickname was "Stormy." My Indian name, given to me shortly after my

birth, is Desert Rose.

Life was hard for my ancestors. They didn’t live long. But I know about them

through the stories we still tell. There are not enough stories; I always want

to hear more. I want to understand them and learn more about them and myself.

I want my children, Aaron and Maja, to know them also. That’s why I write and

paint, to pass it on.

The history of words is the history of people. People define and are defined

by their language. If you study languages, you learn about war, religion,

adventure, and spirit. I think it is interesting that scholars studying Indian

languages today are coming to realize that the great diversity of languages in

this hemisphere supports the idea that we have been here a lot longer than the

accepted, academic starting point of 11,500 years ago (the Clovis timetable).

Indeed, recent research has agreed that native people have been here for about

45,000 years. The voice of a people truly is their history.

My father never spoke Yaqui. When he was young, he was ashamed of being

Indian. He didn’t want to listen to the old stories. And yet he liked to tell us

about what life was like "in the old days." My younger half-sister,

Rondi (who was born in Farmington, New Mexico, on March 15, 1959), told me how

our father would go skinny-dipping in the ocean and the police would take his

clothes. He traveled with his family in a buckboard wagon into Los Angeles. He

was, she says, great at storytelling, funny, and generous. Rondi says, "I

see him with both the eyes of an adult and the memory of a child. When I was

little, he was wonderful. He’d sing for me and let me blow up the muscles on his

arm by blowing hard on his thumbs." But he also ran around with other women

and was a "happy drunk." For sometime he was separated from her

mother, and he lived for a while in New Mexico. We have a picture of him giving

a corn grinding demonstration at Chaco Canyon.

Rondi says, "He claimed to be a Catholic. Other times, he’ d talk of the

Happy Hunting Grounds. If truth be known, he didn’t believe in anything.

Whatever served his purpose at the moment." Yet she also relates how he

became a Christian later in his life and was a changed person: "He became

kind, considerate, and humble." She enjoyed being with him then. "So

his last days were his happiest. They were my happiest, also, because I found my

dad before he died," she told me.

Our father, Alex, was married three times (my mother was the second) and had

six legitimate children plus several illegitimate ones. My older half-sister,

Mary Francis, has only good memories of him. She still misses him, twenty years

after his death. My full sister, Barbara, remembers him not at all. My other two

half-siblings, Raymond and Tim, have mixed feelings about our father.

My parents’ marriage was very troubled. We lived for a while in Merlin,

Oregon, near Grant’s Pass. My parents logged their land. I remember napping in a

tent covered with crawling caterpillars. I breathed the close, green-tinted,

pine-scented air. I heard the milky sighs of my sleeping baby sister, Barbara.

It was a place of violence, I’ve since learned. I wrote a poem about it,

which appears in this book. It’s called "My Little Sister’s Heart in My


I remember my father’s violence. He scared me. We finally left, my mother

secretly stealing away with us girls. We moved around a lot after that. From

birth to age eighteen, I lived in thirteen different houses. I went to a

different school every year from sixth to twelfth grade. In the poem

"Housing Dreams" (in the recently published The Humming of Stars

and Bees and Waves) I say, "There’s no rhythm / to moving / except the

moving." And "we moved / because we were nowhere / better / than

tomorrow." For many Indian writers, place is vital. For me, it’s been

thought and feeling, an emotional landscape. A landscape of dreams and stories.

It’s been four generations on either side of the family since someone has died

where they were born. We have been rootless for more than one hundred years. And

yet that restlessness, or desperation for something better, has given us a

vitality, a sense of adventure. While I have a Danish husband and my children

can find their roots in many countries of the world, we are Americans in the

special way in which only those who have Indian blood can connect to this land.

Excerpted from the Introduction to Throwing Fire and the Sun, Water at

the Moon (Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 2000). Copyright ? 2000 by

Anita Endrezee.


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