The Hualapai Indian Baby

Years ago when we started teaching at Peach Springs, the teachers in the lounge began at once filling me in about what terrible students the obstreperous, gasoline sniffing, hairspray drinking Hualapai were, with horror stories of drunken mothers backing over their own children and kids watching their stumbling drunk father bleed to death from stepping on a whiskey bottle.

What I found were lots of damned good artists. Where there might be one or two kids who draw well in a class of twenty to twenty-five Anglo students, fully one third of these Hualapai kids were good at drawing, complete with a sense of perspective and depth. And I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine slow wits doing that well with a pencil.

One day, I had a particularly quiet Zoology class. I walked all through the classroom, handing out papers, lecturing and answering questions. They nearly all were taking notes. When we finished up, perhaps five minutes before the hour and I suddenly realized that the class of sober faces sparkled with eyes of merriment, the room erupted with a roar of laughter, for they had kept a baby absolutely quiet all hour, passing it from student to student behind my back!   

Tom Phipps

2 thoughts on “The Hualapai Indian Baby”

  1. If you don’t mind me asking, when were you in Peach Springs? I was born there in 1978, in a tiny teacher apartment rented to my hippie parents. I stumbled across this blog entry while showing my fiance what my cradle board looked like (versus my brother’s Navajo style).

    I’m not like my parents – I’m just a researcher, while they’re still doing stuff for disadvantaged native peoples (http://www.heartwalkfoundation.org/). Anyway, I was kinda wondering if there might be a time overlap and you might know them, or remember hearing about them. Their names are Tim and Penelope Eicher, and we lived next door to Tom and Cynthia Nickas. Cynthia was a nurse from Delavan, WI, and had been photographed by Time’s coverage of Woodstock (the original), and Tom was from the Bronx.

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