One warm sunny afternoon in November I was sitting at my desk reading a library book about gorillas. I was looking at the gorillas when Kathleen, my cousin-sister, said, “Diane, why are you looking at that picture?”
I said, “I’m just looking at it.” Then I said, “That gorilla looks big and scary. I only like orangutans and chimpanzees. They are small and they’re not mean.”
It was three-thirty, time to go to the dorm. The students walked down the hallway heading for Dorm Two. That is where I live Monday through Friday because I am a Navajo girl and I live way out on the Navajo Reservation. I live out too far to go to a public school so I go to a boarding school. I started going to boarding school when I was very young and I don’t really like it. I miss my family and I look forward to going home every Friday afternoon.
I said happily, “Kathleen, let’s go to the canteen after we eat supper.”
Kathleen said, “O.K.”
I looked up and I thought that I saw a giant hairy gorilla in front of me. It was like a dream but I was awake. I was scared and I ran behind Kathleen.
Kathleen just started laughing. I think she thought that I was playing with her.
I peeked from behind Kathleen’s shoulder and the terrible gorilla was showing his teeth and beating on his broad chest. My heart was racing and my hands began to sweat. Suddenly I felt a chill and I shuddered in panic.
Kathleen, feeling my hands tremble on her shoulders, said, “What’s wrong?”
I answered, “I’m scared.”
She said, “What are you scared of? There is no one in front of us.”
Then I looked up again and the gorilla was gone. I thought to myself, It was there!
Kathleen was looking at me funny. She said, “What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?”
I didn’t want her to think that I was crazy so I said, “Let’s hurry and go to the dorm.”
After a few hours it was shower time. There were about twelve of us girls in the shower. Their being there didn’t bother me because I was used to it. At home I used to take showers with my sisters. The girls were laughing and giggling. They were throwing the soap and washcloths around. I just smiled at them because I thought they were just being silly. Then I joined in and laughed and giggled. I forgot all about seeing the gorilla. I got out of the shower after I washed. I got my clean clothes and put them on. I felt a lot better.
That night at eight-fifteen the dorm aid, Mrs. Capitan, came and said, “It’s time to go to bed.” She turned the lights off and I got scared. I remembered seeing the gorilla. I was suddenly scared to go to bed. I tried to go to sleep but I kept getting up. I kept feeling that someone was watching me. I was shaking and my eyes were wide open. I kept looking around in the dark but I didn’t see anything. I drew the blanket up under my chin and I finally went to sleep. When I went to sleep it was almost morning. I kept dreaming about the angry gorilla.
The next day was a fine day. The night was scary and I was happy that it was daylight again. It was Thursday and I would be going home Friday and everything would be O.K.
I went to class. The kids were working so I went to Miss Dorsett, my fifth grade teacher, and whispered to her, “I keep having dreams about gorillas.”
Miss Dorsett said, “When you go home tell your mother about it. You may need to have a ceremony.”
I felt better after that and I smiled. I knew Miss Dorsett would understand and help me. She always had time to listen to me and help me.
After school I was back in the dorm. I was watching cartoons on TV in the living room. Mrs. Capitan was calling me. I got up and went to her. When I was standing by Mrs. Capitan I thought a gorilla started to hit me. I jerked back but nothing happened. I looked at Mrs. Capitan. She didn’t see anything so I thought I was dreaming. I felt like I was going to cry. Mrs. Capitan said, “Do you still have a headache?”
I said, “Yes.” She gave me two aspirins and I took them. I thought that the aspirins might help me stop thinking about the gorilla. I went to bed but the aspirins didn’t help. Every time I slept the gorilla came back to me. I would just wake up shaking. I lay in my bed feeling alone. I kept thinking, Tomorrow is Friday. I’ll go home and I’ll tell my mom. Maybe I do need a ceremony.
It was Friday morning and time for class. When I was going down to class with the rest of the noisy students I saw some orangutans in front of me. They were smiling at me and waving their furry little hands at me. I thought, The kind and nice orangutans are coming to say hello. I smiled at them and I felt really happy because I really like orangutans. Then suddenly a giant snarling gorilla flashed in front of me. He got between me and the friendly orangutans. With one gigantic paw he grabbed the orangutans and hit them with his other closed fist. The poor helpless orangutans were screaming and hollering. The gorilla killed them in a few seconds. I almost started to cry.
I looked around to see if anyone else had seen me. The other kids were running around laughing and chattering as they walked to school. They had not seen anything. I was so scared. I struggled to hold the tears back and a little voice inside me said, “Someone has witchcrafted you!”
I bumped into the girls that were in front of me. They said, “Watch where you’re going,” in an angry voice. I didn’t say anything. I just kept walking.
In class I just sat. My mind was racing with thoughts about the evil gorilla. I started counting the minutes until three o’clock when I knew Mom would come to the dorm. I finally got some of my work done but it wasn’t real good work. Finally it was three o’clock and I ran all the way back to the dorm.
Mom was waiting for me to go home. She said, “We’ll go to Gallup first to buy food.” When we were going to Gallup I told my mom about my dream. I was so upset that I began to cry.
Mom said, “Don’t cry, Diane. We must get a medicine man to make things right again.” She said, “We are going to have a meeting at the trailer on Saturday.”
Saturday night came and when the old wrinkled faced medicine man came Mom told him about my dream. He listened patiently as Mom told him in Navajo. I just listened to her and I wanted to cry for myself.
Then the medicine man said, “Tell her to come in the meeting.” Then he went into the hogan next to our trailer. He was carrying a large box of medicine.
The new hogan beside our trailer is always used for ceremonies. The family had just made it last year. A hogan is a one-room house made of wood, stones, and mud. All Navajos used to live in hogans. The door always faces the east so they could wake up with the rising sun. Now many Navajos live in houses or trailer houses. Now they use the Hogan only for ceremonies. I like living in a trailer house. I have never lived in a hogan. My grandmother says that it is good living in a hogan.
I went into the hogan by our trailer. The medicine man was in the middle of the dirt floor by the wood stove. He said, “Sit by your dad and your mom.” Other people were sitting around the walls of the hogan. I was nervous because of all the eyes that were staring at me. I was trembling and shaking. I sat down and the medicine man began. He said in Navajo, “What happened to you at school this week?” I told him in an excited rush what had happened to me. I told him about the gorilla. He looked at me and at the ground as I answered him. I was real nervous and I sometimes mixed up my Navajo words. Sometimes I forgot the right word and the medicine man helped me by giving me the word.
When I finished I felt really tired and I was holding my hands tightly in my lap. I bowed my head and waited for the medicine man to speak.
The medicine man put something green in the ashes in front of him. White and gray smoke rose up from the ashes. He got his eagle’s feathers and he waved them in the smoke for a few minutes. Then he told me to hold my palms up toward him. He began chanting as he touched my open palms with the feathers. He touched each shoulder and then my head. As he did this, he sang,
Help this girl with her life.
Don’t let her get any more of these dreams.
I want to find out who it was.
Restore everything to beauty.
As he was singing I had a strange feeling. I kept watching the smoke rising. I felt good inside and I knew that the medicine man would help me.
The medicine man felt my right shoulder. Somehow he took out a big black circle thing out of my shoulder. I did not feel anything. I just looked at the black thing. Then I felt free. I listened as the medicine man told my dad, “Something was witchcrafting your daughter.” He said, “A woman caused the gorilla at the Albuquerque zoo to scare you.” Then he asked Father, “Has Diane been to the zoo in Albuquerque?”
As soon as he said that I remembered our trip to the Albuquerque zoo in October. My family and I went to Albuquerque for a trip. We went to the zoo. When we went into the house with the gorilla’s cage, the gorilla was angry for no reason. I stood looking at the gorilla through the glass. There were lots of people in the gorilla house. The kids were laughing and making faces at the gorilla. Some were tapping on the glass with their fingers. I felt angry and wanted to tell them to stop. I was afraid that the gorilla would burst the glass. I just stayed quiet because I knew that it wouldn’t do any good. Suddenly the gorilla ran and almost burst the window right in front of me. I jumped back scared. He was yelling and hitting his chest. At least I think it was a he. I stepped backward and I looked in the gorilla’s eyes. They were red and full of anger. I felt that he hated me and he wanted to kill me. I looked around for my mom and dad. They were on the other side of the room. The people next to me saw what happened and they were scared and some left. One white man told the zookeeper that the gorilla was mad. I didn’t wait to hear any more. I was so afraid. I rushed and hurried and got away from there. I heard voices talking in Navajo, English, and Spanish as I rushed outside. I didn’t pay any attention to what they were saying.
When I got outside the gorilla’s cage the bright sunlight hurt my eyes. I was still scared. I was shaking like a leaf. I wondered why the gorilla was so angry with me.
Later we went to the park to eat. The sun was shining and I could hear the birds singing so I felt better. I didn’t tell anyone about the gorilla.
Then I heard the medicine man say in Navajo, “It was one of Diane’s friends’ mothers. She made her afraid of the gorilla and she made her see the gorilla at school and almost anywhere. She made Diane have nightmares. It was because her daughter doesn’t like Diane anymore.”
Then I remembered Linda, this girl at school who used to be my friend at the beginning of school. Some other girls wanted to be my friends. Linda got mad. She didn’t want me to have any other friends so she got jealous and left. I remembered that I said, “Come back, Linda. We can all be friends.”
Linda said, “I don’t want to be your friend because you have new friends.” She started saying dirty words in English and then she said, “You’ll be sorry.”
I felt mad at Linda and I just walked off with my new friends. I felt sad about losing a friend.
I listened to the medicine man again and he said, “You’ll never have these nightmares again.” Then he put some water in some dark green medicine and he rolled it in a small ball and said, “Eat this.” He sang a Navajo chant and then he said, “Now everything is restored to beauty.”
I felt contented and happy. I knew that the medicine man had made me better and I wouldn’t have any more bad dreams about the gorilla.