"I am here.
I am here, now.
I have been here, always."
Edmund J. Ladd (Zuñi).
In 1989, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, NM, began to put together a project designed to present Native American culture, traditions, and contemporary life from an Indian point of view: not looking in from the outside but looking out from the inside, not analyzing in the way of anthropologists but giving its Indian contributors themselves a place to raise their manifold voices. The process thus begun resulted in a fascinating permanent exhibition presenting all aspects of Native American life from its historic origins to modernity, from arts and crafts to farming and hunting, and from the sacred to the secular (if that distinction applies at all, for there is a profoundly spiritual element to every single act performed over the course of the day). Endowed with a multitude of exhibits – many of them of priceless value – and using traditional displays as well as a multimedia approach combining various audiovisual tools, from its inception the exhibition rested on one inimitable centerpiece: the multi-timbred choir of the First People's very own voices.
Bearing the same title as the exhibition and illustrated by numerous photos, "Here, Now, and Always" provides an additional forum for these voices and sends them out into the world at large. "Listen carefully. Let the stories carry you to the center created by each Native community. Here, at the intersection of sky and earth, you will find the Southwest's people," the museum's former archeology curator, Sarah Schlanger, is quoted at the end of the introductory text to the book's first part, "Ancestors." And thus, the book's Diné (Navajo), Hopi, Zuñi, Apache, Tohono O'odham (Pima) and manifold Pueblo contributors become messengers of their respective peoples; talking about Earth Mother, Sun Father, Changing Woman, Spider Woman and Spider Man, Salt Woman, the Great Spirit, the formation of the first clans and their wanderings, the sacred places marking their world and the meaning of home and community, the interrelation of the elements and man's interaction with them, the significance of clay, salt, corn, and tobacco, of minerals and precious stones, and of farming and hunting, the cycles of life, time, and the seasons, the importance of language, oral tradition, and sacred ceremonies in cultural preservation, and obstacles overcome and new challenges arising.