The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Atmosphere
Please refer back to Setting the Stage
You would think that describing the atmosphere of a town that currently boasts around 1,200 people would be easy. Especially considering I’m basing my thoughts off of the years 1984 – 1996 while I was there. I have not been back since 1998.
The thing is, there are so many layers to this tiny town, out in the middle of nowhere. It’s isolated, and it’s a world of its own, broken down into several different perspectives. This is a place where opposites walk hand and hand with each other. Racism and acceptance, love and hate, respect and violence, pride and desolation.
I suppose it all depends on how intimately you know the valley and its population. As a young adult moved away from the Rez, I described it as a dangerous and stressful place to be. Those who had been down into Covelo before (but not necessarily the Rez) would always reply in disbelief, from their perspective Covelo was a sleepy little speck on the map where nothing ever happened. It was a location you went to for hunting and fishing for a weekend here and there.
Covelo can be a beautiful and relaxing place if you’re not embroiled in the local racial, familial, or criminal politics that bubble beneath the sleepy and somewhat run-down surface. There are several residents that put great effort into the pride and culture of the community. My cousin Joe is the President of the Tribal Council and grinds 24/7 to create more opportunities, resources, benefits, and good things for the Rez. The elders there are wise, patient, loving, and as deserved, much respected and revered.
The mountains that surround the valley are beautiful and full of wildlife and little hidden lakes. We have a few events that recur each year that people love to go to, such as: The Blackberry Festival, Indian Days, and the Rodeos. The landscape is gorgeous during the spring time, the perfect area for hiking and taking some great landscape pictures…As long as you know how to avoid the heavily guarded pot farms that are dotted along the mountains. The summer-time is full of river swimming, bike riding, and general child / family shenanigans.
At the age of 25 I encountered a new co-worker who had actually lived in Covelo for a couple of years, just after I’d left. He was the first person in my adult life, familiar with Covelo, that was able to back up my statement to our other co-workers who had only visited. Covelo, specifically the Rez, was (is?) a dangerous place to live.
I will get more into the danger aspect in further blogs where I discuss crime and/or social aspects of the Rez and the town that surrounds it. Things can, and did, get quite ugly when I lived there. And they still do from time to time. Murder is not common in the valley, but when it’s committed it’s often a spectacular event. The aggression on the Rez is so palpable at times, this is not a place you want to walk through if you’re not Aboriginal or in the company of an Aboriginal friend. This is not a place that the cops patrol, and this is certainly not the most opportune place to grow up.
Do I hate the Rez? Yes, but it’s not the people I hate, its the situations that have forced them into the actions and mindsets present. That has a lot to do with the economic status of the area, which, as with other aspects, I’ll talk about in one of the coming blogs of this series.
All in all, anything I’ve said is not a dissuasion. If you are ever up in the middle of BFE Northern California, and want to swing by to the Eel River for a swim, or if you want to do some camping, hunting, and/or fishing. Even if you want to take a peek at The Blackberry Festival or Indian days. Please do head on down to Covelo, despite what I say as a (former) resident I can assure you safety and an enjoyable time.
Things are always pretty on the surface, it’s underneath that is marbled with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
First of the Month, Got That Cheese: Economics
Please take a moment to check out one of Alexis Chateau’s recent blog entries, Go ahead – touch it. Alexis speaks on the topics of African American women and their experiences and mind-sets about the nature of their hair, and those around them holding a fascination for it. Its a wonderfully expressed blog where Alexis, as always, quite eloquently expresses her own views on the topic. A conversation between her and I, is what sparked this blog series. Again, thank you Alexis!