From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Fall 2018: D&T V

On October 20th, 2018, sixteen men will head into Death Valley with their Jeeps and a map. This is their story.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Honoring the First People

It wasn't always Death Valley.

That picture was taken by Rennett Stowe. And to the Timbisha Shoshone, this place was Tümpisa, or "rock paint," a reference to the local clay that could be refined into red ocher paint. And it was home for over 1000 years.

Sure, it was barren, but that made it wonderfully unattractive to the nearby Mojave people who were known to attack nearby groups. The winters were exceptionally mild. Near the scattered mesquite groves, the Timbisha built simple brush homes out of arrow weed. The mesquite trees attracted small game animals and the mesquite pods offered the people a delicious and nutritious abundance of essential carbohydrates. In the hotter months, the Timbisha would take to the Grapevine or Panamint Mountains where they would hunt and forage to supplement their winter provisions.

In 1849, the white men came looking for gold. The environs proved hostile and they butchered their oxen to survive. Men perished and those that survived looked back over the landscape after their harrowing crossing, "Goodbye," they said. "Goodbye Death Valley."

I'm struck by the radical difference in the narratives.

For the Timbisha, a people who believed that they had been placed in the valley by the Creator, a people who approached the land with reverence and respect, a people who named the land after the red ochre that they saw as a gift and a blessing, they enjoyed 1000 years of sustenance and protection.

For the white men that came ready to exploit and ravage in their insatiable hunger for riches, the land was a death trap.

Other white men passed through, however. Silver and borax were found and the land was torn asunder. Claims were staked. Land rights were distributed with no consideration for the indigenous Timbisha. Their way of life was altered forever.

Perspective and intention shape experiences. And so we set our intention:

We wish to gather together, in the Name of our Creator, our Provider, and our Sustainer, in gratitude to Him, in reverence for Him, and in pursuit of Him. We wish to acquire all knowledge that will make firm our gratitude, reverence, and patient seeking. We wish to deepen our relationships with all of creation, God's plants, animals, and heavenly ornaments, that we may be drawn into a realized understanding of His Might and His Mercy. We wish to be transformed by this experience, entirely for the better. We further ask that God Most High expand us, that we might graciously accept all that He desires for us.

May God strengthen our resolve and fix this intention fast upon our hearts. Amin.

We'll be staying at Furnace Creek. This is the very place that the Timbisha Shoshone called home. Some of them are still there, on a reservation known as the Death Valley Indian Community.

Incidentally, this is the also the very place where, on July 15th, 1972, the ground temperature was recorded at 201 degrees. We'll talk about the weather in another post.

Can you recall an experience were your intention made all the difference? Please share in the comments below :)


  1. A blog entry without any comments is certainly no fun!

    Not to stir up the pot or anything but here is some interesting perspective on your thesis by the Man from Monterey (well not really but close enough),

    “For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.”

    Strictly for fun, can you name that author ?

    1. We love sympathy comments around here!

      And, without resorting to Google, I do not know the author. Though Steinbeck was no stranger to Monterey . . .

  2. Thanks Ahmed for the important history of the people and the land, and the two perspectives. The phrase, "Goodbye Death Valley" reminds also of how death is well hidden and we try to avoid thinking about it. We run from it probably because of the perceived stress and the fight/flight/freeze response.
    If I am able to hold an intention: to leave a positive legacy, then that context effects my attitude, thoughts and actions. Thus intention can be used like a compass. An example is, when I did some volunteer work at a retreat for men and women, all the volunteers together set an intention to be of service, create an egoless environment, and to hold a safe and sacred space. As we gave our best, and trusted the process, one of the results was that things fell into place. I had the rare feeling of being at the right place at the right time. The experience of having and serving a purpose (or intention).
    My challenge is to be able to hold on to a good intention for a long time. I frequently forget the bigger picture and get caught up in the mundane, when I'm not being mindful or conscious of holding a clear and broad intention

    1. Remaining mindful of our intentions is certainly a skill worth cultivating. We'll try and find ways to practice that together, insha Allah.