I'm going to relate an experience of interacting with the Navajo people1 of the American South West. Please excuse any inaccuracies as the events in this story happened over 10 years ago.
The year was 1996, and I was traveling with a friend of mine, Leslie2. Leslie ran a shop in London, selling native American Indian crafts from various tribes. She did a couple of trips per year, stateside, visiting trading posts and reservations, making contact and forming business relationships. Leslie doesn't drive, which is a serious drawback for this kind of work, so on this occasion, I flew over with her, hired a nice 4WD, and we drove around New Mexico and Arizona. It was a buying trip for her, and a holiday for me.
We arrived on the Navajo reservation, about a week into the holiday. I'd become acclimatized, and gotten used to dealing with the natives in trading posts and market stalls. Leslie was in charge of the negotiation, and I would always refer decisions to her, which was hard for some traders to cope with, seeing me as a man. I was starting to go native, and to tune in to the vibrations.
Our plan was to make ultimately for the Hopi reservation, as Leslie had some orders for inlay jewelry but we wanted to explore the Navajo reservation first. In fact, the Hopi reservation is completely surrounded by the Navajo.
By the side of the road, thumbing a ride were 4 Navajo guys. Smitten with curiosity, and feeling in tune with everything, Leslie pointed them out to me, and I pulled in to the roadside. It turns out that only one of the guys needed a lift - his mates were looking after him, making sure that he was OK.
The hitchhiker, Lawrence2 had been drinking cans of beer, and was in a state that he wanted to get home. He didn't want to be taken directly home, as he wanted a chance to sober up in case he ran into his mother. His cunning plan was to dilly dally, arriving back after his mother had gone to bed.
We were quite happy to fall in with his plan, as we didn't have any urgent business. We had some long conversation, which improved as the evening drew on. We took him to his trailer - a multi room affair, not a very mobile home. He invited us into his bedroom, encouraging us to stay. He had an electric guitar that he loved playing, but no amplifier. I had a go strumming some Pink Floyd chords, and the three of us spent a pleasant evening.
Lawrence suggested that we could go for a midnight drive if we were interested (and we certainly were). I drove along some dirt tracks, to this hilltop, which I believe was a sacred spot. There were stars an astronomer could die for, and a warm, loving feeling of peace. Lawrence said that we could stay the night in his trailer if we didn't mind sleeping on the floor. I agreed, drove back to the trailer, and slept on the floor alongside Lawrence, who had given up his bed to Leslie.
We woke about 8:00 in the morning, and we were introduced to lawrence's mother and younger brother. The mother insisted on cooking breakfast for us - something that it was impolite to refuse, but at the same time, we didn't want to eat her out of home. Lawrence suggested that if we were at a loose end, perhaps we could give the younger brother a lift to school. We agreed to this as we didn't have any plans. Also, Lawrence wanted to buy some groceries. The school was at Window Rock, and the grocery store at Gallup, which made a 120 mile round trip. I had enough gas, and agreed to do it.
The four of us set off, Leslie and myself in the front, and the two boys in the back. Curiously, Lawrence had taken his guitar with him, which seemed strange. I drove to Window Rock, dropped off the younger brother at school, then went to Gallup, where Leslie and I hung around a diner by a parking lot for a mall, leaving Lawrence some privacy that he wanted.
His need for privacy was understandable once I knew the reason. He was taking the guitar to the pawn shop to get money for the groceries! Lawrence didn't want to beg any money from us, but Leslie helped him out before he returned, by hiding a 10 dollar bill in his pair of gloves.
The journey back was somewhat subdued as I was speechless thinking about the transaction. We returned to the trailer and to a happy mother, who let us wash our clothes. These dried in under an hour on the line (it is desert after all).
We had contact with other Navajos - craftsmen, but our experience, the feeling of being accepted as part of the family was unique.
1 The word Navajo literally translates to "Enemies" (of the Apache). The word they use internally for themselves is the disyllabic dené, also written diné, which translates to "The People".
2 Names in this story have been changed to protect privacy.