“When the iron bird flies, the dharma will come to the land of the red man.”—Eighth-century prophecy by Padmasambhava

In the incongruous atmosphere of the Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, an extraordinary encounter took place in 1979. During the Dalai Lama’s first visit to North America, he met with three Hopi elders. The spiritual leaders spoke in their native languages. Delegation head Grandfather David’s first words to the Dalai Lama were: “Welcome home.”

The Dalai Lama laughed, noting the striking resemblance of the turquoise around Grandfather David’s neck to that of his homeland. He replied: “And where did you get your turquoise?”

Since that initial meeting, the Dalai Lama has visited Santa Fe to meet with Pueblo leaders, Tibetan lamas have engaged in numerous dialogues with Hopis and other Southwestern Indians, and now, through a special resettlement program to bring Tibetan refugees to the United States, New Mexico has become a central home for relocated Tibetan families.

 On a recent visit to Jemez Pueblo, the Tibetan teacher Venerable Khamtul Rinpoche and his wife meet Lupe Guadalupe Chosa, courtesy of Marcia Keegan.
On a recent visit to Jemez Pueblo, the Tibetan teacher Venerable Khamtul Rinpoche and his wife meet Lupe Guadalupe Chosa, courtesy of Marcia Keegan.

As exchanges become increasingly common between Native Americans and Tibetans, a sense of kinship and solidarity has developed between the cultures. While displacement and invasion have forced Tibetans to reach out to the global community in search of allies, the Hopi and other Southwestern Native Americans have sought an audience for their message of world peace and harmony with the earth. These encounters have created a context for the activities of writers and activists who are trying to bridge the two cultures. A flurry of books and articles have been published, arguing that Tibetans and Native Americans may share a common ancestry.

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