My roots are here in the beautiful southwest and I am blessed to be a mixture of cultures-Pueblo, Apache and Spanish. My mother’s people come from Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico, my father’s father was from the White Mountain Apache tribe of eastern Arizona, and his mother was Spanish from the Las Cruces, NM. I was born in Santa Fe and grew up in Albuquerque, but no matter where we lived, when my mother said that we were going “up home”, that meant Santa Clara Pueblo. I was always surrounded by the art of our people-Pueblo pottery, Navajo rugs, paintings of men and women participating in Pueblo Corn or Animal Dances, and Apache Crown Dancers. My father’s hobby of furniture making manifested itself in picture frames, bookshelves, coffee tables and the like, all decorated with Native American symbols and dancing characters. I suppose that I was destined to be an artist.
As I grew up, the most influential cultural experience for me was going up home for the Santa Clara Feast day on the 12th of August. Every Pueblo has at least one major feast day where dances are held, and everyone has open houses featuring the best native foods imaginable. It is a time of reunion and is a vehicle for we, who live off the reservation to return home to be revitalized. The glue which holds this special day together are the dances-drum beats and singers, hundreds of men and woman in traditional dress, boughs of evergreens, rattles, greencorn-so strong, so powerful, so spiritual. And the dances in the wintertime as well-the virile winter dances were so different, where the men and boys are dressed as buffalo, deer, elk, bighorn sheep and antelope. And again, there are the drums, the songs, and the power. The feeling of forever into the past, the feeling of forever into the future.
Little did I know that in my lifetime, I would become an Elk, deer, and Corn Dancer, and as I aged, a singer, and that I would introduce my two sons to the Kiva and to the cultural wealth that we possess.
Even more surprising was the fact that in 1997 at the young age of 54, I became a stone and bronze sculptor! Anticipating an early retirement from Santa Fe Indian School where I was Student Living Director, I began taking classes in Native American stone carving at the Poeh art Center at Pojoaque Pueblo, north of Santa Fe. Using alabaster, limestone and marble, you can probably guess what I began carving. The Native dancers that were so much a part of my cultural identity were now being manifested in stone and soon after, in bronze as well.