The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Friends of Coronado State Monument host August events

The Friends of Coronado State Monument are offering a Flint Knapping Demonstration on August 16 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Coronado State Monument. The Monument is located at 485 Kuaua Road, about a mile off I-25, just west of Bernalillo on Highway 550. “Knapping New Mexico” is a diverse group of individuals from all over the state who are drawn to the ancient art of creating arrowheads, knives, atlatls, spears and many other kinds of tools out of stone, the way our ancestors did. See how it’s done and throw some atlatls while you’re there. For information, call Pat Harris at 822-8571 or email

On August 17 at 2:00 p.m., Don Bullis, resident of Rio Rancho, member of numerous writing societies, and retired deputy sheriff/criminal investigator who enjoys historical research, will give a presentation as to how the Old West was tamed, especially in territorial New Mexico. Learn about the in-laws and outlaws, and review the fact and fiction surrounding this fascinating era of our history. The lecture will be held at Sandoval County Historical Society’s DeLavy House, located on Edmond Road in Bernalillo. Take Highway 550, slightly west of Coronado State Monument, turn north on the west edge of the Phillips 66 gas station and onto a dirt road (Edmond Road). Follow the road to its end; signs will be posted. No reservations are needed for this program. Admission is $5 per person and is free to members of Friends of Coronado State Monument.


Corrales Historical Society calls for entries

The Corrales Historical Society is calling for entries for its twentieth annual Fine Art Show. Jurying for the 2008 show will take place on August 21 from 9:00 a.m. until noon at the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales. The entry fee is $30 for three pieces. For information, artists should contact Hope Grey of the Visual Arts Council at 897-3942. The Fine Art Show will be held October 4 to October 12 at the Church.


Rio Rancho to survey citizens

The City of Rio Rancho is participating in The National Citizen Survey. A random sample of twelve hundred Rio Rancho households will be surveyed and asked for feedback on the quality and usefulness of city services.

The survey process will begin on July 21 when those households that have been selected to participate will receive a pre-notification postcard. On July 28 and August 4, surveys will be provided to the United States Postal Service for delivery to households. Residents will need to complete and mail back their surveys using a postage-paid envelope that will be provided by August 20. Results of the survey will be provided to the city in late September and will be used as part of the city’s strategic planning process.

For additional information about the survey, including frequently asked questions, residents can visit the city’s website at

The National Citizen Survey is sponsored by the International City/County Management Association in cooperation with the National Research Center, Inc. The questionnaire and survey procedure were designed based on the experience of hundreds of local governments, ranging in size from small to large. Scientific sampling and weighting of the responses in each city ensure accurate and reliable results. Over two hundred municipalities in forty states have participated in The National Citizen Survey over the past eight years, including Alamogordo, Bloomfield, Farmington, and Taos, New Mexico.


El Rinconcito Español

Nada es verdad ni nada es mentira;
todo depende del cristal con que se mira.

Nothing is truth, nothing is lie;
it all depends on the lens it’s seen through.

Una buena acción es la mejor oración.

A good action is the best prayer.

Mala hierba, nunca muere.

A bad herb never dies.

Submitted by, Placitas—Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills.


Chaco Rising   by Jaymes Dudding

Chaco Rising, a sculpture by Jaymes Dudding

The Sun Dagger

The Sun Dagger

The Great Center


Archaeologists believe nomadic groups frequented the twenty-five-thousand-square-mile San Juan Basin of the Colorado Plateau as early as ten thousand years ago. Moving from place to place, these ancestors of today’s Puebloan people foraged wild plants and seeds and used atlatls (spear throwers) to hunt game. Two or three thousand years ago, they began to experiment with farming. Living in seasonal pit houses, they planted squash, beans, and corn, and wove baskets to store their harvests. Sometime around A.D. 500, they began building aboveground houses and creating small agricultural settlements. Then, in the middle of the ninth century, they established an important cultural center in the very center of the San Juan Basin. That center is now known as Chaco Canyon.

It is believed that Chaco was a meeting place, a market town, and possibly even a spiritual or ceremonial center. The people who lived there erected great stone houses (some as tall as five stories), built enormous dams, and channeled runoff rainwater to irrigate their crops. An intriguing aspect of Chacoan culture was the road system that radiated from the canyon floor. Some of the roads were as wide as thirty feet and more than forty miles long. All of them led to outlying settlements or prominent landforms such as Fajada Butte.

Fajada Butte (Banded Butte) rises more than 450 feet above the surrounding canyon. Although there is no water source on the butte, there are ruins of several small cliff dwellings in its higher regions. Analysis of fragments of pottery found on Fajada show that the butte was inhabited in the tenth century.

While working on a field project atop the butte in the midsummer of 1977, artist Anna Sofaer noticed three slabs of sandstone leaning against a cliff. At approximately noon on the summer solstice, a single shaft of light shone through the slabs, perfectly bisecting a spiral petroglyph inscribed on the cliff face. Going back time after time, Sofaer observed that the sun shining through the slabs sliced through a smaller petroglyph on the winter solstice and formed two parallel brackets of light at both the spring and fall equinoxes. She was amazed. She had discovered a celestial calendar of the ancient Puebloan people.

Earning the name “Sun Dagger,” the phenomenon attracted the attention of scientists, sightseers, and moviemakers. In 1982, PBS aired a documentary that had tourists flocking to the canyon in droves. Suddenly, the once deserted site was world-famous and everyone wanted to see it. Unfortunately, the environment was fragile, and in 1989, after years of torrential rain and damaging foot traffic, the foundation of clay and gravel around the base of the slabs shifted and the Sun Dagger disappeared. That is, until Jaymes Dudding came along.

In the winter of 2007, the City of Rio Rancho put out a request for artists to submit ideas for a piece of original art to enhance visitors’ experience to its new City Hall. Jaymes Dudding, a retired fine arts professor, now teaching at Walatowa Charter High School on Jemez Pueblo, created a twelve-inch-high clay model replicating Chaco Canyon’s Sun Dagger. He called it Chaco Rising. Of the six artists who submitted ideas, Dudding’s was selected.

With an early spring deadline, Jaymes set to work. Choosing four blocks of solid Styrofoam for the final form, he used a chain saw, grinder, and hand sander to shape the blocks to resemble the original slabs at Chaco. Next, he covered the blocks with three coats of acrylic binder to make them strong. Between the first and second coats, he used a layer of fiberglass mesh to hold everything together and prevent cracks. He says, “getting the color was the fun part of the creation. I tried to get the colors of nature. One slab is a reddish color, one bluish, one yellowish, and the fourth a combination of them all. I added the sparkles (mica) because I wanted the piece to catch the sun and the sun’s shadows.”

Dudding’s wife, an artist in her own realm, fashioned a glass insert that replicates the Sun Dagger’s petroglyphs. Using a special glass created for the Space Agency, she fused pieces of the broken material to a layer of black glass and then fused a layer of clear glass over the top to seal it. Depending on the angle of the sun and the position of the viewer, the glass flashes green, blue, orange, and red. Although it is hard to see, the finished insert was placed inside the slabs so that the sun would slice through the openings and bisect the petroglyphs.

Rising eight feet from the ground and ten feet in diameter, Chaco Rising was installed and dedicated outside the east entrance of the new Rio Rancho City Hall on April 23, 2008. The only thing left to do was find out if it worked.

Early on the morning of June 21, Jaymes Dudding, along with a local woman who is a longtime solstice observer, and a woman from Jemez Pueblo who is a potter and drummer, gathered at the sculpture. As the sun slowly rose above the Sandias and edged toward the sculpture, all three held their breath. Would the sun bisect the petroglyph? The woman from Jemez Pueblo beat her drum and quietly sang. Were her words welcomed by the sun?

And then it happened—the sun worked its way through the slabs, reached the glass insert, and speared the petroglyph like a dagger… just like at Chaco.

Dudding was elated. “It was magical. Ancient solar calendars and markers exist all around the world,” he said. “But my piece recognizes and pays homage to the ingenuity and beauty of the Pueblo people. It’s an attempt to recreate what was important to their survival, and I think it is an attempt to reconnect us to the cycles of nature and how the passage of the sun affects us.”

After thousands of years, the Sun Dagger at Chaco Canyon, the center of the ancient Puebloan world, vanished. Hopefully, Chaco Rising will be around for a long time at Rio Rancho’s great new City Center.

For more information about Anna Sofaer and her studies, visit To learn more about Jaymes Dudding and his work, visit







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