The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


A senior at Walatowa High Charter School

A senior at Walatowa High Charter School is using computer software to create background music for his PowerPoint presentation.

Real people, real places
Walatowa High School emphasizes college prep


Walatowa High School (WHS) at Jemez Pueblo is one of only two Native American charter schools in New Mexico located on tribal land. Also at Jemez is San Diego Riverside Charter School, serving grades K-8 since 1999. All fifty-two students in grades nine through twelve, except one, are Native American. Tribal, educational, and community leaders worked collaboratively to create a school with a rigorous, interdisciplinary college preparatory curriculum that emphasizes math, science, health, and state-of-the-art technology. The aim is to make education compelling, challenging, and culturally congruent so that increasing numbers of Native American students graduate from high school and go on to college. The school has attracted a lot of buzz in its five-year history.

A key component of every Walatowa student’s educational experience is community service. All students who qualify learn and study abroad. Ninth-grade students spend a week in Washington, DC learning about government and the special role of tribal sovereignty. Sophomores spend one to two weeks in Mexico learning about indigenous peoples. Junior students travel to India for three weeks to learn about the culture and its people. Senior students spend eight weeks in New Zealand and Australia learning about the Maori tribes. While traveling, students reside in the homes of local people, and participate with them in cultural activities. The studies abroad are intended to provide students with a world perspective of how non-native world cultures relate to them and how they solve problems in their communities and cultures. This travel is supported by fundraising and tribal monies.

All students participate in community internships. In the eleventh grade, students conduct in-depth research on one issue of critical importance to Jemez Pueblo, such as health and wellness needs, community infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, the arts, preschool children, etc. In their senior year at WHS, students must determine a series of critical questions, and design and present a PowerPoint presentation to share their understanding of the issues they have researched in relation to the pueblo’s sovereignty and self-determination. They are expected to draw from the knowledge of tribal and world leaders.

Student enrollment has been steadily increasing each year. Walatowa High graduated six senior students in May 2007. These students completed the first four-year cycle at the school, and all of them are currently enrolled in post-secondary education (New Mexico State University, University of Colorado and Central New Mexico Community College). This is a fifty-percent increase in post-secondary enrollment over the 2006 class.

WHS was selected as one of twelve national sites for an early college high school by the Center for Native Education in Seattle. Walatowa partners with the University of New Mexico’s Native American Studies Department so that Native students can earn up to two years of college credit while still in high school. In the 2006-07 school year, this partnership resulted in the ability of eleven WHS students to compete for scholarships for a year-long course to increase the number of Native American students in computer science. This effort involved staff from Boston University funded by the National Science Foundation. The governing board of the school aggressively targets grants and foundation funding to support the goal of increasing the number of Native students who graduate and go on to college.

Presently, the charter high school occupies three new modular buildings that are adjacent to the Community Youth Center. The units are leased with funding assistance provided through the New Mexico Public School Capital Outlay Council. The Youth Center supports basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports, native dancing, and a variety of other leadership activities. The center is flanked by baseball fields, and the magnificent red hills of Jemez Pueblo provide a backdrop for track and field activities. However, a permanent building remains the dream of Principal Tony Archuleta, a veteran New Mexico administrator with thirty-eight years of experience in education. He shared that the tribal council is developing a planning and design proposal to present to the New Mexico legislature for a new high school for Jemez Pueblo. “We need a permanent and appropriate building for these students to excel and meet their educational goals.”

The school staff exceeds the standards for highly qualified teachers in New Mexico. The Assistant Principal/Athletic Director is a Native American who holds a Ph.D. and was a former New York Yankees baseball player. Instructors include a lawyer teaching math, a former college webmaster in charge of technology education and support, a former employee of National Geographic teaching science, a retired University of Oklahoma art teacher, a curriculum coordinator who was a private school educator, and a tenured administrator coordinating Special Education services. Volunteers support science and health instruction. Every teacher serves as a counselor to students. Parents sign a contract agreeing to support their child’s academic achievement and attendance.

Sandoval County Historical Society welcomes Dooley

On February 10 at 2:00 p.m., the Sandoval County Historical Society will meet at the DeLavy House Museum (located off Highway 550 west of Bernalillo between Coronado State Monument and The Star Casino). The scheduled speaker for the meeting is Sunny Dooley, who will discuss the popular Navajo tales called “Diné Blessing Way Stories.” Refreshments will be served. The meeting is free and open to the public. Please note the change for this meeting only, the second Sunday of the month (instead of the first).

Seismosaurus: The longest dinosaur ever discovered

Pat Hester, paleontologist with the Bureau of Land Management, will present a lecture entitled, “Seismosaurus: The Longest Dinosaur Ever Discovered.”

Seismosaurus (frequently called “Sam”) was discovered in the Ojito Wilderness (sixty miles northwest of Albuquerque) by two hikers in 1979, and is estimated to be about 150 million years old. Excavation by paleontologists and volunteers started in 1985 and lasted several years. Parts of what was excavated are now on display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.

As part of the presentation, Ms. Hester will show the short documentary film Earthshakers, which will introduce attendees to paleontological discoveries made in the same area. While the lecture focuses on “Sam,” Ms. Hester’s vast knowledge of paleontology will open the question and answer period to more discussion opportunities.

Sponsored by the Friends of Coronado State Monument, the lecture will be presented at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 24 at the Sandoval County History Society’s DeLavy House, located on Edmond Road in Bernalillo. Take Highway 550, slightly west of Coronado State Monument, and then turn north on the west edge of the Phillips 66 station onto a dirt road (Edmond Road). Follow the road to its end.

Admission is $5 per person and is free to members of the Friends of Coronado State Monument.

For more information, contact Gordon Forbes, Program Chairman at (505) 771-3464 or email

Docent training opens world of information about New Mexico

Are you interested in the history and culture of New Mexico and are eager to learn more? Do you like working with people? Consider becoming a docent at Casa San Ysidro in Corrales. Casa San Ysidro is a reconstructed 19th century New Mexico home which contains Spanish Colonial furniture, authentic hand woven floor coverings, early New Mexico tinwork, santos and much more! Training sessions are on Tuesdays from March 4 to May 27. Call Ouida Anderson at Casa San Ysidro, 898-3915, for more information.

Friends of Monument host jewelry workshop

Friends of Coronado State Monument are offering a jewelry workshop on February 9 at 10:00 a.m. at the DeLavy House, located on Edmond Road in Bernalillo. (From Highway 550, slightly west of Coronado State Monument, turn onto Edmond Road. Follow the road to its end. Signs will be posted).

At this workshop, each participant will make his or her own “treasure” of a single-strand necklace and a pair of French wire earrings similar to those sold in the gift shop at the Monument. (Instruction will be provided to enable participants to make multiple-strand necklaces later if they desire.)

The cost for the workshop is $25 per person and will include all materials needed to make the “treasure” necklace and earrings. Although participants are not limited, in order to ensure adequate materials are available, call Linda Vogel at 821-8432 to make your reservation. Refreshments will be served.

Mormom Battalion Monument

Mormom Battalion Monument near Budaghers

Mormon map

During the U. S. Mormom Battalion March, Mormans went in search of a place to practice their religion.

The Mormon Battalion helped to settle the Southwest


Battered by recurring storms and strong winds, cut off from the rest of the world by the surrounding wilderness, frequented by snakes, scorpions, and coyotes, a twenty-five-foot-tall stone obelisk sits alone and all but forgotten in an isolated field along I-25 near the small village of Budaghers. Known as the Mormon Battalion Monument, this structure exemplifies the strength and courage of the men and women of the Mormon Battalion who, although never engaging in battle or firing a hostile shot, opened transportation routes into California, helped settle the Southwest, played an important role in the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, and left friends and family behind to walk halfway across the continent to defend the United States.

Armed with little more than picks, shovels, and prayer books, a group of 543 men, thirty-four women, and fifty-one children left Council Bluffs, Iowa on July 20, 1846, on an historic nineteen-hundred-mile march to San Diego, California. Known as the Mormon Battalion, these hardy souls had volunteered to fight for the United States in the Mexican War in exchange for assistance during their relocation to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Their lives back home were dismal, so they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Little did they know the pain and suffering they would experience on what would later be deemed the nation’s longest military march.

The Mormon Church, originally known as “The Church of Christ,” was founded by Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York on April 6, 1830. In 1831, the church was moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and in 1832, some Mormons started to settle in Missouri. Because of their unconventional beliefs and practices, the new settlers were ill-received. War broke out between believer and non-believer, eventually leading to the death of Smith in 1844 and the selection of a new leader, Brigham Young, who spearheaded the search for a place where the Mormons could practice their faith in peace. Such a place was in Utah, but to get there, the pilgrims would have to cross Indian country. By late 1845, they were only as far as Iowa.

In January of 1846, Young wrote to President James K. Polk, offering to build houses and stockades along the westward trails in exchange for assistance for his migrant followers. His reply came in June when, following the United States’ declaration of war against Mexico, Captain James Allen rode into the Mormon camp asking for volunteers to fight the Mexicans in California. Young’s answer was quick. “You shall have your men and if we have not enough men, we will furnish you women.” Allen led the group of rag-tag soldiers from Iowa into Kansas where, following his sudden death, Lieutenant A.J. Smith took command.

Most of the Mormons considered Smith a cruel and demanding leader. Complaints about inadequate food, improper medical care, and extraordinarily long forced marches were frequent. Luckily, once the battalion reached Santa Fe, Smith was relieved of duty and replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Phillip St. George Cook who took the Mormon soldiers to their destination.

Upon arriving in San Diego, Colonel Cook paid tribute to the volunteers:

“History may be searched in vain for an equal march of infantry. Half of it has been through wilderness, where nothing but snakes and wild beasts were found, or deserts, where for want of water, there is no living creature. There, with almost hopeless labor, we have dug wells, which the future traveler will enjoy. Without a guide who had traversed them, we have ventured into trackless tableland, where water was not found for several marches. With crowbar and pick and axe in hand we have worked our way over mountains which seemed to defy aught save the wild goat and hewed a pass through a chasm of living rock more narrow than our wagons. To bring these first wagons to the Pacific, we have preserved the strength of our mules by herding them over large tracts, which you have laboriously guarded without loss. Thus, marching half-naked and half-fed and living upon wild animals, we have discovered and made a road of great value to our country.

Following discharge from military service, the soldiers and families of the Mormon Battalion went on to join other pilgrims already in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Over the next twenty-two years, nearly seventy thousand pioneers followed.

Since then, numerous monuments and trail markers have been placed along the route followed by the Mormon Battalion volunteers. The monument at Budaghers, erected in 1940, is of particular interest because of its location. Before the building of Interstate 25, it was placed several miles north of its present location but progress forced it to be moved out of the way. The future of the monument was uncertain until 1997, when a committee of dedicated New Mexican residents arranged to have it moved to its present location near Budaghers.

If you wish to visit this monument, take I-25 north from Bernalillo to the Budaghers exit (number 257) and follow the west frontage road past the old Traditions Marketplace. For more information about the Mormon Battalion and other trail markers, visit





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