Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Real People

Austin Van

Austin Van wins statewide talent championship

—Signpost Staff

Drop by Los Ojos Bar and Restaurant in Jemez Springs most Friday nights and you will probably see a performance by Austin Van and the Rattlers. They have quite a following of local country western fans who dance to guitarist and lead singer Austin VanLandingham’s wide selection of country hits by artists like Johnny Cash, George Straight, Elvis Pressley, as well as some of his own original tunes.

“He’s like a young Johnny Cash in appearance and musical style,” said Placitan John Knight who stopped into Los Ojos in October. “He’s got that classic country sound, but with a modern twist.”

Austin knows a lot of drinking songs for a senior at Jemez High School—his mother Vivian Vanlandingham of Ponderosa, New Mexico, says he’s been learning them since he got his first guitar at age seven.

Austin will probably have moved on to a bigger stage by the time he’s old enough to order a beer, if his recent success is any indication. This past June, he won the Future Farmers of America’s (FFA) statewide talent championship at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

In celebration, his supporters held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for him on October 17 at the American Legion Post in Jemez Springs. The proceeds from the dinner will help the rising star pay his way to Louisville, Kentucky, on October 31, 2015, where Austin will be on a national stage, representing all of New Mexico, competing for the National FFA Talent Competition title.

You can follow Austin and his band’s endeavors by visiting Austin Van & The Rattlers on Facebook.

Youth efforts make a difference

—Barbara Johnson, Executive Director, Rio Puerco Alliance

Ojo Encino youth were busy this summer completing a variety of low-tech erosion projects as part of the Rio Puerco Alliance’s (RPA) Navajo Summer Youth Project, maintaining and shoring up one-rock dams and other erosion-control structures. The participants completed a description after their work was complete, reporting, “This year was a great year. We learned a lot of new things. We had a lot of fun. It was a great experience.”

The RPA has worked on various types of restoration projects to positively impact the watershed. One of its most successful has been its Navajo Summer Youth Project. This provides training, supervision, and youth salaries for students at Eastern Navajo chapters, most notably Ojo Encino and Torreon, with students also coming from Counselor, Pueblo Pintado, and White Horse Lake. Students construct and maintain water harvesting and erosion-control structures. Students from earlier programs have gone on to college and then have become supervisors and trainers during their summer vacations.

The Rio Puerco Management Committee and the RPA have been working for over twelve years with the Eastern Navajo Chapters to maintain and fund a summer program during which at least twelve students work for eight weeks on erosion control and other water-harvesting projects. This program has had remarkable success in a number of areas. It has kept a high proportion of Navajo youth—who have one of the highest unemployment rates in the state—employed during the summer. It has taught the participants about their watershed and instilled in them an interest in further education about watershed issues, among other things.

Over the course of the twelve years, students have installed over two-thousand structures—one-rock dams, media lunas, headcut control structures, and Zuni Bowls. The USGS has monitored the success of these structures and discovered that areas treated with them retain sixty to 66 percent more sediment than untreated areas. In other words, these low-cost projects, using only Navajo youth and rocks, have a significant, measurable effect controlling erosion and improving water quality.

For more information about the Rio Puerco Alliance and its projects, visit

US Forest Service releases interactive tribal connections map

The U.S. Forest Service has released “Tribal Connections,” a new, online, interactive mapping tool that shows how lands managed by the agency connect or overlap with current tribal trust lands and lands tribes exchanged with the federal government prior to 1900. This reference tool will help Forest Service employees and the public better understand historical treaties and the role they play in making current land management decisions.

“Our country has a deep, yet sometimes forgotten connection to indigenous people and their lands, which all Americans now call home,” said Arthur “Butch” Blazer, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “By showing historical and modern connections to public lands in one place, we can all understand that land management decisions should take into account more than what meets the eye.”

Clicking on the map provides additional current and historical detail for each location. Having this information easily available in one online resource will improve the efficiency of agency-tribal coordination, collaboration, and consultation. Tribal Connections can serve as a helpful reference tool, however, it is not a legally binding map nor a source for legal descriptions.

“Tribes are an integral part of our American story, leaders in our natural resource heritage and the original stewards of the lands we hold dear,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Tribal Connections helps improve agency collaboration with Tribes and allow for new opportunities by visually depicting just how much of our natural and cultural resource interests overlap and meet geographically.”

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