The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

Community Profile

Arnold Herrera, a Cochiti Pueblo child

Beth Wojahn

Sandoval Signpost - Arnold HerreraWe've all done it at least once. We've driven from

Albuquerque to Santa Fe and back, seeing the sights in between. Some people not only see the sights, but they feel a connection. Arnold Herrera is one of those people.

For Herrera, the connection comes from growing up in Cochiti, for he is a "pueblo child." The survival of Cochiti Pueblo and the changes Herrera has seen in his lifetime is a topic he presents for the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities. And you can tell he loves the subject.

The sixty-two-year-old, who says he likes to reverse the numbers to make it twenty-six, left the reservation at thirteen to attend Santa Fe Indian School. Herrera went on to Haskell, an Indian school in Kansas, and was soon drafted in the Army. He studied business and psychology at New Mexico Highlands. "All during those different times that I've been gone, I needed to come back to the village for my ceremonial needs," Herrera said. "We all have basic needs we like to come back to."

So how has Cochiti Pueblo survived all these years? Herrera's short answer is simple: like most cultures, Native Americans from Cochiti Pueblo have been flexible and have been able to change over time.

Herrera’s longer explanation begins with tradition. Ceremonial needs are rooted in tradition. For Herrera, tradition is like a very fragile thread that runs through the whole community. "It doesn't matter whether you're living there in the pueblo or you live elsewhere," he says.

Herrera says that tradition is why his family and others travel across the country for their annual feast day on July 14. He explains that "to me, it's like a balm, when you're hurting someplace and you need to put on something so you don't ache anymore. That's like the balm so you don't hurt anymore—to heal the soul."

During the festivities, singing and dancing are a big part of Cochiti culture. Herrera has been told these are ways of acknowledging a greater power, and they are deeply rooted in their religion. He says it's like creating a channel and it's a form of prayer. "When we're dancing out in the pueblo, we're dancing for all of creation," he said, smiling. "If you can do it with a good heart and joy and be out there without any reservations, then the spirit world, those who have gone already, have that opportunity to come back through you."

Certainly Herrera's ancestors are a part of him. It's evident as he talks about growing up in Cochiti and how it's changed over time. Young Herrera experienced firsthand that it took a village to raise a child. Herrera explains that when he was growing up, children were the center of their society and it was everyone's responsibility to help get them onto the right path. "Anybody that was older than I—my grandparents, my aunt, uncles, and non-relatives—they all had a right, especially if I went out of line, to say ‘Hey, what you're doing is not right.’"

"Now," he says, "things are very different. It's like every man for himself." The focus isn't so much the child but just getting by and making ends meet. Herrera says he knows today's economy is why both parents have to work. “People today want a lot of material things," he said. “The village used to be able to survive off the land. We used to grow vegetables. Corn, chili. . . you name it. And the community harvested all of the fields. We had a willingness to give up oneself for the good of the group."

Back then, a greater emphasis was placed on mentors. Herrera happened to be good with his hands, and his dad, the late Santiago "Jim" Herrera, was a drum maker and became his mentor. Herrera is now a drum maker and silversmith and is passing on tradition and knowledge to his three sons.

That's not the only job he's passionate about.

Herrera works for the Institute for American Indian Arts where he "passes on culture." He works with Santa Fe Indian School and surrounding pueblos doing outreach. He teaches Native American youth how to improve their leadership capabilities, self-esteem, crafts, and anything else they need to know. As fun as it sounds, it's still a lot of work, especially when it comes to language.

The most drastic change Herrera sees when he visits the village is the loss of language. Herrera grew up speaking Cochiti Keresan and understands at least five other dialects. This isn't the case for younger generations, and it scares Herrera. "Our language is not written. We have to pass it on ourselves."

So how has Cochiti Pueblo survived over the years? The pueblo elders have the answer, which they call real community effort, cooperation, and an attitude of putting group survival before oneself. The village projects a magnetic pull so one doesn't have to be in the village of Cochiti, or driving by it on his way to other locations, to feel the connection to his land and people.

"My mom used to ask me when I was a young boy, ‘Who are you?’ and I would always answer, "I am a Cochiti Pueblo child," and would add my clan and Indian name, all in Cochiti Keresan. These were the times when we spoke only our native language.


In Memory of Doug Miller


    I think I’ll grow my mustache long again

    Just for this change of season

    Only you would wear shorts and flops

    In the dead of winter

    A leather jacket to balance things out

    Fashion    is    so personal

    These things I remember


    Your sisters kept a warm eye out for you

    Sisters are great that way

    I know

    When you and Judy were married

    In a toast, you said

    “I feel like we have been married a long time”

    I thought I knew what you meant

    Everyone laughed

    Misunderstood    again


    The scaffold was stacked three high

    To reach the top of that dome

    We thought that shape would help

       change this world

    But they always leaked

    Holes in our imagination


    Three of us went crawdadding

    Puddles in a dry river bed

    Dinner was   great

    I never thought to go alone

    Have not been since

    Karen-Louise and that


    It seemed like an especially

       good time

    In your life

    I hope so

Piers Ramsay


Sandoval Signpost - Doug Miller - 1949-2002

(Left) Doug Miller (1949—2002)

“For the old friends, Doug was a gift, a unique, spirited presence in our lives over the years. For us, the sparkle in his eye has now become a star in the night sky and a reflection from the candle’s flame forever.

We’ll miss you, Doug, but we trust you will get the heavenly banquet started for us. “Rest in peace” was never your style. We’ll see you at the celestial party for eternal good times, each of us in our due time. Until then, we’ll never forget you.”

—With love from your old friends in Illinois, Missouri, California, and beyond . . .


Outcomes, Inc., to host workshop

A two-part seminar will be conducted by Drs. Dom DiMattia and Robert Fried, both experts in stress and anxiety management, on November 8 at UNM’s Continuing Education Building, 1634 University Boulevard NE. Participants will learn the ABCs of stress management using rational-emotive behavioral techniques to search out, and dispute, the rigid thoughts that are often at the root of stress and anxiety. The seminar will also teach counter-stress relaxation techniques centered on simple yogic breathing coupled with guided imagery.

Registration is $80 per person, $70 per person in groups of three or more from the same organization. The deadline to register is November 1. Late registration fees are charged. To register, call Outcomes Inc., 243-2551, or visit them at



[Front Page] [Up Front] [Community Profile] [Elections] [Dark Skies] [Fire & Rescue] [Gardening] [The Poll Page] [Uncle Duffy] [Time Off] [Featured Artist] [Around Town] [Calendar] [Eco-Beat] [Business] [The Gauntlet] [Community Links] [Sandoval Arts] [Senior News] [Animal Hotline] [Schoolbag] [Back Issues] [Ad Rates] [Contact Us]