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  The Gauntlet
c. Greg Leichner

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Horses and riders from Santa Ana Pueblo cool down in the Rio Grande bosque

Amid celebration, remember Pueblo survival

—Manuel R. Cristobal, Councilman of the Santa Ana Pueblo (Tamaya)

Ammu Hanu,” she starts by speaking in Keres. “With sorrow as old as war.” Warriors, women, and children were massacred and died here.

Eighty-eight-year-old Lolita Peña Christobal of Santa Ana Pueblo (Tamaya) is speaking of atrocities committed by the conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540. Lolita’s knowledge comes from oral history passed down from her father, Manuel Peña, who served as Pueblo Cacique in 1920. The term “Cacique” is Spanish meaning “Indian chief in the West Indies and Latin America.”

Lolita is my mother. She holds a highly respected position in today’s male-dominated pueblo society.

Lolita continues, “Many of our men uphold the Spanish mindset, especially when it comes to having control or power over women. Ideally, there was no selfishness, only generosity. It wasn’t about how much I could get for myself, rather, it was about how much I can give to the people.”

Because of the Elders’ remarkable accomplishments, the Tamaya people have remained strong in identity and spiritual beliefs. Most importantly, the Keres native language continues to be spoken. Today the twenty indigenous pueblos remain intact to tell their view of this horrific destruction of Life (The Tigua nation in El Paso, Texas, is the twentieth member of the nineteen Indian Pueblo council).

It must be acknowledged; our voices must be heard.

Coronado, in 1540, established his army headquarters at the ancient pueblo of “Ghufoor.” It was there that Coronado launched his first winter attacks against the Tiwa, along the Rio Grande River to begin the Tiquex war. The bloody victory at Arenal took place in December of 1540. Pueblo Indians, who thought they had been promised amnesty for surrendering, were tied to stakes and burned alive. Between eighty and two hundred Pueblo Indians died.

Spanish historical accounts also reveal in the bitter winter of 1540, an epic battle at the village of “Moho,” near present-day Albuquerque, in which the Pueblo people refused to surrender to the Spaniards. Coronado himself led the attack. The Pueblo people attempted a last desperate escape at night. The Spaniards slaughtered them all. A tragic pattern of deceit had been set in motion along the Rio Grande River.

Coronado’s search for the fabled seven cities of Cibola, in 1540, was based upon greed for gold, bloodshed, and genocide.

We pray for justice and that these acts of terrorism will remind the world of such violence in New Mexico’s colonial history.

The Ancient Tiwa pueblo people—originally of Ghufoor—are evidenced today by a mound on Bernalillo’s west side of the Rio Grande River.

The Spanish altered its name to Coofor (also Alcanfor) and later to Santiago. Currently, a housing development is on the site. Numerous settlements recount our people’s existence and migration. Paakú was on the eastern slopes of the Sandia Mountains, later known as the Tijeras and San Antonio sites. Santa Ana Pueblo migrated from Paakú to lands adjacent to the Rio Grande River, settling in six or more villages from Albuquerque to (Angostura) Algodones. One such village, “Buraikana,” the butterfly, was north of Bernalillo on the west bank of the Rio Grande River, and is also considered an ancestral home of the Hanu (the people) of Santa Ana Pueblo.

Another village, Kwiiste Haa Tamaya, was on the left bank of the Jemez River, near present-day Zia Pueblo.

Today, we continue to live at Tamaya (old village) just west of the Rio Grande River. This site was occupied in 1690 with a population of ninety survivors. When Juan de Oñate colonized New Mexico in 1598, the area around Bernalillo was prime farmlands, and Spanish settlers began forcing the Hanu (the people) off their ancestral lands. A testament to our survival is evident today by an official scenic historical marker at the entrance to Tamaya, which documents only a footnote of history. It is not worthy of our survival. Spanish archives indicate there were 99 Indian pueblos in New Mexico. Eighty of the pueblos were destroyed and never again repopulated. There was a ninety-percent decrease in population within a period of only twenty years. What a travesty!

A papal bull of Pope Alexander VI (the Doctrine of Discovery) granted the Indies to the Kings of Castile through a form of Colonial Land Policy of Mercedes, whereby Spain took possession of indigenous lands. In English, these are called the Spanish Land Grants. Whose land was it that Spain was granting so freely to Spanish settlers? It was Indian land, stolen indigenous land!

In 1709, and continuing through the eighteenth century, Santa Ana (Tamaya) successfully began buying its former lands back from the Spaniards who had settled on them after the reconquest.

Documents relating to Santa Ana’s land purchases are in the official records of the Spanish archives of New Mexico. The pueblos’ 15,000-acre Spanish Land Grant, and additional land purchased, brought the reservation to its present size of about 79,000 acres. The 2000 Census totals 700 Santa Ana members.

Our ancestors made sacrifices so we might retain what little land we now hold. Now it is our responsibility to carry on that struggle to protect our sacred lands from encroachment of the outside world.

Is it possible to be proud of our oral histories today? Can we honor our ancestors’ reverence for the sacred land and people? Oral history has its merit among indigenous people, since time immemorial, long before any Spanish chroniclers’ written accounts.

We shall endure as Hanu (the people) as the Creator intended for us in the contemporary time. The Santa Ana (Keresan) speaking people include Zia, Cochiti, San Felipe, Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo), Acoma, and Laguna Pueblos.

Today we honor our elders. We are deeply indebted for much that is known today, since the Hanu accounts for the oral history of the people, which had come to them in oral form.

As pueblo people, we must secure our inherent rights to speak the truth without fear of intimidation and retaliation for speaking out. It is time to speak the truth and decolonize our pueblo minds.

The opinions expressed in this commentary do not represent the Santa Ana Tribal Council or the All-Indian Pueblo Council.

re: Nudity 101

I am house-sitting on an isolated ridge on the outskirts of Placitas, New Mexico: one dog, one cat, 100 house plants, 50 lizards running wild outside, along the flagstone paths and up the stucco walls. At 3:00 p.m. it is 95 degrees. This place would make a great nudist camp.

I sent my 'Nudity 101' inquiry to a dozen friends. I am curious about other people's relationship with nudity. I asked, "Describe the last time, or any time, you spent at least eight waking hours totally naked."

In Montana in 1979 I went to a party at a hot springs lodge where, from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., all forty guests were totally naked, swimming, dancing, imbibing, conversing. In 1980, at a weekend workshop held in at a mountain campground above Santa Cruz, I joined a group of forty people and danced naked to wild African drum music: Dynamic Meditation.

The easiest place to spend eight straight hours naked is a nudist camp. Thanks to the Sixties, I've never needed a nudist camp.

At an early age I felt the tingle of nudity. To me, nudity is erotic, a pleasure. It works alone, or with others. On any given summer day it might be just me, alone and naked at the cabin in Montana, and that weekend it's six of us skinny dipping in the Blackfoot River.

Letting-it-all-hang-out (pure nudity), in this society, is a learned skill. When I was 24, I visited Portsmouth, Ohio, my hometown. The state of Ohio had shut down and the authorities had closed all of the state parks. On a hot summer day I drove ten miles west to a childhood memory, Roosevelt Lake. I drove around the barriers and walked to a place on a clear feeder creek with a small waterfall and a pool. There was nobody around. I used to catch bluegill there. I took off all my clothes. I sat on a boulder with my feet in the water.

[Barb H.] "I've always been jealous of anyone who so casually could let it all hang out. With the exception of my two husbands, I was never comfortable with full exposure. That said, I've always slept naked, but never without a sheet.

"In my first college drawing class, we had a beautiful young model. She disrobed and I thought I would die of embarrassment. She was more at home in her nakedness than I was in my clothing.

"I think the ultimate example of the human desire for freedom from clothing is witnessed with all babies. They love being naked. They gleefully rip off their clothing at every chance."

[Suzy W.] "My parents, aunts and uncles all skinny-dipped at my grandfather's lake house, always at night. When we, the kids and cousins, could be trusted as swimmers, one or another of the grownups might take us skinny-dipping, one at a time or as a group. As we grew up, the boys and girls went separately, and later without an adult chaperone. As teens, still segregated by gender, it became a game: catch the other group skinny dipping, and steal their clothes. Once into our twenties, and thanks in part to the Sixties, skinny- dipping was once again co-ed. "Growing up, modesty was observed in every other facet of life, but skinny-dipping always got a free pass. Because it's the best!"

[Leslie G.] "I have always loved skinny dipping. There is nothing like the sensual feel of water flowing over one's skin. One of my favorite vacations was the trip to St. Martin, with our friends Hank and Nancy, to a secluded hilltop villa with an infinity-edge pool that had a 180-degree view of the Caribbean. We spent many hours lounging in and around the pool completely naked. It was heaven.

"I, too, sleep naked and have done so since I was a freshman in college. I think it freaked out my roommate, but that was her problem, not mine. I love to lie in bed at night with the windows open and no covers on and feel the soft summer breezes caress my skin. Kudos to nakedness!"

—Greg Leichner, Placitas

re: Mousy moments in the Old West

Dear Friends Back East,

I’m glad you fellows had a safe return to Planet Asphalt and found all in order, including pavement temperatures below triple digits. And I’m very pleased you enjoyed your visit to New Mexico and left feeling, in your words, “…rather less citified”. Clearly, your terrific new cowhide vests and nine pound squash blossom necklaces enhanced those positive feelings, as did your roadrunner engraved turquoise and yellow boots—a color combo similar to my license plate. All great souvenirs with which to wow your subterranean fellow travelers on the Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line!

Mighty Patrick the Cat and I do, however, regret the 3:30 a.m. incident in the guest quarters when the small deer mouse plummeted from an overhead roof support (viga) striking one of you good people directly between your sleepy eyes. I owe you an explanation for how this could possibly happen in my otherwise presentable home. 

For one thing—and I don’t want to appear defensive—but rodents are generally more surefooted than this specimen. So, I suspect he or she suffered from a form of vertigo perhaps caused by an inner ear infection. Or, it may simply have been age-related dizziness like you and I occasionally suffer. Then, on the other hand, the little creature possibly had a brain tumor, which was slowly destroying his/her sense of balance.  He could also have been dehydrated. Perhaps a fear of heights—acrophobia—combined with the appallingly odious, jarringly discordant sounds of your snoring drove the mouse mad, precipitating his disastrous fall. 

Or, I suppose, he may have simply tripped over a protruding imperfection in the log beam while dreamily concentrating his little mouse thoughts on a nice chunk of Havarti.

Apparently his impact with human facial bone produced some sort of orthopedic injury, e.g. perhaps a dislocated hip. I suspect it was such an injury that prevented the rodent from successfully gaining suitable cover, thereby avoiding the crushing impact of “Grant’s Memoirs” which you used to deliver a mortal blow to the tiny beast.

Had Mighty Patrick, our Director of Security, not been occupied in the laundry room with his litter box, he might have been able to render assistance such as would have spared you the need to hurl “ Memoirs” like a football, tearing the dust jacket. I also sense a bit of frustration on Patrick’s part, as he seldom gets to practice his homicidal leanings in his retired years and would have appreciated a chance to resurrect this virulent nature for your benefit. But it all ended well. You were more merciful and also have an exciting western tale to share with your fellow urbanites. 

So, thank you again for your visit and great company! Ole!

Your Friend, —Herb

Many areas touched by Las Conchas Fire still off limits as we face increasing unjustifiable restrictions

—Dave Menicucci, Hunting and Fishing Guide

2011 will be remembered for its infamous records involving cold, drought, heat, and fire. For most people, the worst is over.

Unfortunately, that does not apply to citizens with interests in accessing their public forest lands that were damaged in the Las Conchas Fire. The U.S. Forest Service has closed the area to all access, even hikers.

The closure has damaged businesses, such as lodges and outfitters, disrupted big game hunts and irritated citizens—and there is no end in sight. The USFS has posted no schedule for reopening the forest.

Some people surmise a June 2012 opening, which if true would quash skiing, snowshoeing, spring fishing, and turkey hunting in prime mountain country.

Based on press accounts, one might conclude that these closures are justified to protect the public. But the facts are not supportive. As reported in the Albuquerque Journal by John Fleck on September 6, the fire severely charred only nineteen percent of the forest. A majority of the land was either lightly affected or untouched.

What’s more, neighboring public lands that were impacted by the fire have lifted most restrictions. Bandelier National Monument is virtually open. Dennis Trujillo, the executive director of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, said that there “is no justification to restrict public access to certain portions of the burned areas on the preserve,” adding that “the elk and turkey hunts are on schedule.”

With a modicum of cooperation, the USFS could open the Jemez forest lands to pedestrian and vehicular access to lightly damaged areas. Yet this agency remains intransigent, citing vague threats to the public and unable to produce any substantiating hazard analysis or listing any criteria for reopening.

To anyone who has followed the evolution of events in the National Forests over the years, these recent actions by the USFS are consistent with a troubling propensity to restrict citizens’ access to their public land. Twenty-five years ago, the National Forests were bastions of freedom. Forest roads were unrestricted. These lands were replete with natural wonders and peril. There was no interest or need for a federal bureaucracy to mitigate the hazards therein because they were a desirable part of the outdoor experience.

Today, the National Forests resemble gated, private communities with locks on nearly every road that mysteriously open and close at the whim of federal key masters. Most forests are fenced, and roads are sometimes permanently closed without public input. Closures for various reasons have become routine.

Certainly a burgeoning population produces increasing numbers of visitors to the forest, and some controls are needed to protect natural resources, especially regarding logging and mineral extraction, and to deal with emergencies, such as drought. The issue is whether the controls are proportional to the need and if those controls are fair.

The evidence is not accommodating. Forest land closures damage businesses that depend on public land access and harm the economies of adjacent communities. Road closures effectively constrain seniors, disabled folks and families with small children from enjoying some areas of the forest because these groups depend on vehicular access.

One proposal in the USFS’ Travel Management Plan calls for the closure of over sixty percent of roads in the Santa Fe National Forest. Some of these roads are redundant and should be closed, but others are currently the only ones leading to beautiful recreational sites.

Seniors, a rapidly growing group comprising twelve percent of the population, are particularly aggrieved because they have proportionally paid more federal taxes than other segments of society, and they deserve equal access to their land.

It is an American sensibility that public lands should be accessible without unreasonable constraints from a Washington-based bureaucracy. The closure of the Las Conchas fire area is an example of an unreasonable constraint.

As concern for federal governmental excess has come to the fore, it may be time for the U.S. Congress to review the USFS for possible reorganization, downsizing, and reorientation.

Dave Menicucci owns a bed and breakfast in Los Alamos that caters to senior citizens.





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