Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Although Santa Fe is surrounded by numerous pueblos, the Native Americans living within its midst can sometimes use a bit of cultural refreshment.
That idea is at the heart of the upcoming Indigenous Community Day from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Ragle Park.
“Connecting back to our Native culture is important,” said Caren Gala, director of the Santa Fe Indigenous Center, which is sponsoring the event. “For the urban Natives who live in Santa Fe, there’s sometimes a lack of the cultural connections, so we want to make sure we provide a place to gather, and to celebrate our culture through song and dance.”
The free event, canceled by COVID last year, is open to Native Americans who want to return to their roots, as well as the simply curious who want to learn more about Native culture, Gala said.
Entering its ninth year, “it started off as a picnic with about 30 participants and it’s grown to more than 200 people,” she said. “Of course, we want the Native people to come and enjoy, and celebrate culture. If somebody wants to learn about the culture, they’re welcome, too.”
The afternoon will feature food, music, dancing and booths run by more than 20 nonprofits that offer services to Native communities.
Dancers from the Taos and Ohkay Owingeh pueblos will show off their traditional skills, and noted Ohkay Owningeh caterer Norma Naranjo will put on a traditional northern New Mexico group meal of southwest-style posole, green chile enchiladas, bread pudding and horno bread.
Music spinner Garron Yepa, of Jemez Pueblo, who has been a DJ for more than 20 years under the name of DJ Garronteed, will be delivering background music throughout the event.
“I’m very comfortable playing the music and setting the ambiance,” he said. “I don’t produce music myself, but I play other people’s creations and string it together so it hopefully tells a story, helps people relax and have a good afternoon. That’s my approach.”
Yepa said he tries to reach his audience with music appropriate to the event that has appeal across a broad spectrum of listeners.
“I feel like I can read a room, or a park,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that I can touch all the different age groups at different times, ride the wave. I would steer those tunes to those kinds of audience.”
Noting his roots in the Jemez and Diné communities, Yepa adds, “I’ve played for lots of community events, graduations, quinceañeras, weddings. I kind of just approach it with those hits and misses in my back pocket.”
Guitarist Nelson Alburquenque plays six-string and seven-string guitar music that is very much earth-inspired.
“I play instrumental music, and I see music as poems and poetry, prayers and also poems having to do with land and sky, and connectivity,” he said. “Ethereal. That’s how I would first describe it. Meditation, poetry, but it does come from a source of earth, and wholesomeness and inclusivity.”
He developed the sound while living in Los Angeles for eight years.
“It began with a band and, throughout the years, morphed into this almost symphonic sound where all the strings are in concert with each other in unique tunings,” he said. “I play the guitar like a harp. It’s very unique in its sound and very full.”
Both men said they are looking forward to the chance to do their thing in front of a live audience again.
“The past year and a half, the whole world, particularly people of color and Native communities, have been decimated by COVID,” Alburquenque said. “Everyone has been running with fear and dealing with a lot of anxiety. This is an opportunity to feel healing and community. As a student of the Institute of American Indian Arts, I am looking forward to being a part of that unity and providing people with that type of feeling in my music.”
Live music is a powerful healer, Yepa said, and something that has been missing in the COVID era.
“I’m happy to be asked to do my part,” he said. “These gatherings of people, they like to hear music loud. We miss concerts. We miss human experience and a big bassline. The loudness, it’s a sensory experience.”