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Time to honor Native American history

Most of you know by now that the cities of Albuquerque and El Paso have erected bronze monuments that glorify a violent time in American Southwest History.

Albuquerque’s monument, “La Entrada,” depicts the entrance of Spanish colonists into New Mexico and is placed in front of the Albuquerque Museum of Art in Old Town.

Likewise, reportedly the world’s largest equestrian bronze statue is approximately three stories high and was dedicated on April 21, 2007, at the El Paso International Airport, under protest from Indian rights groups against honoring a genocidal conquistador, Don Juan de Oñate Salazar.

The legacy of controversy continues to challenge the Spanish archives in written accounts of bloody brutality. Who has the right to justify murder?


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The momentous events of 2005 and 2007 are all but gone and forgotten. Millions of tax dollars were used to fund these projects. The Santa Fe Finance Committee voted to replace the word “celebration” with “commemoration” as a way to describe the city’s 400th birthday. The event was billed as an “intriguing experience” that had a national and international audience, including King Juan Carlos of Spain.

We have not heard of any monuments honoring the survival of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos. The Tigua Nation of Isleta del Sur in El Paso is the 20th member of the All Indian Pueblo Council of Governors (formerly the All Indian Pueblo Council.) Spanish archives indicate there were 99 Indian pueblos in New Mexico. Eighty of the pueblos were destroyed and never repopulated. There was a 90 percent decrease in population within a period of only 20 years.

If you travel north from Bernalillo on Highway 313 to the Santa Ana Pueblo (Tamaya), you will see a monument of contemporary art depicting the kiva. Begun in 2003 on tribal lands, this kiva is formed of adobe, concrete and cement.

No tax dollars were used to fund this project, which is yet to be completed. This monument of earth, sky and spirit will not have a great fanfare of dignitaries and kings, nor will it cost the taxpayers.

On this past anniversary of Santa Fe we celebrate the continuance of Pueblo life and pay a silent tribute to the kiva’s sacredness. This is a time for change! A day of recognition and cultural identity. It is ironic that the purpose of colonization was to defeat and change the pueblo people.

Our religion practiced for thousands of years was banned as paganism. Catholicism, patron saint days, Spanish surnames and civil government were forced on the pueblo people. The name changes were not done to honor the Spanish, as some mistakenly believe. Most still use the Spanish surnames – Cristobal, Gallegos, Garcia, Montoya and so on. These names rightfully belong to the Spanish-speaking descendants. We still have Indian names.

The effects of this historic trauma are evident today by the secrecy in which our religion is practiced. It is significant to acknowledge that after more than four centuries of resistance, our pueblo religious beliefs are still strong and vibrant. The pueblo languages are still spoken. The sacred kivas are still intact.

May this monument of earth, even in its symbolism, be a reminder that we pueblo people are still here! This is our legacy worth acknowledging, the Keres, Walatowa, Tiwa, Tewa, Zuni and the Hopi.

In 2001, San Juan Pueblo officially changed its name to “Ohkay Owingeh.” Santo Domingo Pueblo also returned to its Indian name, “Kewa.” These name changes symbolize hope that will raise the conscience of other pueblos to follow their example.

Demand is raised that the school books and official literature recounting the history of New Mexico be revised to credit the remarkable resistance of the Indian people.

Manu RainBird is an elder member of the New Mexico Indian Council on Aging. This is his personal opinion.