SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s said that “it takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.”
With this premise in mind, the voices of strong tribal women mingle and lead us through the history of Spanish, Mexican and United States invasions of the American Southwest.
Past the era of boarding schools, the reaffirmation of the beauty, strength and vigor sustains the culture and languages of New Mexican tribes today.
The feature film “A Thousand Voices” focuses on women who carry forth the collective memory, traditions and beliefs of their ancestral families, clans and tribal communities.
Each woman, though not speaking for her tribe, tells a story deeply rooted to her culture. It will air at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, on New Mexico PBS channel 5.1.
Veronica Tiller is an author and an historian who participated in the film. She is Jicarilla Apache and was asked to be involved in the planning of the film.
“This topic is very important,” she says. “Getting the stories about Native women and their role in society is the main focus. I think this film is trying to correct the stereotypes that we’ve had to live with all these centuries.”
Tiller provided the historical thread to the film. As an historian, she enjoys being one of the persons who preserves the story of the tribes.
“It’s been part of my life since I was a child,” she says. “It not only gives us the power and the enlightenment, it gets us closer to the truth.”
Matthew Martinez served at a co-producer on the project. He is the grandson of Esther Martinez, who was a linguist and storyteller for the Tewa people of New Mexico who died in 2006.
He says the film is about Native women who have chosen lifestyles carrying them into modern life and different arenas, from writing poetry about the ordinary lives of Native people to running a construction company that remodels traditional homes at a pueblo.
He says it shatters stereotypes and features interviews with women from the Navajo Nation, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Kiowa Tribe, Pueblo de Cochiti, Ohkay Owingeh and the pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, Jemez, Kewa, Pojoaque, Santa Clara, Taos, Nambe and San Ildefonso.
“I wanted to get involved because it’s important to tell these stories,” Martinez says. “We want to educate students by telling the stories of life and its struggles.”
Martinez and crew worked on the film for about a year. The crew researched and found archival photographs and footage, and set up interviews with community leaders.
“We had a lot of support from the start,” he says. “In our previous project ‘Canes of Power’ we noticed there weren’t many women’s voices in it. So we wanted to do this project and then it snowballed from there.”
Martinez says as people began to get word of the project, they wanted to help out. He says it was overwhelming at first, but eventually everyone found a place.
“It’s crucial to tell the stories, and education is a lifelong process,” he says. “I don’t think a lot of people realize the rich culture and history that is around us in this state. I’d like to get this film into the schools. That’s one of the goals of Silver Bullet (Productions), which helmed the project.”
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