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UPDATED: Joe Sando, Pueblo Historian and Writer, Dies at 88

Joe Sando, who became the first Jemez Pueblo member to chronicle life in the tribe as a historian and writer, died Tuesday. He was 88.

He died of natural causes at an assisted living center in Albuquerque, said his publisher and friend, Marcia Keegan.

Sando had been an active member and founder of a number of boards, councils and commissions on Native American issues. He was widely known for his work on Pueblo life, with historians and scholars crediting him for being the first scholar from any of the New Mexico Pueblos to tackle that life from an insider’s point of view.

“He was amazing,” said Tazbah McCullah, a spokeswoman for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, one of the places where Sando had been active. “Every week, he would come in. He was always working on a project.”

Born in 1923 on the reservation about 50 miles north of Albuquerque, Sando grew up speaking only Towa, his tribal language. He joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and began his studies into Native American history upon his return with the help of the G.I. Bill.

After studying at Eastern New Mexico University and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, he taught Pueblo Indian history at a number of institutions, including the University of New Mexico and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

He later served as the director of the Institute of Pueblo Study and Research at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque and was a sought-after lecturer on American Indian issues around the country.

Among his books were “Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History” and “Nee Hemish: A History of Jemez Pueblo.”

Sando later said that he wrote “Pueblo Nations” in response to what he saw as a negative perception of Native Americans.

“A need existed for Indian stories to be written by Indians for Indian school children,” he told a University of New Mexico journalism student in a 2009 interview. “What was out there was uncomplimentary to young Indians.”

The New York Times called it “the first insider’s story of the 800-year history of the 19 pueblos in New Mexico.”

While writing about different aspects of Pueblo life, Sando was resistant to publicly discuss Pueblo religion, which he believed needed to remain private.

His 2008 memoir, “Pueblo Recollections: The Life of Paa Peh,” remains one of just a handful of memoirs by a Native American writer.

Sando was survived by his wife of 61 years, Louisa Barry Sando; a daughter; a son; three granddaughters, and two great-grandsons.

A Mass was scheduled for Sept. 16 at Queen of Angels Indian Chapel.

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Sept. 13, 2011 1:37 p.m.

Russell Contreras / The Associated Press

Joe Sando, a member of the Jemez Pueblo who became the first Pueblo member to chronicle Pueblo life as a historian and writer, has died.

His publisher and friend, Marcia Keegan of Clear Light Publishers, said the 88-year-old died Tuesday of natural causes at an assisted living center in Albuquerque.

Born in 1923, Sando grew up on the Jemez Pueblo before joining the U.S. Navy during World War II. After studying at Eastern New Mexico University and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, he taught Pueblo Indian history.

He later served as the director of the Institute of Pueblo Study and Research at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

Among his books are “Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History” and “Nee Hemish: A History of Jemez Pueblo.”

 

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