Santa Ana Pueblo author shares tales, history of his tribe - Albuquerque Journal

Santa Ana Pueblo author shares tales, history of his tribe

From Peru to New Zealand, from Italy to Japan, Emmett “Shkeme” Garcia has shared his native culture through music, dance and the time-honored tradition of storytelling.

Garcia, 47, a member of Santa Ana Pueblo, grew up during a time when families sat around on long winter nights listening to grandparents tell stories of the tribe’s origin, of ancient heroes and warriors.

“Storytelling was a great way of sharing the oral history of the tribe when there was no written language,” said Garcia.

Shkeme is his nickname in the Santa Ana tribal language, Keresan.

Native American storyteller and author Emmett Garcia of Santa Ana Pueblo holds his children’s books “Sister Rabbit’s Tricks” and “Coyote and the Sky.” (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Native American storyteller and author Emmett Garcia of Santa Ana Pueblo holds his children’s books “Sister Rabbit’s Tricks” and “Coyote and the Sky.” (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The custom of families gathering for storytelling has largely disappeared, he said, as individuals become absorbed into their electronic devices. But Garcia has found ways to keep the stories of tribal history and customs alive and share them with a wider audience.

Garcia is the lead singer and lyricist in the reggae band Native Roots, which has played at venues throughout the U.S., including the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the Sundance Film Festival, and at the Indigenous People’s Conference in New Zealand.

“It’s music that speaks about who we are as modern Native American people; our histories, tragedies, despair and celebrations,” Garcia said. “We figured a good way to share is through writing our music to inspire our people to stay strong and continue with their language, traditions and culture.”

As a singer, he collaborated with Andean musician Tito LaRosa in Peru on the CD “Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle,” which dealt with themes of indigenous peoples in the Americas. He traveled twice to Japan with his dance group Spirit Wind Pueblo Dancers.

Garcia is also the author of two children’s books published by UNM Press and he has also been the storyteller for many years at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort, on Santa Ana tribal land near Bernalillo.

More recently, he began his “Giving Back to the Community” project, telling stories at schools and libraries throughout New Mexico.

“I think storytelling is a way to inspire young people to become storytellers, or to find out more about their ancestors, or maybe to become writers themselves,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s first book “Coyote and the Sky,” published in 2006, is the Santa Ana Pueblo’s story of the beginnings of the stars and the constellations. It’s also a cautionary tale about what happens to Coyote, the troublemaker, who won’t obey instructions.

His second book “Sister Rabbit’s Tricks,” which came out in 2012, is a fable inspired by many pueblo stories that teaches a lesson about jokes that go too far.

Both books are illustrated by East Coast artist Victoria Pringle, whom Garcia met when she was interning as a student teacher at W.D. Carroll Elementary School in Bernalillo.

Pringle is now working on illustrations for Garcia’s third book, “Estuwa,” one of his Indian names that means “arrow.” It is based on Garcia’s encounter with a young boy at the Santa Fe Indian Market who was an enthusiastic gardener.

Garcia met Pringle through a mutual friend, LaDonna Harris, president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit that promotes collaboration among indigenous peoples worldwide to address contemporary issues and challenges. Garcia has traveled internationally as an ambassador for the organization.

He hasn’t secured a publisher for the book yet, but Garcia remains busy with Emergence Productions, the company he runs with his wife, Melissa Sanchez. The company specializes in Native American and indigenous performing arts.

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