So, before I go too far, Porter's mother is Roxanne Swentzell. On top of that, also on the tour was Linda Tafoya, Margaret Tafoya's grand daughter, a famous potter from the Santa Clara pueblo. We had a start time with Porter at Puye at 1pm, and I think we were about an hour's drive from Puye. I digress, oh so quickly... So, we met at the gift shop/base of the Puye Cliff Dwellings. It's a rustic museum, with a few books and cards and so on, along with a museum describing some of the Santa Clara Indian lifestyle and traditions.
First of all, Santa Clara was the name given to the tribe, during the spanish... times? Shall I say. I don't remember the Indian name. I need to look it up. Anyways, Linda was following our gang of 10, and another family of about 6, also on the tour. She seemed to be following at a distance, with clipboard in hand. Other than keeping stragglers from getting too far back, I guessed she was on the job training, and was taking notes as we followed Porter. She was taking the tour with us, her 2nd or 1st time. She was being all studious, with her clipboard, and sticking to the back of our group, at a distance. So, even at that, it didn't take too long before I had to ask her a question or two. It wasn't much longer and we were in full conversation.
Anyways, I felt like I had 3 conversations going at once. Listening to Porter, my family, including my nieces, who were hanging from my arms, and then Linda as well. All three were tremendously fascinating to me, and the only thing that I felt a tiny twinge about, was missing any of it.
Porter is telling us about how, a 100 years ago, a European 'archeologist' discovered the remains of the cliff dwellings. As was relevant at the times, he dug up skeletons from the sites, throwing the remains he wasn't interested in, into a waste pile. These remains were sacred Indian burial grounds. Keeping the bones and remains intact is important. And, well, they were desecrated every way possible. Essentially, this guy, dug up bones, especially skulls to do what turned out to be experiments to study the brain capability of different human races. For example, did Europeans have more brain power than Indians? So, he measured hundreds of Indian skulls, filled them with sand, and low and behold, all the skulls from the same period, have the same size brains. Wow. Shocking news. We are all humans.
Cliff Dwelling Jib Jab
So, along the way, I am talking to Linda, and it turns out, she is a famous potter, and even more so, is her grandmother, Margaret. So, we are talking and she is telling me, she used to run around the ruins just 10 or 15 years ago, with Porter and other friends. They played hide and seek. Right here. It was particularly exciting, hearing the present day stories, while Porter explained what he knew about the traditions, from his parents and family, as well as his college studies. All of it was so, how do I say it? Alive. Relevant. Exciting. The Indian use of the land, and respect for it. The Indian community, the politics. The pueblos. The land for food, hunting and growing crops. Living in the cliffs, and the multi story dwellings on the mesa itself. There seemed to be so much we could learn, and at the same time, it was tough knowing how European civilization impacted these people. On the one hand, they could not recover from the European diseases, but at the same time, we treated them like animals, or worse. Porter was amazing. His descriptions created an image of his heritage, and another of the European impact. He wasn't blaming. Still, it hit like a sledge hammer. Our heritage does not seem to have as much we can learn from.
I felt honored to be in Porter's tour. Hearing him share was such a treat, and adding Linda's commentary was really special too. She showed me a book in the museum, about her mother's pottery. She was in it too. Both carrying the tradition forward. Using the customary techniques, including digging all the clay from the local area. So, while I was learning about Linda's pottery, Porter's mother is also famous. Roxanne Swentzell. I have seen her stuff before. To be honest, I was never really drawn to it, until, meeting Porter, I wanted to see more. So, I think it was the next day, we hit the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, and then the Roxanne Swentzell gallery. I loved both, so much!! Ironically, much for the same reasons!!
Roxanne and Georgia
We went into the Georgia museum just before noon. Still, not too too crowded. It's a wonderful place, and I will say, small in size. Still. It was perfect. I got exactly what I wanted, which was a little background on O'Keeffe. Her life, her style, her thoughts on her work. I also wanted to see Roxanne's work too. I wanted to see where Porter came from. He was so impressive, I knew I would like her now. Well, both were a success. Georgia is a cool cat. She communicated with paint. With her art. I like her quotes and comments around the gallery. Like, I am so curious why people use words to describe. I find color so much more communicative. Another one that had me on my heels. Singing is the most purest form of communication. Since I can't sing, I paint. It is her way of expressing herself.
Then there was Roxanne. She sculps and makes pottery. I think mostly she sculps now. She is a grandmother, maybe 55 years old. She looks like she is 35. I am looking at her sculptures, and the descriptions she has about what they mean to her. Two awesome women. Geez. I was weak in the knees at the power of these two, and their families and all they have done. Every sculpture seemed to be Roxanne, coming from a place of extreme vulnerability, and rather than hiding it, like I might be inclined to do, she sculpted it. She brought it out for public display. Instantly, it drew me in, and I felt bonded with her. Why is that? Well, it was, a super strong communication, her to me. Likewise, G O to me. And my family. It was a day of strong feelings. Who we are. What we are about. What is important. Anyways, it was an awesome day.
Kallie and Uncle Tim
Petroglyphs. See the Spanish/Catholic symbol there? The cross. It was a designation for the Indian children, who were kidnapped before they knew what tribe they were from. On their return, they were called from Santa Clara.
Below is Linda Tafoya
Below is Roxanne Swentzell. Depicting 3 generations, or mother and daughter. I forget which.