Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez
New Mexico historian Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez discusses the complexity of defining place.
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NEW MEXICO HISTORIAN DR. ESTEVAN RAEL-GALVEZ
DISCUSSES THE COMPLEXITY OF DEFINING PLACE.
WITH AN ABIDING LOVE OF THE AMERICAN WEST,
HISTORIAN PAUL HUTTON REVEALS HOW THE
INTERTWINED LIVES OF SEVEN CHARACTERS TELL AN EPIC TALE.
FANCIFUL SHAWL DANCER TERESA MELENDEZ CREATES
ELABORATE REGALIA FOR CEREMONIES AND POWWOWS.
AN IMMERSIVE, TECHNOLOGICAL WONDER,
NATURA OBSCURA INSPIRES EXPLORATION AND DISCOVERY.
IT'S ALL AHEAD ON COLORES!
STORIES OF PLACE.
So when last time we were talking we were talking
about how stories define a place?
I, you know I I think of place I I I think it was
Aristotle who wrote that that place was the first
of all beings and here is uh, Western thinker, uh a
classical thinker who actually helped us
understand that place is animated its animated by
the people that live there but it's also a living
ecosystem right I so as I grew up in in the villages
of Costilla and Cuesta working with animals uh, I
was, my dad is a sheep herder, was.
And an and also irrigating.
So, place is alive literally water, sheep and
and so everything on it in it and it morphs and so I
I think of all of those things everything from
Western writer to irrigating in a place like
Costilla, New Mexico and why that matters as we
think about our place in the world, right?
How do stories fit into that location or placing
ourselves in the world?
May I pick up my computer and and talk as I move
along the way here?
We are going into my house, this is my commute,
uhh but actually flip it around if you want and
this is my adorable Frenchy, that's "Little T,"
as I call him and...
This is my house.
And I'm gonna tell you a story oops.
I I I wanna, is this this okay?
This is great!
I as I think of the individual stories I'm
actually writing my book right now about slavery
and I've chosen to tell the story through
particular individuals, individuals like my
ancestor who wove this this blanket behind me and
by telling her story I'm actually able to reflect
about the place that sh- or even if I'm imagining
it, the the place that she might have lived in with
her DinÃ© Navajo family and even though at some point
in her childhood she was displaced from there, she
ended up living the rest of her life even Abiquiu.
So I think about the place that she might have lived
on the Navajo Nation with her community, then I
think about how Abiquiu shaped her adult life and
I think about how her children ended up moving to Questa.
So these three places actually become really
definitive in our in in reflecting our experiences
that reflects her experience as a woman as
as us, as an enslaved woman but it also reflects
the the stories of her children and her
grandchildren and her descendants, like me.
That is so amazing that you have that, that weaving!
I know, in many ways it inspired my lifelong work
in terms of recovering the stories of marginal
people, of of indigenous people, particularly women
and children of this entire region who were
captured and enslaved and who became our ancestors.
So this is and in a in many ways it started with
stories like this.
Another great grandmother, my grandmother Dulcinea,
every time I visited her in Pueblo, Colorado she
told the same story of her ancestor who was a
Pananaw, a Pawnee and these stories that were
sort of imbued in me as a, as a child became the
inspiration for my lifelong work around this subject.
What is the challenge keeping stories like this alive?
A friend of mine, Arsenio Cordoba, who was from El Prado
said we died three deaths.
The first is when we breathe our last breath,
the second is when we're buried, and the third is
when we um, when we whisper someone's name for
the last time across time and so for me the
challenge is remembering their names, remembering
their stories and so I often, I I remember when I
was uh, the state historian, I would go into
the archive it was an unimaginable experience to
just open that vault and I, it's like I heard all
of the stories crying out "pick me pick me" and I I
loved just opening up those books opening up
those files and finding these wonderful stories
and trying to remember them, the challenge is
trying to tell them complete, whole.
Of all these stories what are the stories for you
that really matter?
The most important stories are those that haven't been told.
Umm those that are marginalized I I just
mentioned the archive I would go in there, those
documents were mostly written by by clerics, by
governors, by by men, they weren't written by
children, they weren't written by women, they
weren't written by the indigenous or the poor and
so for me I dedicated my life to recovering those
stories even if it's just by finding their name and
figuring out a way to reimagine those stories
and tell those stories more complete.
And could those stories give us a better
understanding of who we are do you think?
Absolutely, I, you know as as we think about, as we
think about what stories have been told um, it
gives us only a glimpse at one aspect of who we are
when we find the story of that child who survived
the Spanish flu or we find the story of of the woman
who lived till she was over a hundred years old
umm and surviving slavery and captivity and slavery,
that story tells us more about who we are than the
stories that get imagined by by so many people uh,
reflecting about this.
What is your approach to keeping those stories alive?
I, my grandmother told me that the best storytellers
are those who learn how to listen.
So I have spent my life as a storyteller um, entering
into the villages, sitting down with elders,
understanding that that memory actually survives
into multiple generations and so I think that the
greatest challenges particularly now is taking
the time to sit down at a table like this, breaking
bread and listening to one another.
Every story is worth remembering.
SEVEN ICONIC CHARACTERS.
Welcome to Colores we are here with historian
Paul Hutton, welcome Paul.
Thank you great to be here.
Great to have you.
Know last time we spoke you were telling us about
the characters who drive the story of the West.
can you tell us a little bit more about those
characters and why they might be impactful?
Some of them are very familiar.
Uh- Daniel Boone, uh Davy Crockett, but others not
nots not so much.
Red Eagle, man named William Weatherford who was
the leader of the Creek Indians and the, uh Indian War
that took place at the same time as the war of 1812.
Uh, Kit Carson so famous out here in the southwest.
Mangas Coloradas, the leader of the Apaches.
Sitting Bull, the leader of the Sioux and uh, of
the last great resistance to American expansion and
then Buffalo Bill Cody, who is uh the sort of
final character who is sort of the epitome of
everything that builds through the story to to
his story cause it's Cody of course who not only
lives the Wild West the so-called Wild West but
then creates a show takes it on the road around the
world and helps to really uh, cement that identity
on the United States you have the need of the
cowboy and cowboys and Indians and the struggle
for the land, and a big epic story of progress,
his story was always a tale of progress.
Do you see it as a heroic story, epic story?
It is a heroic story but it's uh heroic story tinged
with tragedy and interestingly every one of my uh...
Ends fairly tragically and uh seems seems at at least
unhappy at the end.
Now a part of that is you just get old and uh you're
not as happy as you were when you were young, youth
is a beautiful thing.
But uhh but except for Buffalo Bill.
Uh every story is tinged with tragedy and that's
kind of what uh, the story of the West is to me though.
It's this incredible uh heroic tale of uh human
determination and overcoming so many
obstacles to build a great nation.
And uh, boy I believe that you know in my in my heart
of heart that that this was so important and and
we don't think about it but you know the West ends
usually it's the Oklahoma land rush of ninety-three
or Wounded Knee, the Wounded Knee Massacre in
1890 that's used as the end of the West and then
but Buffalo Bill takes his show on the road
for another twenty years.
Uhh, but so the West ends in 1900 let us say well
Pearl Harbors bombed in 1941.
People who saw the end of the West are alive when
Pearl Harbors bor is is born.
So this the epic of the west and of American
expansion westward and people coming from all
over the world there was no place more diverse than
the American West in the 19th century, Asians
coming in, Hispanics of course uh, coming up but
but all sorts of immigrants from
everywhere, especially because of the mineral uh,
resources of the West coming in and so that
story builds a nation and then that nation is
prepared to take on the challenges of the 20th
century but it has a vision of itself and that
vision is a vision that we can overcome anything we
had a lot these days in fact with the health
crisis that we're in right now we can, we beaten big
things before we'll beat this and I absolutely believe that.
Well it's that story of the American frontier, the
story of the West that makes us so sure of
ourselves and maybe you know we're cocky, we're
too self-assured, we're we're much too impress
with ourselves as a nation but on.
But on the other hand.
On the other hand you know, don't you want to be that way?
and um the history gives us that pride.
And so one of the things that fascinates me in in
what I'm writing now is well how do you celebrate that pride?
How do you celebrate the magnificence of this story
and the heroic deeds of these people?
How did you settle on the the seven?
Well some of their lives interconnect and so that
was that was an important point but all of them um,
certainly the white characters all became
national celebrities, national heroes and they
were the heroes of nineteenth and early
twentieth century America.
The native characters weren't as well-known
although certainly Sitting Bull was as famous as uh
Buffalo Bill was in his own day and ironically of
course Sitting Bull travels with Buffalo Bill
in his Wild West Show for one season.
Yeah your head will explode just trying to
figure all this stuff out you know think about think
about that, uhh...
but you know uhh, Buffalo Bill knew Kit Carson Kit
Carson knew Mangas Colorados, the Apache leader.
Umm and their lives uh you know Daniel Boone is the
American Moses who takes uhh Americans through
Cumberland Gap and into the West and the
Uhh and then he finds no place in the new land that
he's created in Kentucky and he moves far west to
uhh, uh Missouri where he becomes the prototype of
course for James Fenimore Cooper, the Hawkeye
character and the leather stocking tales.
Davy Crockett is the next generation and his uh, his
parents actually were killed in the Indian Wars,
I mean his grandparents were killed in the Indian
Wars that Boone was fighting and then uh,
Crockett becomes a celebrated hero uh, as a
hunter in the West and as a Indian fighter during
the Indian Wars and as part of the rise of the
new West, a political movement that overthrows
the Massachusetts, Virginia dynasties that
had dominated uh, politics in this country and
politically and culturally moves the center of the
country from the Tidewater out to, out past the
Appalachians with the rise of Andrew Jackson, Sam
Houston, Henry Clay, he, Crockett is one of those,
he brings the values of the West back to the East
and this this pioneer character becomes a
central character uhh, of the West of course the
mark, he can't really function in that modern
world, he flees it, he goes out to Texas just in
time of course for the Texas Revolution where he
dies at the Alamo sets up the conflict with Mexico
uh which Kit Carson is in to play a central role
first as a mountain man coming out on the Santa Fe
Trail, settling in New in New Mexico marrying into a
Hispanic, prominent Hispanic family.
Which character are you enjoying spending time
with the most?
Well Davy Crockett is the source of my love of the
West did so indeed uh, of all those characters I
think he would be the one I would most like to have
dinner with you know, you play that kind of game
"who would you want to have dinner with?"
If you had dinner with Buffalo Bill all you would
hear about is Buffalo Bill.
Yeah but Crockett I think would be as, course he was
a spellbinding storyteller to begin with so I think I
think he would be delightful and I'd love
the values that he represented he was the
hero of the common man, the age of the common man,
his political career is finally destroyed because
even though he's famous as an Indian fighter he
opposes Andrew Jackson on the Indian Removal and
stands up in Congress and argues against, this
destroys his political career and leads, tells
his constituents they can all go to hell and he's
going to go to Texas well a lot of people didn't
know which place was worse but nevertheless, uh, he
wound up in Texas at the Alamo and became immortal.
And uh indeed from his death he morphs out of
being the hero of the common man to becoming a
martyr to manifest destiny, the idea that
America will overreach the entire continent and
spread its institutions all across the globe.
Why are these seven characters important for
us to know about?
They tell the story of the West an and that story is
the story of who we are and how we got to be
Americans and exactly what does it mean to be an
American but you can't just be Daniel Boone and
Davy Crockett and Kit Carson no no, uh to be an
American you have to also understand, uhh the soul
of of Red Eagle and Mangas Colorados and Sitting Bull
and Red Eagle makes his accommodation with uh
onrushing Anglos but Sitting Bull and Mangas died.
And they they die as uh heroic defenders of their
way of life, a way of life that's utterly demolished
of course in many ways, uhh by the coming of the
Americans into the West.
SYMBOLISM AND TRADITION.
My favorite form of indigenous artwork is beadwork.
I really enjoy beading.
I find it relaxing.
I enjoy thinking about the designs and the type of
materials that I wanna use, the look that I wanna create.
I also really enjoy making beadwork because
it's functional artwork.
Beadwork is a form of traditional Native
So anywhere around the country as you visit different
tribal nations you'll see different styles of beadwork.
I've been making beadwork since I was about 15.
And usually when I design beadwork and I create
beadwork it's for use for cultural events or
ceremonies or Powwows.
So I'm a Powwow dancer, I'm a fancy shawl dancer.
I like to dance jingle and traditional from
time to time too.
But my kids and I, we Powwow dance, and so a lot
of the beadwork that I make is for Powwow outfits or regalia.
So when I'm coming up with beadwork designs, I often
first start with the essence of the piece.
So I'm really thinking about the person that I'm
designing for and the use of the final product and
the look that I wanna create.
I like to lay everything out on graph paper and
then I'll translate that paper to material and I'll
sew it down to the material so that I have a
pattern to work with.
And then I just start beading.
Beadwork is incredibly time consuming.
As you look at these different beaded pieces
you know that each one of those beads was hand sewn.
Artists will have their own techniques.
And so I like to put on four beads and then go
back through two.
Every single bead is touched by the artist at
least once but sometimes multiple times depending
how they tack it down.
And so the larger pieces, they could have hundreds
of hours of man time.
I would say one of my favorite parts about
beading is watching the piece come together 'cause
you have this vision.
And a lot of times your vision is pretty true to
the final product but it's sometimes it's not.
And so it's fun watching the piece come together,
but actually seeing the colors come together and
the designs come together, it's really exciting and
it provides me a lot of motivation 'cause I'm
gonna be like, "Two more hours and I'd have this piece
complete "and I can finally see what it's gonna look like."
When I make beadwork, I make it
for really specific purposes.
So my husband and I got married about seven years ago.
I wore a traditional woodland outfit for our
wedding, and then my husband wore a traditional
Payu outfit for the weddings.
And then our daughters they wore some beaded
My 14-year-old, her name is Siyabi which means wild rose.
And so you'll see in those pieces that there's an
image of a rose.
And then Pasitiva our little one, her name is
wild iris, and so there's iris beaded into her hair ties.
And then in my bandolier bag there's several
different flowers that are beaded in that.
There's a flower that represents me, my favorite
flower, and then my husband's favorite flower.
And there's a hummingbird which symbolizes love.
And then going up the straps are the flowers of our kids.
So Busceppi, his name is red earth.
I beaded a red star-like flower for him.
One of the pieces I brought was the medallion
I made when I graduated with my bachelor's degree.
I went to Michigan State University.
The medallion's in the shape of a Spartan S with
a little sash across with the abbreviation SOC for
sociology and then the year I graduated.
I graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology.
So it's common in indigenous artwork to see
things like that that are symbols that are very
specific to the individual or specific to that ceremony.
All my beadwork that I create has a lot of symbolism.
It feels good to wear our traditional artwork
because I know it comes from a special place.
I know that there's a lot of meaning behind the
pieces but I also think it's important as
Americans that we see the indigenous people how live
here and who've always lived here.
Here in Nevada there are 27 federally recognized tribes.
That's a lot of tribes.
That's a lot of tribes.
Most states don't have 27 federally recognized tribes.
Sometimes when we think about indigenous cultures
and indigenous arts we think about them as
history, something that's in the past or something
that's not current.
There's all kinds of beautiful work that's
being done by artists around the country where
they're capitalizing on contemporary materials, themes.
It's beautiful to see art evolving, even indigenous
art 'cause what's indigenous is also contemporary.
- Immersive art, to me, is an experience that
completely envelopes the viewer, it's multilayered,
there's visual obviously, there could be audio,
there could be scent.
Working with Prismajic, we knew we wanted to do an
immersive project, we knew we wanted it to be around
nature, so we partnered with them, in addition to
about 30 other artists in total.
- Prismajic is immersive artist company who's
mission is to harness the power of art to transform
how people look at themselves and the world.
Natura Obscura is big, it's about 6000 square
feet, you wanna imagine the space above, so we
have paid as much attention as possible to
installing art above as well as on the floor.
So now you're sort of physically completely surrounded.
And then we'll layer other sensory inputs on top of that.
- We had to use a variety of techniques, a lot of
projection mapping, there's also Arduino
technology, sensor-based technology, so if you move
in front of the sensor, it'll trigger a reaction.
- The augmented reality application that
compliments the exhibit, it had to be quick to
understand, it had to be intuitive, because in all
honesty, we don't want people searching through
menus when they should be taking in the space.
So, augmented reality gave us an awesome opportunity
to allow these characters that otherwise couldn't
have a dialog with the visitor, to be able to speak.
- [Eric] And since most great journeys are
preformed inwards, that's where we focus our attention.
- What makes this exhibit so compelling, is
it allows you and it facilitates exploration.
There's a certain beauty that their relationship
with the piece is their own choice in the exploration.
So some people will find certain things that others won't.
It brings that sense of playback.
- Technology will really play a monster role in the
future of the arts.
When it's done right-- - It's going to surprise a
lot of people.
- They'll feel a sense of wonder that they didn't have before.
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