Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez

New Mexico historian Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez discusses the complexity of defining place.

AIRED: August 22, 2020 | 0:26:51

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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?

Please do.

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 Diné 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?

By listening.

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.


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...

characters 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

Revolutionary era.

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?"

Davy Crockett.

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.


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

American artwork.

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

pieces also.

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.


New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

...and Viewers Like You


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