First Nations Development Institute’s (First Nations) recent multi-day Southwest Tour gave some of the organization’s supporters the chance to personally witness the tremendous impact their investments are having on Native American communities, as told through the eyes of First Nations’ community partners. The tour participants saw first-hand the remarkable work Native community partners are doing at the grassroots level.
The Southwest Tour – Experience the Rich Cultures and Traditions of the Pueblo Peoples of New Mexico – was held June 11-16, 2017. It was an unparalleled opportunity to gain an insider’s perspective of First Nations’ guiding principle: We believe that when armed with the appropriate resources, Native peoples hold the capacity and ingenuity to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual and cultural well-being of their communities.
The Inn of the Governors on the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe provided a comfortable place to rest and relax at the end of each day. The 12 participants visited some of the 19 Pueblos and experienced their unique cultures, and were welcomed by the Red Turtle Dancers and a private tour of the Poeh Cultural Center in Pojoaque Pueblo, along with a dinner on the first day of the tour.
An early start to the next day began with a visit to the Nambé Pueblo Community Farm and Gardens, and later a hike up to Nambé Falls for a picnic lunch. The opportunity to take in the breathtaking views of northern New Mexico was just the start.
After lunch, the participants took a hay ride to the Pueblo of Pojoaque Bison Ranch where they saw the buffalo herd and learned about the Tewa Farms Crop Expansion Project. The day capped off with a delicious farm-to-table dinner prepared by Tewa Farms.
First Nations Board Chairman Benny Shendo, Jr. (Jemez Pueblo), who is a New Mexico state senator, visited with the participants at the Sandia Pueblo Feast Day on Tuesday, along with Tom Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo), who is First Nations Chairman Emeritus, and Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), First Nations President and CEO.
“We are very fortunate to be able to support the exciting and innovative work taking place in tribal communities,” said Roberts. “The tour gave us the opportunity to have our donors see for themselves the impact their support is having in the development and sustainability of programs and projects created by our community partners on their own terms. Also, to meet the people directly in their tribal communities gave us all a chance to connect with each other on a personal level.”
While at Sandia Pueblo, everyone got to experience the heat of the summer along with the traditional dances and the Pueblo feast-day foods of green and red chile stews, tamales, and feast-day cookies and pies. A visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque allowed for a break from the heat, with a tour of the IPCC museum exhibits. Some also enjoyed an afternoon bite at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe.
On Wednesday, participants visited the Pueblo de Cochiti and its new visitor center, the Cochiti Youth Experience, Farm Mentorship Program, and they toured the Community Farm. A hike up the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument gave everyone a chance to experience the Southwest cultural landscape before a lunch at the home of renowned Cochiti Pueblo potter Maria Romero, who is known for her storyteller pottery. A surprise drum-making demonstration by Dave Gordon “White Eagle” of Cochiti furthered the cultural experience before participants visited the Keres Children’s Learning Center (KCLC). The center’s staff and parents talked about how the young ones of the village are learning Keres, the traditional language, at KCLC and the positive impact it is having their families and community.
The exciting day wrapped up with presentations by 23 youth attending the Santa Fe Indian School’s Leadership Institute Summer Policy Academy. The event was held at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (MIAC) on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, and dinner after the presentations allowed everyone time talk and connect one to one.
On the final day of the tour, a visit to the Healing Foods Oasis and lunch with Tewa Women United in Española gave everyone one last visit to northern New Mexico before returning to Santa Fe. A private tour of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) allowed participants to see and experience the vast collection of Indigenous art and hear from area artists about their work. The tour concluded with a farewell dinner at a Santa Fe culinary favorite, the Blue Corn Café.
Eileen Shendo (Jemez/Cochiti Pueblos) escorted everyone on the tour, and her connections to the places and communities was invaluable. Also, George Toya (Jemez Pueblo), a noted artist and longtime supporter of First Nations, provided on-the-ground support with everything from coolers to chairs, and making sure everyone had a great experience at Nambé.
First Nations Development Associate Jona Charette (Northern Cheyenne/Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) served as the tour organizer, and Eileen Egan (Hopi), First Nations Associate Director of Development and Senior Program Officer, was also on the tour.
Any surprises you could not have foreseen without having gone on the tour and experienced it in person?
“There is no substitute for being on the ground. It is easy to limit one’s expectations and to be cynical about results and impact. My “surprise” is that the quality of the people and programs is so high, the realized and potential impact so great, and the integration of program staff and beneficiaries into a strong team all seeking to achieve the best results possible.” – Frances Reid, England
What part of the tour left the most lasting memory?
“What struck me the most was the sense of empowerment by the people with whom we met and their determination to take ownership over their lives and the lives of their children. Every community should be blessed with people with such vision and determination. Also, the desire to preserve past traditions while moving forward to a better future was really inspiring to me. It’s not easy to accomplish this dual goal, but the groups we met with seem to be doing it.” – Mark Habeeb, Virginia
How did the tour expand your awareness of First Nations Development Institute’s work and the communities it serves?
“It is clear that First Nations is considered a vital partner by communities in achieving critical social and economic objectives. The organization does a great job – listening, partnering and supporting local projects with financial and technical assistance, which is worth its weight in gold. The staff is first-rate.” – Wendy Mills, Virginia
Ways You Can Support First Nations Development Institute
See the Ways to Give page on the First Nations website, or you can contact Jona Charette, First Nations Development Associate, at email@example.com or by calling us at (303) 774-7836. Also, read additional testimonials about our work.
By Mary K. Bowannie, First Nations Communications Officer