[Marxism] Dancing With Fire: Santa Clara tribal member banished from Taos Pueblo
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Fri Feb 6 11:22:33 MST 2004
Comment by Hunter Bear -- Micmac /St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk:
A month ago, I posted a piece on the increasingly tangled jurisdictional
maze that characterizes Indian Country today -- and called
[as have many others in various ways] for "a return of all
criminal and civil jurisdiction to the tribal nations --
with a possible creative variant proposal
[being] the setting up of special Indian-oriented and controlled
Federal District courts on reservations with appellate lines going
into the Fed Circuit and USSC arenas."
Part of my post dealt with the increasing use of "banishment" or
"exile" by a tribal nation. This has now happened at Taos Pueblo to
a member of Santa Clara Pueblo, an academic who is married
to a Taos woman. A tribal nation is inherently
sovereign and has the right to so banish. The Pueblos are
among the Indian Nations known for their great cultural
conservatism. [AIM organizers were ordered off the
Laguna Reservation in 1973 -- never returned -- by
Laguna leaders -- who we knew well -- and who were
themselves the epitome of sensible militancy.]
Almost 90 years ago, Mabel Dodge, the wealthy radical
whose New York City [salon] gatherings remain legendary, moved
to Taos and married a Native artist, Tony Luhan [Lujan]. She
always respected the integrity of the culture -- as did her
good friend and social worker, John Collier, who came
West from NY to visit -- and became completely entranced by the
vigor and vitality of the ancient rituals. He resolved
at that point to devote himself to supporting the Indian
Nations, founded Native defense organizations, and
served with great capability and distinction as Indian
Commissioner from 1933 to 1945 -- virtually all of the
FDR administration.[My parents knew the Luhans -- and
I have here correspondence between my mother and John
In his great classic, which I strongly recommend,
Indians of the Americas [New York: W.W. Norton and
New American Library, 1947], Collier wrote movingly
of the Genesis of his awareness of the survival of the
"We climbed to the Taos plateau in a blinding snowstorm, just
before Christmas. Then while great snowflakes descended at
twilight, we watched the Virgin and Child borne from the
Christian church high along an avenue of fires to a vast
chanting of pagan song. After two days, the Red Deer
Dance began and the Sacred Mountain which haunts the sky
northwestward from Taos shuddered, and poured out a
cold flaming cloud to the sun and all the stars. It seemed
that way. And veritably, within its own affirmation, through
a multitudinous, stern, impassioned collective outgiving, the
tribe's soul appeared to wing into the mountain, even to
the Source of Things." [Pages 9 and 10, Indians of the
Americas, New American Library edition.]
What John Collier "discovered" at Taos, would apply across
all of Indian Country in the Western Hemisphere: e.g., the Green
Corn Dance at Laguna, Shalako at Zuni, Yeibichai [Night Way Chant]
of the Navajo, Longhouse religion of the Six [Iroquois] Nations,
the secret Easter dance of the Yaquis in the Vaca Tete
Mountains -- to mention only a tiny number of the great, great
many Nations and their ancient, sharp and vital and
culturally distinctive rituals and ceremonials.
Oral history and tradition in the context of Native national tribal
societies is a powerfully enduring and accurate force. It does
not necessarily need, as he who was banished contends, to be written
down or recorded in western fashion. Top flight anthropologists
who did so, such as Clyde Kluckhohn on the Navajo; and Frank Speck on
the Penobscot, Naskapi, and Iroquois; and Arthur C Parker [Seneca]
on the Iroquois; readily understood this -- and cleared
everything they wrote with the elders of the respective tribal nation.
Here is part of my post of a month ago -- followed by a news
story on the Taos situation:
"I taught Federal Indian Law for 13 years -- a tough and complex course in
the context of the often fast-changing and mercurial legal situation
involving Natives and related issues. [Every textbook is heavy enough to
sink a canoe damn fast.] I do try hard to keep up with the field.
Speaking generally, in the "old time" Native world, murder involved
compensation to the family of the victim, some crimes such as repeated
instances of theft led to the cutting off of an ear, more serious matters --
e.g., incest -- could lead to exile, and the death penalty was reserved for
treason and witchcraft. It's far more complex -- and confused -- in these
times with a maze of Federal and tribal jurisdictional lines, and sometimes
state as well. Increasingly, as the following article indicates,
banishment -- exile -- is coming into use by tribal authorities. I know of
two recent banishment cases where Indians of other tribes were banned from a
particular reservation -- and, frankly, they richly deserved it. On the
other hand, banishment must be handled with care -- and used with extreme
paucity against members of one's own tribe. In the sometimes tangled world
of Indian politics, injustices can be far from unknown." [Hunter Bear]
Dancing With Fire: Santa Clara tribal member banished from Taos Pueblo for
writing essay about tribe's sacred deer dance
By MARISSA STONE | The New Mexican
Friday, February 06, 2004
TAOS -- In his own words, Tito Naranjo is "the man who killed the deer
Days after an essay the American Indian wrote about Taos Pueblo's deer dance
in a local newspaper, Naranjo received an order of exclusion from the
The order, which means Naranjo is banished from Taos Pueblo, states he could
arrested if he crosses onto tribal land.
"Tito Naranjo caused irreparable harm to the sensible nature of the
activity through exploitation," the order states.
Naranjo, 66, a Santa Clara tribal member, is married to a woman from Taos
Pueblo. The couple, who live in Mora, have three children. But Naranjo's
father-in-law resides in Taos Pueblo.
Naranjo said he was so inspired by the dance performed at Christmas at Taos
Pueblo that he submitted a short essay to The New Mexican for a
contest this past December.
Before he wrote the essay, Naranjo thought about the consequences for his
members who live at Taos Pueblo, he said. "I thought immediately, Taos
going to disagree," said the longtime college teacher. "Am I going to be a
or am I going to write about this?"
Naranjo concluded that the dance -- which he considers to be on the level of
Shakespearean drama -- is so beautiful that it must be shared. "There's a
complexity expressed in the dance that I didn't even get to -- these people
created the dance were pueblo geniuses."
Naranjo's essay begins: "The soft chant is ancient, coming perhaps, before
Tanoan dialects split Tewa, Tiwa, Towa and Tampiro. The beat is kept with a
rhythmic clapping of the hands. A method older than the introduction of the
large, dark drum, it predates the beating of a staff on a rolled buffalo or
The essay won first place in the contest's adult category and earned $100
Naranjo. It was featured in the newspaper's Dec. 21 edition.
After the story ran, Taos Pueblo spiritual leader David Gomez Sr. filed a
complaint about Naranjo. "Tito Naranjo used a Taos Pueblo religious activity
self promotion by writing an essay of a sensitive activity for publication
The New Mexican," the exclusion order states.
Gomez could not be reached for comment.
Naranjo didn't obtain permission from tribal officials to submit the essay,
the order, which was signed by former Taos Pueblo Gov. Allen Martinez and
chief Joseph Lujan.
Taos Pueblo Gov. John Mirabal declined to comment on the matter. A New
reporter went to Taos Pueblo and met briefly with Mirabal to discuss
story, but the governor declined further comment on the matter. At least 10
subsequent telephone calls to the governor and other members of his staff
On a cold winter day last month, Naranjo sat at a Taos restaurant and spoke
the need for Taos Pueblo, as well as other Indian tribes, to preserve
that are carried on orally. Because Taos tribal members are beginning to
outside the pueblo, Indian children are losing their connection to elders
the historic tribal square, Naranjo said. "Young tribal members are watching
television instead of doing community work and going down into the kivas."
The only way to preserve traditions is by writing about them and recording
Naranjo said. "CD-Rom will record the entire language of the elders and
precise intonations and authenticity of the language for future
"Literacy changes consciousness, and all of Taos Pueblo is becoming
he added. "This newly gained consciousness demands new freedoms."
"Jewish religious traditions have survived more than 5,000 years because
have been written down," Naranjo said. "Taos Pueblo has nothing written down
pass on. This worries me considerably. Taos Pueblo is not going to be able
withstand the onslaught of the wage economy and information-processing
Naranjo, a former professor at New Mexico Highlands University, now teaches
Native American studies at The University of New Mexico at Taos. He is the
author of the children's story Day With a Pueblo.
Many tribes in New Mexico prohibit the reproduction of sacred dances through
photographs and stories -- saying the retelling of something sacred detracts
from its spiritual significance. Those leaders also fear tribes can be
for monetary gain when images of the dances are reproduced.
Some leaders from Indian pueblos say the reason their traditions have been
alive for so many centuries is they have been carried on orally.
Naranjo said, "Tiwa spoken words have life and power, while the written word
perceived to kill the live and living nature of words, song and dance."
Others have celebrated Taos Pueblo's deer dance, including artist Dorothy
Eugenie Brett and writer Frank Waters. The dance was also immortalized by
Pueblo artist Lorenzo Lujan, whose painting was paired with Naranjo's story
Naranjo doesn't consider himself a lone voice, crying out about the urgency
Indian tribes to record their traditions. "Lots of people are saying this,"
Naranjo doesn't regret for "one minute that I wrote that essay," he said.
going to keep going to the pueblo." In fact, he visited the pueblo recently
When they were a young couple, Naranjo and his wife made the decision to
outside the boundaries of their tribes. "We decided not to live by the
checks that apply to all the people on the reservation," he said.
Nevertheless, Naranjo hopes his order of exclusion will be revoked. For that
happen, the tribal council would have to vote in favor of it.
"They said I did irreparable harm to the deer dance -- they're saying if I
irreparable harm, I must have killed the deer dance. But I didn't kill it.
still alive and well."
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]
When you cut to the bone and cut away the college degrees, academic and
other titles, published books and articles, ours is essentially a working
class and Indian family. We consistently join unions -- and we always
support them with the greatest vigor.
It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one
lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.
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