Feast days are celebrated annually at the 19 Pueblos where some Native Americans live in New Mexico, giving non-natives an opportunity to visit these communities and natives a chance to socialize with family and friends.
Though the festivals are dedicated to various saints, they feature traditional dances, reflecting how native spiritual practices have become intertwined with the Catholicism introduced by Jesuit and Franciscan priests.
Yesterday, two of my sisters and I — four of the six sisters in my family converged in Santa Fe for one sister's wedding — attended the festival of San Estevan, patron saint of Acoma Pueblo. It's located in a beautiful area of stunning mesas and rock formations about 60 miles southwest of Albuquerque.
The original Pueblo was built atop a 360-foot tall mesa, and has been inhabited since before the 12th Century. A prominent feature is the Franciscan mission church of San Estevan. Established in 1629, its original packed earth floor, straw-adobe walls, high ceilings and massive vigas (beams) are still intact.
In more recent times, most of the people have moved off the mesa and into homes and farming villages elsewhere on the reservation. But some people still live full-time in "Sky City," as it's known, including a potter I met at the Cochiti pueblo, who invited me to the festival.
As we walked around the Pueblo, where vendors from Acoma and other pueblos were selling food, jewelry, pottery and other crafts, we got to chatting with a jeweler from the Santa Domingo pueblo. When he learned I'd lived in Hawaii for decades, he told me of being invited to the Islands in a cultural exchange aimed in part at helping kanaka get organized politically.
“The problem over there is they've got no leaders,” he told me. “Over here, the Pueblo leaders get together every year to resolve issues. But the Hawaiians, they don't meet, and they don't have any leaders who can speak for the rest. It's gonna be hard for them to get together without leaders.”
I thought of his words this morning while reading the piece on nation-building by OHA Trustee Peter Apo, published in Civil Beat. Apo writes:
Na’i Aupuni, an organization independent of government and made up of a volunteer board of directors, is moving forward with a Hawaiians-only election of 40 delegates from around the state. Election ballots will be sent to voters by Oct. 15. The election is scheduled to be complete by Nov. 30.
Delegates will then convene in what Hawaiians refer to as an ‘Aha, which is a form of constitutional convention, and are expected to emerge with a document defining the political path toward restoring a Hawaiian nation by April, 2016.
If a nationhood proposal emerges — and there’s no guarantee — it will have to be ratified by a majority of Native Hawaiian voters to be seriously considered as representing the “will of the people.” In other words, it will need to be validated by a democratically constituted process.
Apo goes on to talk about the clash that is occurring between nationalists, who want to seek restoration of the overthrown kingdom through an international process, and those who support a nation-within-a-nation concept similar to how Native American and Alaska Native tribes interact with the federal government.
He also speaks of the challenges involved in trying to create a nation solely of kanaka, as the kingdom at the time of the overthrow did include non-natives.
Apo then writes:
From my perch it seems the ship of nationhood is about to set sail without a rudder, a captain, or a crew.
In other words, it lacks leaders, just as the Pueblo Indian jewelry-maker observed. And hasn't that been an issue since the so-called Hawaiian Renaissance began?
I'm not sure whether leaders are made, or born, but if kanaka are going to successfully build a nation, it seems they need some. Fast.