* typical Pueblo greeting of “Welcome” or “Hello”
By: Gail Crane, FSIP Project Coordinator
For two days in mid-July 2016, FSIP welcomed Quinney Harris of NWA back to New Mexico to visit old friends, make new friends, and certainly to make new memories.
Wednesday the 13th the CPHMC project team met with Quinney at the FSIP Main Office in Rio Rancho. Mary Ann Bormann, consultant to NWA for the CPHMC project, was able to join us as well. We started with a tour of our main office, which took about 10 minutes because when we say we are “space challenged” it’s an understatement! We then had a meeting so that Quinney and Mary Ann could meet our Executive Director Joshua Madalena, Karen Greigo-Kite, FSP WIC Director, Mannon Garcia and Sia Argeanas from our “Get Fresh – Get Healthy” leadership team, and Thomas Swendson, a member of our Coalition. Mr. Madalena expressed his thanks to NWA for this opportunity, and voiced the full support of Five Sandoval for the project. Gail and Joshua updated the team on a meeting held the day before with the Director of the Jemez Community Development Corporation to discuss their plans for updating and expanding the Walatowa Convenience Store and space for a seasonal farmer’s market. FSIP is cooperating with Walatowa Convenience Store to ensure a stable source of fresh fruits and vegetables.
We then went to lunch at Santa Ana Café at the Santa Ana Golf Course – a very comfortable space serving Native American inspired foods. The Native flute music was perfect background noise to the continuing discussions and information sharing, and the view of the Sandia Mountains from the tall windows was relaxing.
After this break, the Leadership Team and Quinney moved to the FSIP WIC Office to continue discussions and updates for the project.
Although Quinney originally had asked for a one-day site visit, we couldn’t let him leave without experiencing Pueblo cultural activities in person. July 14 is the Feast Day of Pueblo de Cochiti, in honor of their patron St. Bonaventure, and so on Thursday morning we headed out 35 miles to the town of Cochiti Lake, the Cochiti Lake recreation area and Pueblo de Cochiti, where approximately 1000 of our members live.
First stop was the Cochiti Mini Mart. This is a Pueblo-owned Convenience Store that we have targeted to pursue WIC Vendor status and also to expand their inventory of fresh foods. We also hope to decrease the amount of sugar sweetened beverages and high salt / sugar / fat snacks available in the store. Due to the Pueblo Feast Day, the store manager, George Brooks, was there at the Pueblo overseeing the food service, and we planned to catch up with him at the dances.
Next stop was the new Cochiti Visitor’s Center and post office, where we were pleasantly surprised to see that - in contrast to the opening day in April - the contents of several of the upright beverage coolers (sugar sweetened beverages, caffeinated drinks and power drinks) had been replaced with bottled waters in all sizes! They listened!
Our last stop was the Cochiti Pueblo Plaza itself, where the dances, activities and ceremonies were taking place. There were several thousand participants and onlookers on site.
We are not able to share pictures of the events because according to pueblo rules:
Sketching, recording, picture-taking, and any other means of audio or visual reproduction is prohibited within the Pueblo. The Pueblo de Cochiti belief is that when an experience is unforgettable, that the experience is maintained in one’s heart and mind, and cannot be reproduced unless experienced first-hand. This gives the opportunity to re-visit the Pueblo de Cochiti and bring friends and family to share those experiences.
Native American feast days allow tribal members to come together in a renewal of their language, culture, and religion. Activities include pueblo dances, drumming and chanting. The beat of the drum guides the rhythm and footwork of the dancers, who are dressed in traditional regalia (never say “costumes”). For the dances, the women wear black dresses with colorful woven belts and tall headdresses and carry evergreen boughs. The men are bare-chested with ritual colored clay covering their faces and bodies, loin cloths with small animal tails or full pelts attached at the back waist, leather arm-bands with evergreen sprigs attached, leggings, and carry round rattles which sound like rattlesnakes. The drummers and singers dress in long pants, long sleeved shirts with bandanas around their heads, and several played hand-made Cochiti drums, ranging from 2 ft to 4 ft in diameter using long sticks with cloth or leather-wrapped ends.
The dances are held in the central plaza which, like most of the Pueblo, is unpaved and has no shade. That day the thermometer in my car was 105 at 2:00 in the afternoon! The rhythm of the dance is high-energy, and each dance lasts 15 to 20 minutes and has specific religious/cultural meaning. It is amazing how much stamina and dedication is required for pueblo dancing.
There were crafts and food vendor stands around the outside of the area, and I found out that Quinney really likes Indian Fry bread!
After several hours of observing the dances, touring the vendor sites, and the Mission Church at the end of the Plaza, we gratefully returned to the air-conditioned car for the return trip to Albuquerque.