"The Pueblo Revolt – the First American Revolution - had never been taught in American schools nor is it in our history books. My mission is, and has been for nearly two decades, to continue to create a narrative of the revolt by utilizing the various mediums I work with, and make it more interesting and relevant to the next generation. It reflects the impact I want to have on the world around me through art and education."- Virgil Ortiz This quote from Virgil is one of my favorites because I believe it represents two dominant themes we see being portrayed throughout his work time and time again: Strength and Resistance, which are critical to an Indigenous way of being and they are certainly represented within Virgil’s art and Virgil himself. I was attracted to Virgil’s work for a variety of reasons. I first met Virgil at a reception for Native American/Indigenous Students and Faculty. At this reception we were all given the time to get to know Virgil and to learn about his artwork. Virgil was amazingly kind and generous with his time making sure to give each person at the event his attention. When he came to meet the students, he notified us about his open studio hours and invited us into the home where he was staying during his residency for a home-cooked meal. I and several other students were able to attend and have one on one time with Virgil and Rob, another artist who was helping Virgil. During that dinner I learned a lot about Virgil and his background. He showed us his unique brand of hospitality while simultaneously giving us the opportunity to be vulnerable and connect with him as individuals. I knew then that Virgil was one of the most kind-hearted people I had ever met and that by knowing him I would learn and grow as a person. After speaking to Virgil, I realized that another way to get to know him would be getting to know his art, and the story of his connection to the art. In a presentation Virgil gave for a Southwest Studies class, he explained his background as an artist: his family is one of the few left at Cochiti Pueblo that still practices the traditional pottery making. Virgil learned the practice 3 at a young age. Virgil’s female relatives were a big part of his education teaching him more than the art of crafting clay. They taught him respect for his people’s traditions, an Indigenous worldview, respect for all creations, and perhaps most importantly, the value of continuing these teachings and making them more accessible to the next generations. Learning all of this about Virgil made me respect him more and it gave me a deeper understanding of how beautiful and meaningful his artwork truly is. It is not something that should be admired for its purely aesthetic beauty, but rather for the story it tells, and the ways in which art is able to build bridges in an accessible format for all people. For example, as an Indigenous/Chicana woman I was able to find many connections and inspirations in Virgil, and his artwork. During one of Virgil’s open studio sessions, I was able to do some painting on his character Translator. When I first started painting, I had no idea what the final image would look like - I was simply following Virgil’s directions. I could feel the power radiating from the image even though it was unfinished. This feeling let me know that Translator was much more than a painting. They have their own power and influence. After a bit of painting, Virgil showed me a picture of what the finished product would look like. I was simply in awe. Virgil explained that the reason we were working on Translator first was that it is was crucial for Translator to be the first part of the exhibit that was finished. My understanding of Translator in this moment was huge because I realized the impact that taking part in his studio hours had on me. Translator was a gender queer omniscient being tasked with telling the story of the Pueblo Revolt. In that moment I realized that I was now a part of and invested in that story as well. As a woman who identifies as Gay, I found power in the knowledge that the story teller was also queer. I had the rare opportunity of finding not only a character that reflected part of my racial identity, but also a character that represented aspects of my queer personality. Seeing this representation motivated and encouraged me to learn more about sexuality and gender representations within pre-colonial Native America and the ways in which their stories have been shared and told. I believe that by sharing the knowledge of these stories and the ways in which they connect to Virgil’s work will help general audiences and experts alike understand the full impact and breadth of Virgil’s work. Further, his work reveals the amazing hope and revitalization Virgil has brought to past, present, and future Indigenous peoples.
The Gila River - the last free-flowing river in New Mexico - is under threat. The Arizona Water Settlements Act (2004), meant primarily to adjudicate water disputes in Arizona, permitted the extraction of up to 14,000 acre-feet of water per year with (at most) $128 million of federal subsidies. The ensuing fifteen years of conflict touches on many of the central, paradigmatic issues facing resource management regimes in the evolving west. These themes are magnified by the sheer impracticality of the Gila extraction; the proposal is both unsound from an engineering perspective and mostly unnecessary given the meager water demands of the southwestern corner of the state. At what cost — economic, ecological, cultural, and otherwise — are we, as a society, still willing to invest in a “fatally flawed” project, when more cost-effective, conservation minded initiatives are available that would yield equal, if not greater, returns on water made available to the public? I examine how grassroots political organization has emerged in response to the proposed diversion, engaging in the central question of how new attitudes towards sustainability compete with the inertia of older, antiquated mindsets on western water development. It becomes a question of both policy implementation, as well as ways of navigating the multiple ways of knowing a “place” and resource management that respects the agency of the many different types of people who call the Gila valley watershed “home."
This paper explores the imposition of an Indianist framework to examine the material aesthetics of tourist attractions and souvenirs along U.S. Route 66 that depict stereotypical imagery of Indigenous peoples. In this paper, I intend to show how Indigenous stereotypes in popular material culture create instances of kitsch. However, on Route 66, this kitsch manifests as hyperkitsch in its attractions’ touristic natures that allow visitors to witness, enact, and play a role in the fantasized life and time of the American Indian. Tourist attractions and certain objects of kitsch create simulated environments and manifestations of hyperreality as tourist attractions that powerfully propel stereotypes that forge non-Native perspectives of Indigenous peoples. This evaluation takes place along the 2,448-mile stretch that is Route 66.