Saturday, October 20, 2007

Songs of the Tewa

The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico can be categorized into three groups based on language: Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa. The Tewa (TAY-wah) speakers live in the pueblos all around Santa Fe: Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambé, and Tesuque.

Here is a beautiful Tewa song called Song of the Sky Loom. [1] The photographs that accompany this post, and were inspired by the song, were all taken in and around Santa Fe in the last couple of weeks.

Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky,
Your children are we, and with tired backs
We bring you the gifts that you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness;
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness
That we may walk fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where grass is green,
Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky!

The sculpture of the Navajo woman at the top of this post is entitled Raindrops, and was created by Allan Houser (1914-1984), a Chiricahua Apache who spent most of his adult life in Santa Fe. Since rain is often slight and infrequent in this part of the world, it is appropriate to signify "falling rain" with a hopeful look at the sky--or maybe the first realization that rain has started to fall. (Allan Houser will get a full post of his own on this site soon!)

October roses in my yard in the sharp shadows thrown by the "white light of morning".

"The standing rainbow", photographed across the college campus on my way home from work one evening.

"The red light of evening" as taken from the steps of the Box Office, just before a show earlier this month.


[1] Songs of the Tewa was translated by Herbert J. Spinden, and published in 1933 under the auspices of the Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, Inc. The poem was quoted in Bertha P. Dutton's American Indians of the Southwest (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

400 Years in Santa Fe

Sometime in the next few years, Santa Fe will celebrate its 400th anniversary. The official period of celebration is 2008-2010, and the Anniversary Committee is hoping to attract a visit from the Spanish royal family. (Hey, Queen Elizabeth came to Jamestown, VA earlier this year, so why not?)

Part of the challenge is knowing exactly when to celebrate. According to an article in the October 12 Santa Fe New Mexican, "conflicting historical events that can be interpreted as the founding of the city put its inception somewhere between 1607-1610." (Lots more on this later.) Does anyone else think there's a problem with establishing a committee in 2007 that's has a potential starting celebration year of 2007? Just checking.... (As a basis of comparison, Jamestown started its committee in 1997, a full ten years before the celebration year, and managed to raise $140 million in public and private money to support these activities.)

A contest was held this summer to select a logo for the celebration. The committee has winnowed the list down to four finalists from 60 submissions. The one shown at the beginning of this post is my personal favorite, the one shown below has an egregious spelling error. (Couldn't they have asked the artist to fix this before publicizing it as a final entry?) Click here to see all finalists and cast your vote.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Charlie Siringo

Almost every day I drive down Siringo Road in Santa Fe, and I was vaguely curious about the source of this street name. Then one night I was watching an old made-for-TV movie with Elizabeth Montgomery playing the role of Mrs. Sundance (Etta Place, previously played by Katharine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). And the Pinkerton detective tracking Etta bore the name of Charlie Siringo--bingo!

L. Q. Jones played the role of Charlie Siringo in the film Mrs. Sundance

It turns out Charlie was quite an interesting character, and almost single-handedly helped to develop and propagate the image and myth of the American cowboy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He was born in Texas in 1855, the son of an Irish immigrant mother and an Italian immigrant father--like many of us, a true American mongrel! He left school at 15 to become a cowboy, and traveled much of the American West as a trail driver in the 1870s.

During this period he met Billy the Kid, later leading a posse into New Mexico in pursuit of the Kid and his gang. He was also around during the famed confrontation (or lack thereof?) between Wyatt Earp and Clay Allison in Dodge City in 1878, and contradicted Earp's claim that he and Bat Masterson had forced Allison to back down. (Siringo's claims appear to be supported by others; click here for a summary by the Ford County (Kansas) Historical Society.)

In the 1880s, Siringo became a merchant in Kansas, and authored his first book in 1885: A Texas Cowboy; or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony. The book was published to wide acclaim, and has been called a classic of "range literature".

By 1886, at the age of 31, he was bored with business and moved to Chicago to join the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency. In pursuit of various "bad guys", he traveled as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico City, and was one of the first to use undercover techniques, variously disguising himself as a robber, rustler, union member, railroad hobo, etc.

In 1892 he was engaged in undercover work as a union member in Idaho, and was on duty during the bloody Coeur d'Alenes miners' strike. According to this American Heritage article, Siringo had actually done his undercover work so successfully that he had been elected recording secretary of the Gem Miners' Union, and had a close call described in the article as follows:

During the night he had crawled under a platform to listen in on the conversation of union leaders and then had returned to his rooming house. When he was awakened by the shooting at the Frisco Mill, he decided it was time to abandon his disguise and join his true allies in the Gem Mill. He had not proceeded very far before he was halted by a company guard, who told him that he would never get past Daxon’s saloon, where some fifty union men were firing on the mill and at anyone trying to leave or enter it.

Returning to his room at Mrs. Shipley’s lodgings, the resourceful detective sawed a hole in the floor, pulled a trunk across to cover it, and wriggled under the house. Like most western frontier towns, Gem made it possible for ladies to keep their hemlines unsoiled by providing an elevated wooden walkway along the dusty road. Using the walk as cover, Siringo wriggled his way toward the mill. Overhead, he heard union men cursing the poor shooting quality of their rifles—and speculating about the spy in their midst. A bunch of them broke off and headed for the Shipley home after this discussion, and Siringo put more speed into his movement in the opposite direction. He finally reached another saloon bordering the walk, with room enough to crawl beneath it to a point where he had only to make a short dash to reach the safety of the mill.

In the late 1890s, he infiltrated Butch Cassidy's gang, leading to the arrest of several gang members, though not Butch himself.

SIringo first came to Santa Fe at the behest of Gov. Lew Wallace to investigate a politically motivated murder that involved members of the Santa Fe Ring. According to Howard Lamar, a former president of Yale University, Western historian, and author of the 2005 book, Charlie Siringo's West: An Interpretive Biography, Siringo liked Santa Fe so much he stayed on and established a ranch near today's Siringo Road. In 1907 he retired to the ranch, and authored two more books about his experiences, A Cowboy Detective and Further Adventures of a Cowboy Detective.

But after nine years of retirement he began to yearn for his former life again, and responded to the governor's invitation to become a New Mexico Ranger, tracking cattle rustlers for the fledgling state from 1916-1918.

He moved to Los Angeles around 1920, and, like other retired cowboys, became a film advisor and a bit player for the burgeoning western movie industry. He died in 1928 in Altadena, California.


Here are a couple of interesting sources if you'd like to read further:

The Handbook of Texas Online

Wikipedia entry

Legends of America website; the Charlie Siringo photos used in this post are courtesy of this site.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Aspen Vista Trail

Took a hike last Thursday morning with some new friends on part of the aptly-named Aspen Vista Trail. The trailhead is located about 13 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza, in the Sangre de Cristo mountains near the Santa Fe Ski Basin. The entire trail is 12 miles long--we did not do anywhere near that, but had a beautiful uphill (not too steep!) hike for about an hour, and then turned around and came back down. The sky was an astonishingly deep blue, and the aspens were just beginning to turn color--another couple of weeks and they should be glorious! Click here to see my post from October 1 last year, with photos of the color much further along.

Aspens are unique in that many trees grow from a single root system. While each individual tree typically lives ony a hundred years (more or less), the root system can be thousands, or tens of thousands, years old. The trees bounce back well after forest fires because even though individual trees can be damaged, the root system quickly sends up new shoots.

This particular stand of aspen is one of the largest in New Mexico.

The view on the side of the trail

Aspens beginning to turn yellow-gold

Three of us (plus dog!) stopping to admire the view

Looking out over the valley just before we turn back