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Taos Pueblo: Cause for Celebration

On Friday and Saturday, September 17-18, 2010, Taos Pueblo commemorated the 40th anniversary of the return of Blue Lake and its surrounding land to the pueblo community. Amy Freitag, WMF's Director of US Programs, WMF consultant Mary Kay Judy, and I attended the events and met with the governor and secretary of Taos Pueblo to discuss WMF's project in collaboration with the Pueblo. Taos sits at the base of a majestic mountain range that is home to the sacred Blue Lake. In 1906, President Roosevelt took land, including the Blue Lake, from the community to create a national park. This was devastating for the pueblo because of the spiritual significance of the water to the community. For 64 years, officials from Taos fought for the venerated land, and, in 1970, President Nixon returned it to them.

WMF's involvement with Taos Pueblo began when it was included on the 2010 Watch. Since that time, WMF and the Pueblo leadership have been in discussions regarding a restoration project at the entrance of the pueblo in coordination with an on-site training program.The focus of the project will be a two-story building of 11 rooms.Training in traditional construction methods using traditional materials is integral to the project, and eight trainees have already begun collecting vigas, or wooden beams, for the upcoming work.

The commemoration ceremony on Friday began with a 7 a.m. mass at Saint Jerome Church. At the end of the service, there was a procession around the main plaza of the pueblo. This was followed by coffee, sweets, and conversation as the morning sun warmed up the air, our faces, and the adobe. At 10 a.m., Amy, Mary Kay, and I had a meeting with Governor Lujan, Secretary Romero, Preservation Program Director Zamora, Education Coordinator Chris Day, and other members of their staff. We discussed the details of WMF's involvement in a demonstration restoration project that will commence shortly.

After the meeting, we toured the site with Louis Zamora, Preservation Program Director, and visited the recently built preservation administration building adjacent to the organic farm and education center. We finished off the morning with a quiet lunch and leisurely walk around the main plaza of Taos. That night, WMF hosted a dinner with the director, secretary, education coordinator, and a few other parties at Doc Martin's in Taos.

Saturday was a full day of festivities beginning with 8 a.m. calls from the governor and war chief to each other as they each stood on the roofs of the North and South buildings of the pueblo. The rest of the day was filled with speakers, dances, and speeches on the efforts to reclaim their land, their gratefulness for this land, and their current efforts. We were invited to various officials' houses for lunch before departing for our return home to New York City.