Art, heritage shared for American Indian Week

March 19, 2009 by Andi Murphy NMSU Round Up

The Pueblos are known to be a secretive group of people, but for American Indian Week – after spring break- Hopi and Cochiti presenters will share some of their artistic culture with NMSU on April 4 at the outdoor stage east of Corbett.

Spencer Nutima, Hopi from Old Oraibi, Ariz. makes Kachinas, Hopi figurines that represent the spirits of animals, characters and aspects of nature.

For his demonstration Nutima will be carving a “Tihu,” or Kachina doll that is originally made for children but has evolved into a high-priced figure that sometimes sells for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

All the Kachinas have become commercialized and sometimes imitated falsely by other tribes and artists, Nutima said. Part of his time here will be to explain the authenticity of Hopi Kachinas, and what they really represent and mean to the people.

“I can make the authentic things and I can make the fun stuff too,” Nutima said.

He’s been conjuring up his own series of Kachina design and started carving about a month ago, Nutima said. It’s an inspiration he got from his grandfather where “light-hearted” Kachinas sometimes have funny colors or even crossed eyes, he said.

Nutima will sell some of his smaller pieces during American Indian Week’s Arts and Crafts Expo.

The other presenter, Samuel Suina director of the New Mexico Tribal Extension Task Force will make a drum on April 4.

Suina is from Cochiti Pueblo and says his tribe is known for making traditional Pueblo drums that are used in their dances and ceremonies. Some Pueblo tribes have forgotten the art of drum making and the significance of them to the culture, he said.

“When you’re making it, you have to be in good spirits,” Suina said.

Before Suina comes to campus he will find a perfect aspen log then give thanks to all the trees around him for harvesting that log. Then he will ask forgiveness of the ants and small animals that might have lived in or near that log. This keeps everything in good spirits and harmony, he said.

“We have to explain to them (the ants, trees and animals) that we are taking it for our dances and ceremonies,” Suina said.

After Suina has the log, he will carve out a drum here, while explaining its spiritual and healing powers.

“It’s about reconnecting our people back to the land,” Suina said, “back to Mother Earth.”

Suina also makes baskets and jewelry and teaches gardening and how to make mini green houses, he said.

“I was just trying to help bring different people in for American Indian Week,” said Darrell Nutima a sociology major and American Indian studies minor, and Spencer Nutima’s nephew.

Nutima has worked with Suina and his uncle before and decided it would be a good idea to bring the two in for their demonstrations. Because American Indian Week is about sharing culture and knowledge, Nutima said.

“We as representatives of American Indians invite everyone out to see, experience and enjoy our cultural expressions,” Nutima said.

American Indian Week starts off with a Walk of Nations down the International Mall on March 30. It’s hosted by ASNMSU, United Native American Organization, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, American Indian Program and the Native American Business Students Association.

Fliers of slated events are posted throughout campus.


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