-- In his own words, Tito Naranjo is "the man who killed the
after an essay the American Indian wrote about Taos Pueblo's deer
dance ran in a local newspaper, Naranjo received an order of exclusion
from the pueblo. The order, which means Naranjo is banished from
Taos Pueblo, states he could be arrested if he crosses onto tribal
land. "Tito Naranjo caused irreparable harm to the sensible
nature of the religious activity through exploitation," the
66, a Santa Clara tribal member, is married to a woman from Taos
Pueblo. The couple, who live in Mora, have three children. But Naranjo's
father-in-law resides in Taos Pueblo.
said he was so inspired by the dance performed at Christmas at Taos
Pueblo that he submitted a short essay to The New Mexican for a
holiday-writing contest this past December. Before he wrote the
essay, Naranjo thought about the consequences for his family members
who live at Taos Pueblo, he said. "I thought immediately, Taos
Pueblo is going to disagree," said the longtime college teacher.
"Am I going to be a wimp, or am I going to write about this?"
concluded that the dance -- which he considers to be on the level
of a Shakespearean drama -- is so beautiful that it must be shared.
"There's a complexity expressed in the dance that I didn't
even get to -- these people who created the dance were pueblo geniuses."
essay begins: "The soft chant is ancient, coming perhaps, before
the Tanoan dialects split Tewa, Tiwa, Towa and Tampiro. The beat
is kept with a rhythmic clapping of the hands. A method older than
the introduction of the large, dark drum, it predates the beating
of a staff on a rolled buffalo or elk hide." The
essay won first place in the contest's adult category and earned
$100 for Naranjo. It was featured in the newspaper's Dec. 21 edition.
the story ran, Taos Pueblo spiritual leader David Gomez Sr. filed
a verbal complaint about Naranjo. "Tito Naranjo used a Taos
Pueblo religious activity for self promotion by writing an essay
of a sensitive activity for publication in The New Mexican,"
the exclusion order states. Gomez
could not be reached for comment.
didn't obtain permission from tribal officials to submit the essay,
said the order, which was signed by former Taos Pueblo Gov. AllenMartinez
and war chief Joseph Lujan.
Pueblo Gov. John Mirabal declined to comment on the matter. A New
Mexican reporter went to Taos Pueblo and met briefly with Mirabal
to discuss Naranjo's story, but the governor declined further comment
on the matter. At least 10 subsequent telephone calls to the governor
and other members of his staff were not returned.
a cold winter day last month, Naranjo sat at a Taos restaurant and
spoke of the need for Taos Pueblo, as well as other Indian tribes,
to preserve customs that are carried on orally. Because Taos tribal
members are beginning to live outside the pueblo, Indian children
are losing their connection to elders within the historic tribal
square, Naranjo said. "Young tribal members are watching television
instead of doing community work and going down into the kivas."
only way to preserve traditions is by writing about them and recording
them, Naranjo said. "CD-Rom will record the entire language
of the elders and preserve precise intonations and authenticity
of the language for future generations." "Literacy
changes consciousness, and all of Taos Pueblo is becoming literate,"
he added. "This newly gained consciousness demands new freedoms."
religious traditions have survived more than 5,000 years because
they have been written down," Naranjo said. "Taos Pueblo
has nothing written down to pass on. This worries me considerably.
Taos Pueblo is not going to be able to withstand the onslaught of
the wage economy and information-processing society."
a former professor at New Mexico Highlands University, now teaches
Native American studies at The University of New Mexico at Taos.
He is the author of the children's story Day With a Pueblo.
tribes in New Mexico prohibit the reproduction of sacred dances
through photographs and stories -- saying the retelling of something
sacred detracts from its spiritual significance. Those leaders also
fear tribes can be exploited for monetary gain when images of the
dances are reproduced.
leaders from Indian pueblos say the reason their traditions have
been kept alive for so many centuries is they have been carried
on orally. "Essentially," Naranjo said, "Tiwa spoken
words have life and power, while the written word is perceived to
kill the live and living nature of words, song and dance."
have celebrated Taos Pueblo's deer dance, including artist Dorothy
Eugenie Brett and writer Frank Waters. The dance was also immortalized
by Taos Pueblo artist Lorenzo Lujan, whose painting was paired with
Naranjo's story in the newspaper. Naranjo doesn't consider himself
a lone voice, crying out about the urgency for Indian tribes to
record their traditions. "Lots of people are saying this,"
he said. Naranjo
doesn't regret for "one minute that I wrote that essay,"
he said. "I'm going to keep going to the pueblo." In fact,
he visited the pueblo recently and wasn't arrested.
they were a young couple, Naranjo and his wife made the decision
to live outside the boundaries of their tribes. "We decided
not to live by the social checks that apply to all the people on
the reservation," he said. Nevertheless,
Naranjo hopes his order of exclusion will be revoked. For that to
happen, the tribal council would have to vote in favor of it.
said I did irreparable harm to the deer dance -- they're saying
if I did irreparable harm, I must have killed the deer dance. But
I didn't kill it. It's still alive and well."