Editor’s Note: This story was written by Humans of New Mexico contributors. This is part of our new project to help connect the Daily Lobo audience to more members of our community.
Between Cultures & Pueblos
My name is Bryce Townsend. I am from San Felipe Pueblo and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. I’ve lived in San Felipe most of my life, and I participate in Ohkay Owingeh as well. I kind of live in both places, you can say that.
My mom is from Ohkay Owingeh and my dad who passed about ten years ago is from San Felipe Pueblo. I took over his farm. I have not been farming all of my life. I just committed to it five years ago when I started doing it consistently. This year I got into organic farming, and it’s the first year that I am doing it. It is the direction I envision for building an agricultural base here, in San Felipe. One of my big goals is to re-establish the agricultural fields in the pueblo communities, not just here, in San Felipe, but also our neighboring communities throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
I lived in San Felipe on and off. My parents divorced when I was eight years old. I lived in Bernalillo, but I still had my connections back here. This experience was challenging by itself.
Language barriers is a challenge I have had all of my life. When thinking of re-establishing agriculture here (San Felipe Pueblo), I see it as a medium to re-establish language. It’s not just me, but also the youth that struggle with language. The language is fading out, and I am thinking that this (agriculture) can be a school for language. I went to Santa Fe Indian School for high school, and there I was able to meet Natives from not just the local pueblo or the pueblo communities but also from other tribes throughout the United States. Building networks and having a community sense prepared me to start creating a network. There is not much trade through agriculture, it’s kind of a lost art.
Language and History
The language here is Keres, and there are seven other tribes that share it: Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Zia, Laguna and Acoma. In Ohkay Owingeh it’s Tewa language. There are five tribes that share that. They are different languages, so that was part of the challenge for me growing up. My mom’s native tongue was different than my dad’s native tongue, so they communicated in English. I was primarily brought up using the English language, and I would just get tidbits of the Native tongues from each parent.
For me, that ties back into agriculture, because back then, our people used agriculture to build their civilization to be able to have a deep, rich culture and a complex society. They had clan systems. Those were ways they were able to carry on traditions and language to this date. We are not one of the largest pueblos in terms of land (San Felipe). But we have the largest agricultural land base of all the pueblos.
But our utilization of agricultural land base is very low. I would like to optimize our land base use. If we are able to do that, we would be able to sustain ourselves through that practice. That ties into being a sovereign nation. You can’t be sovereign if you don’t have your own food supply and food system in place.
Infrastructure is a big issue here in San Felipe. Transportation is a big one. We have had the train tracks that go through here for over a hundred years, but we never had a train stop here. Now that we have the Rail Runner here, I believe that is something the tribe can benefit from. Housing here, in the pueblo, has always been an issue. We have a lot of sprawl that is happening with housing. Since we don’t have a large land base area, that has potential to affect agriculture, because housing is encroaching into the fields. That is starting to happen, or it’s been happening maybe for about 20 or 25 years. I think as far as education, we have a pretty high dropout rate. There are also a lot of people on welfare. That is another way that I think having a strong agricultural base might help out by providing a place where people can get fresh food and healthy food. Those are the three things that stand out to me the most as challenges to living in San Felipe Pueblo.
Let’s try to build an economy through agriculture. Plant and grow our own food locally, and support each other locally. Buy from your farmer. Buy from the man that has his food stand by the roadside selling peaches or apples. Start thinking locally, and things will just happen naturally on their own if we just keep it centralized and local.
Humans of New Mexico serves as a guest columnist at the Daily Lobo. The project can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @humansofnewmexico.