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The Red Power Story and Its Local Link in New Exhibition
Red Power can mean a lot of things to different people. I will say that as my first statement in regards to Albuquerque Museum’s new Seven Generations of Red Power in New Mexico exhibition. I am a child of Acoma Pueblo. I have grown up in N.M. my whole life. I have seen the activism that is inherent to our lands. Tribal, Hispanic and other minorities have all fought different battles here. The story told specifically here is one of the Red Power movement in the late ’60s, which helped fuel an era of Indigenous self-determination that is still present today. The people who started these organizations were quite literally our aunts, uncles, fathers and mothers.
I wish this exhibit went backward in time, rather than the usual forward linear timeline. I say this because activism right now is at its most visible since possibly the ’60s and ’70s, and it is easier for people to react to something if they can relate. Our youth have already been to places like Standing Rock and other engagements. But how many of them understand the history behind those fights? That is what makes this important. Sometimes we need to slow it down and look to the past for lessons and links. Looking at the many images in this exhibit, the one that jumped out to me was the poster of fellow Acoma Simon Ortiz, with his name as big as John Trudell’s! A whole year before I was born. It is images like that that make your imagination stir. So many names that you have heard in your parents’ or grandparents’ conversations at the dinner table or listening to them talking to family or friends. It was really cool to see posters and documents of that era. I learned quite a bit!
I, for one, never thought in my lifetime I would see Oñate statues come down, let alone the obelisk in the Santa Fe Plaza. Not to mention the end of Fiestas de Santa Fe’s “Entrada.” Can you imagine telling Diane Reyna that, in 30 years, the issues she broaches in her 1992 film Gathering Up Again: Fiestas in Santa Fe would again be news, and result in concrete changes? Can you imagine leaving people like her and countless other activists out of this history? Because that is my one big beef with this exhibition. In some contexts, I’m not sure Red Power is inclusive of all the fights Native people in N.M. have stood up for and won. The organizers left out some major issues, even current ones like Chaco and Bears Ears.
Some people like to pick and choose their activism and start to split hairs. Activism is useful if it is followed up with a good legal effort or plan of action. Some do not see lawyers as part of this struggle. But in reality, the Red Power movement created more Native legal professionals than ever before. They fight cases in the courts today, as others fight in the streets of public opinion. Were Miguel Trujillo and his fight to vote not Red Power? Pojoaque Pueblo Governor Jacob Viarrial shutting down a major interstate in the name of asserting authority has a part in this era of activism, right? Although this was a great exhibit, it lacked that extra local context. Just a bit more digging to bring the N.M. context of activism full and clear. But it’s a good start nonetheless. [ ]