The Land Of The Strong People
January 7, 2020 10:18 AM   Subscribe

It Takes a Village: The Story of Ohkay Owingeh - The earliest photographs of the village, taken in 1877, show a place still recognizable today. The one- and two-story buildings surround four unpaved plazas used for dances and feast days that regularly attract crowds of visitors. Owe’neh Bupingeh, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, isn’t a museum piece; it’s a living village. It serves as the historic core and spiritual center of Ohkay Owingeh, one of 19 federally recognized pueblos, or tribal communities, in New Mexico. A decade ago, however, it looked as if Owe’neh Bupingeh might return to the earth from which it came. The number of inhabited homes had fallen to about 25, from a peak of roughly 200. Visiting families stayed in some of the other residences during ceremonies, for which tribal members return from all over. Many, though, had been abandoned or had slipped into such disrepair that they were unfit for regular habitation. The American Southwest contains many deserted (or nearly deserted) pueblos that only fill with people during tribal gatherings. They remain central to native spiritual practices, but they too often carry the haunted air of half-abandoned ruins. Owe’neh Bupingeh could have followed that path.
It did not because the tribe decided it would not.

SEEDocs - Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan and Rehabilitation Project

Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Project
The project got its start in 2005 with a $7,500 grant from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division to train six high school students from the tribe in preservation documentation. By then, only about 25 of the historic core's 60 houses were occupied, and about half the structures were in poor condition or worse. Many had missing doors or windows, while others had vegetation growing on their roofs. In some, the character-defining and structurally essential vigas (beams roughly hewn from logs) were rotting, and in a few cases houses had completely collapsed.

Since 2010, general contractor Avanyu has completed the restoration of 20 houses, with the rehabilitation of nine more under way. In order to guide the construction process, AOS created a preservation plan, working closely with the client–the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority–as well as a group of tribal elders who served as cultural advisers. The document defines an approach that balances the sometimes conflicting requirements for funding, restoration standards, and the tribe's cultural values. And it provides a strategy for creating cost-effective and comfortable living environments.
Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Project photographs from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
posted by the man of twists and turns (3 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Success Stories: Okhay Owingeh
In the 1970s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) created subdivisions of single-family homes on the outskirts of the Pueblo, which contributed to the deterioration of life-ways, language, and centuries-old construction methods.
The heartbreaking thing was that this came after the Indian Bill of Rights, part of the larger Civil Rights Act of 1968, and possibly before the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. As the U.S. was apparently* turning toward returning self-governance to tribal entities, there were also bureaus who were still destroying their culture. (*I have so much to learn with regards to the history, including very recent history, of abuses of native rights, people, and their cultures, so I don't know if this is an accurate statement.)
The Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Project has had a profound impact on the Ohkay Owingeh community and has been heralded as a model planning effort for Native American communities in historic settings. No pueblo tribe had previously developed a comprehensive preservation plan through HUD funds, and the program received the HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award from the American Planning Association. The project required the creation of numerous committees to guide everything from practical housing concerns to aspects of private traditional knowledge.
I love and celebrate New Mexico success stories. Thanks for this post.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:11 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]

If you're trying to put the pueblo in geographic context, here it is on Google Maps, about 30 miles north of Santa Fe, and about 40 miles southwest of Taos.

Bonus fact: the general contractor, Avanyu LLC (named after a Tewa deity, the guardian of water, per Wikipedia), was a Native American, woman-owned construction company, operating in this part of New Mexico.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:18 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]

Are you sure about the past tense about Avanyu filthy light thief? While their website looks like it got parked, Avanyu LLC seems like it might still be in existence, having an active office in Santa Fe and doing business as Avanyu General Contracting per google maps. Phone number match additional contact info from their BBB page.

Here's their CEO and COO accepting an award as of november, 2019
posted by gryftir at 4:33 PM on January 7

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