COCHITI LAKE, N.M., -- Throughout August, the District’s Cochiti Project celebrated “Cochiti Pueblo Month” with a series of programs highlighting Cochiti Pueblo Culture and Continuity.
Cochiti Project Volunteer Coordinator Craig Barth, who is a volunteer himself, worked with the District and Cochiti Governor Joseph Suina to present the series of programs.
On Saturday, Aug. 9, Gov. Suina started things off with a lecture titled “Canes of Power.” He focused on the legacy of tribal sovereignty beginning with the Spanish conquest of New Mexico and extending down to this day. The same day Cochiti Tribal member Marian Valdo came in at 6:00 am and baked bread in the “Kuush-Ku,” – the bread oven, or “horno” – located in the Visitor Center courtyard. Valdo is the widow of former employee at the Cochiti Project, Gary Valdo.
“This was the Kuush-Ku's first use ever to bake bread and actually be utilized for what it was intended,” said Mark Rosacker, the operations project manager at the Cochiti Lake Project.
“Marian baked about 28 loaves of Pueblo Bread which were ready and ‘hot out of the oven’ at the end of Governor Suina's program. Our own Cochiti Project staff and Craig Barth provided coffee, butter, and honey to go with the fresh bread. And in Pueblo tradition, it was all shared and given away to those present,” Rosacker said.
In addition to the Corps and tribal participants, there were more than 50 members of the general public in attendance for the lecture and bread baking demonstration.
The governor’s talk informed even those one would expect to have the historical knowledge. After the program, a Town of Cochiti Lake resident, with tears in his eyes, said, “I have lived here for 19 years, and never knew any of this.” Many other positive comments followed.
“The Corps, along with Cochiti Pueblo are building a community, and a bridge to better understanding among all people through these interpretive programs,” Rosacker said.
On Saturday, Aug. 16, Cochiti Tribal members Martha Arquero, Nellie Pacheco, and Herman Suina presented a short workshop and demonstration of the Cochiti Pueblo crafts of pottery making, jewelry making, and drum making. The event took place “On the Green” at the Town of Cochiti Lake’s town hall. Approximately 60 people attended the forty-five minute demonstrations in each subject.
A third program was held Saturday, August 23, at Bandelier National Monument which is one of the pre-eminent traditional homes of the Cochiti Pueblo people. This gathering took place on a very foggy and damp morning, but those who were present had the opportunity to learn more about Cochiti tribal history from Governor Suina and Cochiti Pueblo Natural Resources team member Kai-t Blue-Sky. Kai-t led a nature walk in Frijoles Canyon focused on native plants and their food or medicinal uses as practiced by the Cochiti Pueblo people.
In addition to the special interpretive programs in August, the month also was historic with the re-introduction of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep into the recovering Las Conchas burn scar area of Cochiti Canyon.
The Pueblo worked with other tribes and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to coordinate the relocation of 45 sheep into historic bighorn sheep habitat near Cochiti Canyon in the Jemez Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest the week of Aug. 10-16. According to the Department of Game and Fish, this area “has become ideal bighorn sheep habitat.” These 45 bighorn sheep originated in the Wheeler Peak area in the Carson National Forest.
“I was fortunate enough as Cochiti Project Office Project Manager to be invited to one of these release events and represent the USACE, along with tribal representation from Cochiti, Santo Domingo, Laguna, and San Ildefonso Pueblos,” Rosacker said. “This is a deeply significant event, both culturally and ecologically, with potential for these animals to spend a portion of their time in, and around, White Rock Canyon and the Cochiti Lake Project as a part of their winter range. It is hoped that this herd will become a nucleus for ongoing bighorn recovery in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.”
“Biologists anticipate that the herd will expand into Bandelier National Monument and the White Rock Canyon area, and will increase opportunities for New Mexican’s to see bighorns in the wild,” said the Department of Game and Fish in a news release. They also said that all of the adult sheep will have radio collars, and 20 of the collars will have GPS technology that will give wildlife biologists new insights about the sheep and their daily routines.