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Red Paint Powwow honors Nde


SILVER CITY, N.M. – Although Nde are a vibrant, integral part of the communities of southwestern New Mexico, little truth is recognized about this Native group – the Apache.

Even their name is a misnomer – meaning “enemy” in the A:shiwi (Zuni) language. It’s time for the reality of the Nde to replace the myth and respect given to the original peoples of this land.

With this hope in mind, the Red Paint Powwow was born. The name, Red Paint, refers to just one of the Nde people whose homelands were in the Silver City region, thus a perfect title for the celebration.

“The pow wow started out by having a desire to see pow wow in this area and to reincorporate Native American culture into this area,” Vice President of the Red Paint Intertribal Council Jon Gonzalez explained. “It’s very hard to get by here as Native people because of what happened here. This is a way to re-educate people about the Warm Springs and Apache people.”

In living oral histories and according to the Oxford University Press Native American Encyclopedia, European enslavement of Nde peoples and their traditional lands prompted their distrust and distain for European-American interlopers. These combined sentiments of disgust led to the virtual annihilation and genocide of the Nde peoples – an insidious horror that persists to this day.

“Apache people are really very reclusive. … Our bands consisted of very small groups and we socialize little. We have our families to keep us, intrigued, you could say. The genocidal effect is very devastating.”

Gonzalez said through his youth, neither he nor his family presented themselves as Nde due to the fear of losing their land or their social acceptance. “I think I was about 20 years old when I finally accepted my heritage.”


 Photo by Rebecca Jacobs Fabian Fontenelle, A:shiwi/Omaha, the 2009 Red Paint Powwow Head Man and a Northern Traditional Dancer, danced during the Intertribal Dance.

With this recognition, Gonzalez was able to commence a healing process and comprehension of his culture’s history and legacy.

“Apache live amongst our bands in peace and harmony. We don’t accept wastefulness – we’re a low-impact people,” Gonzalez said, explaining that small individual groups of Nde inhabited Apacheria, which contains regions of what are now New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, moving through the area, not in a “nomadic” way as commonly assumed, but to preserve the integrity of the lands.

Now in its sixth year, the Red Paint Powwow organizers and attendees place great importance upon honoring the descendents of the Chiricahua and Lipan Nde and their continued life-ways.

Throughout the pow wow weekend, held Jan. 16 - 18,

descendents and families of Cochise, Geronimo, Lozen, Victorio, Mangas Coloradas and their bands were acknowledged.

On Jan. 16, local youths and the community were invited to the Native Market where presentations about the Nde were given. Steven Bluehorse was on-hand to tell traditional stories.

“This is a way to share our culture – to share our plight,” Gonzalez said.

The pow wow is also a way to unite the community, drawing tourists and visitors from throughout the country.

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“It’s a way of supporting economic development, supporting cultural education and enlightenment.”

Nearly 50 vendors of all types presented their authentic Native wares through the three-day event with a diversity of products including paintings, frybread, Indian tacos, music and more.

It’s very hard to get by here as Native people because of what happened here. This is a way to re-educate people about the Warm Springs and Apache people. – Jon Gonzalez, vice president of the Red Paint Intertribal Council

Repainting history

Of special interest is the new photo series the Chiricahua Apache Nde Nation and Red Paint Intertribal Council has undertaken.

“We started talking about doing a series because of the interest in the Chiricahua people,” Gonzalez said.

With the assistance of photographer Nancy Smith Jones, president of the Red Paint Intertribal Council Joe Saenz, member Joe Giron and Gonzalez took to the hills of Fort Bayard Wildlife Refuge. There, in traditional Nde attire, the three men mounted horses and commenced a photographic journal of their mission to bring cultural awareness of the Nde to contemporary societies.

Following the September photo shoots, the men inquired with local, world-renowned artist Lois Duffy to interpret the photos through her brush.

Gonzalez said they chose Duffy for many reasons. “It’s the whole package, it’s everything – the way she talks, the way she paints. She’s such a nice woman and when I approached her with it, she already had the idea in mind, but she didn’t have the subject.”

The men shared the multitude of shots with Duffy who chose two she couldn’t wait to paint. Her first project was a solo shot of Gonzalez with a bow on horseback. This nearly life-sized acrylic hangs on the wall of Duffy’s gallery.

The second, not yet finished, is in the rear of Duffy’s gallery and depicts Saenz on horseback with Cooke’s Peak in the background.

Duffy said the opportunity to paint such compelling subjects is thrilling, and in a unique way, falls into her line of work.

“Me and my subject matter is all over the place, so I guess this fits into that. When I first moved here I did a historical series with miners and prospectors. … When he approached me with it, I thought, this was something that I could sink my teeth into because of the contemporary aspects of it.”

Duffy said through the process of painting, she has held authenticity as the utmost important element. She has given reproduction rights to the Chiricahua Apache Nde Nation and Red Paint Intertribal Council in hopes they will be able to generate funding for the mission and pow wow.

Through this series of photos and paintings and the Red Paint Powwow perhaps individuals will look more closely at the true history and contemporary realities of the Nde. Perhaps their sovereignty, lands and identity will be honored. Many believe it is time.