The Natives Strike Back: Pueblo Revolt Reimagined, ‘Star Wars’ Style

Indian Country Today

The Natives Strike Back: Pueblo Revolt Reimagined, ‘Star Wars’ Style

Cochiti Pueblo potter Virgil Ortiz has progressed from clay to fashion, along the way collaborating with designer Dona Karan of DKNY. He's now set to evolve again, with "Evolution" a film project rooted in his edgy pottery designs and futuristic fashion.

What is the connection between your last "Clay and Fashion" project and the present one, "Evolution"?

The clay project addressed the influences of my pottery on my fashion, and vice versa. My garments and handbags [are ways to] wear my pottery designs. How that process goes back and forth, having taken images from my pottery, to integrate them in my fashion.

My new project, "Evolution," is a movie script I am writing, my interpretation of the nineteen Pueblos' revolt, when they came together in 1680 under the direction of the leader Po'pay.

The nineteen characters represent the nineteen pueblos, dressed with my costumes. I will not mention them as Cochiti, Santa Clara, or give them names. But they will be symbolic of the 19 pueblos, every tribe wearing a different look, taken from my pottery. The movie will integrate my pottery designs, in 3D images. In each series, there will be different characters—the "Pilots," the "Translators," the "Runners"—those 19 characters, each one different, represent the New Mexico Pueblos. So here again, I'm working with different mediums—pottery and fashion. And I am also doing the soundtrack. I'm designing the whole project.

What made you decide to start this project?

The Pueblo revolt is not taught in history classes: with this project, I speak about that first American Revolution, breaking down the script into different series, to make a feature movie about the Pueblo revolt as seen by me, through my characters. It will resemble Star Trek or Star Wars, but with Native characters, and actors—a two-hour movie, with my understanding of history. The movie will give a better story, and get the kids interested, making it easier for them to understand history.

What are your sources for writing the script?

My sources are mostly transmitted verbally though the elders, as not a lot is written. The nineteen pueblo elders know that story: how all the pueblos came together to push the Spaniards out, the real history of New Mexico. This genocide has to be told; and how so many Indians were killed. I want to educate about what really happened, because non-Natives do no talk about it—it's shameful. We will know the exact information now.