Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After a long year of staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic, children are excitedly returning to the “traditional teachings” summer camp.

The four day camp features cultural activities including pottery making and planting and tending the Resilience Garden. The children even eat lunch while being told a story, a nod to maintaining the practice of oral tradition that is often centered in many Indigenous communities.

This program is important for sharing Indigenous knowledge, organizers like Shannon Romero, Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos and Navajo, say.

Romero added that it’s an important opportunity for urban Native youth who don’t have access to travel to their tribal nations because of the pandemic. In New Mexico, some tribal nations remain locked down to those who don’t live there out of safety concerns.

“It’s really a blessing because we didn’t get to have this camp last year,” Romero said. “It's nice to have the students come back.”

The camp is hosted and operated by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, a museum and center that perpetuates pueblo culture, in Albuquerque.

A key activity for the children is a pottery making class. This year’s class was taught Monday by Acoma Pueblo potter Claudia Mitchell who explained how traditional clays are gathered near her house. She showed the children how to shape the clay and how to use yucca stems as paint brushes. 

Acoma Pueblo potter Claudia Mitchell speaks to campers at the “traditional teachings” summer camp in Albuquerque, NM. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, ICT)
Acoma Pueblo potter Claudia Mitchell speaks to campers at the “traditional teachings” summer camp in Albuquerque, NM. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, ICT)
Campers use water to mold pieces of clay into small pots at the “traditional teachings” summer camp in Albuquerque, NM. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, ICT)
Small pots made by attendees at the “traditional teachings” summer camp in Albuquerque, NM. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, ICT)

Historically, pueblo people made pottery for utilitarian purposes such as cooking, storing food and water, as well as artistic and trade purposes.

The campers are both Native and non-Native children. Teaching non-Native children, Romero says, is important in teaching cultural humility. She added that the children are eager to learn respectfully.

The camp is held every year in June. More information can be found here.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com.

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