Recently, The Santa Fe New Mexican published an article (“The story of Sky City: Edward Proctor Hunt and the Acoma origin myth,” Pasatiempo, Sept. 18) that reviews How the World Moves by Dr. Peter Nabokov, as well as The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo, by Hunt, and edited by Nabokov.
At this time, the Pueblo of Acoma does not take a position on the publication of How the World Moves and its detailing of Hunt’s life, as that is of no concern to the pueblo. There are several stories about the Hunt family and Acoma and many versions of each story. While the pueblo would dispute many of the facts in the article published in your newspaper pertaining to that relationship, Nabokov and the Hunt family have every right to publish their versions. However, The Santa Fe New Mexican and writer Priyanka Kumar should have had the courtesy and professionalism to contact the Pueblo of Acoma for verification of the events depicted in the article, or attribute those statements to Nabokov or Hunt.
Of greater importance is Acoma Pueblo’s concern about Nabokov’s publication of The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo; as Nabokov agreed to submit the manuscript to the pueblo for review and to appear before the Acoma Tribal Council to discuss possible publication of the book. Virtually every other modern scholar and professional working with the Pueblo of Acoma has sought this permission when seeking to disclose sensitive cultural information. Contrary to popular misconceptions, Acoma has approved of disclosure in the past. Some examples of published work with permission of the Pueblo of Acoma include publications by Dr. Ward Allan Minge, Dr. Alfred Dittert, Dr. Florence Hawley Ellis, Dr. Kurt Anschuetz and others.
While a manuscript of The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo was submitted to Acoma Pueblo at the pueblo’s insistence upon discovering Nabokov’s planned publication, and was being reviewed by traditional leaders, Nabokov did not follow through on any of his other promises prior to publication. Nabokov holds himself out as a scholar and “friend” of Indian tribes. His actions suggest otherwise, as he does not exhibit basic respect for tribal beliefs and practices.
Finally, Hunt never had the permission of the pueblo to impart any Acoma sacred information to anyone, much less to the Bureau of Ethnology for publication. The pueblo has always considered this publication by the Bureau of Ethnology to be a fundamental breach of trust by the United States. It is a glaring example of the unfortunate and ugly incidents of the late 19th century involving archaeologists and anthropologists, personified by the likes of Frank Cushing at Zuni.
The Origin Myth of the Pueblo of Acoma is the intellectual property of the pueblo, not the property of the United States, and surely not the property of Hunt or Nabokov to reproduce. The pueblo today has grave uncertainty as to Hunt’s actual knowledge about Acoma beliefs, as he left the pueblo at an early age to attend school, and thereafter chose not to participate in the activities where traditional knowledge is passed on to the younger generations.
This concern is strengthened by the many inaccuracies in the book. It is a product of the complete disregard and disrespect for the community, which Nabokov’s book builds upon. It is not, as your article suggests, a book for the pueblo youth to learn about the Acoma origin beliefs. Instead, it is a modern-day example of sensationalized disrespect and disregard of tribal culture, community and sovereignty.
Fred S. Vallo Sr. is governor of Acoma Pueblo.