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Thanksgiving With the Indians

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Aside from it being a Thanksgiving where we felt extremely grateful for everything and everyone around us, our day began with a beautiful hike on Aspen Vista Trail at the Santa Fe Ski Basin. The altitude is pretty high so there was lots of snow on the trail.

Then we went to the home of our friends in the Cochiti pueblo for Thanksgiving dinner. What a blast! There was Gabe (“Yellowbird”) and his wife, Katy and their children and grandchildren, some of whom we already knew and some we just met.

Judy described it well on the way home. She said, “It’s like being around the Cormier clan. They are warm and open and they love people and they LOVE to laugh.” We started with a game… “Share one thing that happened to you last month that made you feel really proud… Then share one thing that was really funny.”

I can tell you it’s a great ice-breaker!

Then they said a prayer before we filled our plates and included a blessing for the “two pilgrims” who had joined their family.  🙂  The meal was a traditional turkey dinner… just add some tasty New Mexican chillies!

During dinner, I asked what “Chicos” were. We’ve been seeing signs advertising homes selling “chicos” and had no idea what that was. It turns out it’s a popular dried, smoked corn that is used in some Indian recipes.

Later, one of Gabe’s daughters invited me to come back to the pueblo before sunrise and they would have a ceremony to give me my Indian name: “CHICO”


There was some sharing of traditional Cochiti beliefs, practices and symbolism. Lots of stories… a few tragic, but mostly funny ones.

Judy and I played a few songs for everyone. As a result, we were asked to perform for San Ildefonso pueblo’s Art Fair next month.

Gabe, who has been building Cochiti drums all of his life, asked Judy where he can get a djembe!

One relative from the Acoma pueblo, who now lives in the Laguna pueblo was quietly reading Gabe’s copy of my drum circle book. He told me that men of his clan are always asked to sing at ceremonies and he has always declined, believing he’s not good enough. He read a passage from my book that he felt addressed his reluctance to sing. He said he never thought of it from my perspective. He wanted me to know that he is reconsidering singing because of something I wrote.

It was an awesome time with some very fun people. They are people who know who they are. They’re comfortable in their own skin. There is an authenticity about them and an appreciation of authenticity from you.

Judy’s observation may explain why we’re so at home with pueblo Indians. It felt like New Year’s Day at my Uncle Oscar’s house. It felt like the best of the Cormiers… people who love to tell stories and make each other laugh… and love the fact that you showed up.