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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 3, 2004 - Issue 110


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Nambé Governor Dances to His Own Beat

by Marissa Stone - The Santa Fe New Mexican
credits: map of the Pueblo's in New Mexico

map of the Pueblo's in New MexicoAbout 600 students at the Santa Fe Indian School applauded when Nambé Pueblo Gov. Tom Talache told them about plans for a meeting center that would empower tribes.

Plans for the United First Nations Assembly building in Santa Fe are under way, he said. Three hundred tribes that are represented in the National Congress of American Indians would be served by the facility, through which tribes can broker business deals, hold conferences and document native history.

"The new facility will give Native Americans a chance to be heard," said 16-year-old Victoria Garcia of Santo Domingo Pueblo. Garcia acknowledged that tribes are plagued with problems such as teenage pregnancy and drug abuse.

Talache's speech -- which spanned his teenage years on the pueblo when he drove his mother's yellow Pinto station wagon to his governorship today -- made Kathleen Aguilar, 16, of Santo Domingo Pueblo feel as though she could make a difference, she said.

The 35-year-old governor also discussed business ventures his tribe might embark on soon, such as a dry cleaning business and a gas station. "We haven't ruled out going into the gaming business," he said.

At one time, Talache was addicted to marijuana, he told the students. "I started going to arroyo parties and cornfield parties -- we'd light a bonfire and drink," he said. But Talache eventually stopped partying because he got tired of being a loser, he said. Instead of taking drugs, Talache began break dancing. He also worked at McDonald's and Wendy's.

When he was 19, one of Talache's classmates drove up to the drive-up window at Wendy's. "He was in his sophomore year of college," Talache said. Seeing the friend made the 19-year-old think he was in a dead-end job. He soon joined the U.S. Navy. Aboard the U.S.S.. Independence, Talache traveled to many foreign locales, including Japan, Singapore and South Korea. He also served during Desert Storm.

"He went though a lot of experiences around the world -- and discussed other cultures," said Deborah Aguilar, 16, of Santo Domingo Pueblo. Deborah Aguilar and Kathleen Aguilar, who are not related, were among students sitting on bleachers listening to the governor and watching a slide show presentation of his experiences. One of the slides showed the governor's red Chevrolet Camaro.

While he was in the operations and communications division of the U.S. Navy, Talache had a dream of Nambé Pueblo's flag flying next to other flags near a building, he said. Later, the governor said he realized his dream reflected the flags of Indian nations flying over a U.N. building for Americans Indians.

While he was in the Navy, Talache had no interest in moving back to New Mexico, he said. But years later, when the Talache's brother died, he and his wife, Mai, settled in Nambé Pueblo.

For a short time, Talache was a cashier. Later he helped a solid-waste company obtain contracts to collect garbage in New Mexico. Talache also worked for the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council.

He was appointed lieutenant governor of Nambé Pueblo in 1999. In 2002, he was elected governor. Talache is now in his second term as governor.

While he was away from New Mexico, Talache received an associate's degree in computer-aided design from ITT Technical Institute in Sacramento, Calif., and attended the International Networking Association, a school for entrepreneurs. Talache read magazines that told the stories of successful businessmen such as Donald Trump. "You have to dress for success," Talache said. The governor said he was interested in people who were successful and weren't afraid to try seemingly impossible things.

Talache, who was dressed in a suit during his speech, later changed into a white sweat suit and white cap. He began break dancing with the Rez Crew, a group of Indian break dancers from Pojoaque and Nambé pueblos. Talache started the group, which has 10 core dancers, in 1999.

Talache, who has a vision for Nambé Pueblo, wants to bring his ideas to fruition, he said. You are the future generation, he told the crowd: "Where will you take us?"

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