On New Year’s morning I will get up early and go to Taos Pueblo.
I will go to the house beside the river, where I have spent many days and evenings, at different times, in different years and circumstances.
I’ve cleaned that house, helped to cook in it, celebrated and grieved in it. I have met the most amazing people there, many of whom I have featured here; it is a true crossroads between cultures and worlds. It is a house of spirit and memory for me.
I shall go to the house, with a thermos filled with hot coffee. Enough for all of us who gather early, to warm up beside the fire the men will make in the ancient hearth in the corner. We’ll head out soon, into the bitter cold, to follow the dancers as they make their rounds of the plaza, the dwellings, going from door to door to corner, to post. Singing songs that come from deep within this Turtle Island. Turtle Dancers singing songs of eternity.
I will cross the bridge with the others into the New Year. There beneath the Mountain, in this valley I call home, I will give thanks for all I have been gifted here; the blessings and challenges.
Because Taos begins there, beneath that mountain, and as 2020 marks a major new beginning my New Year could not possibly start without coming from the heart.
Patricia Michaels shares my informal nomination, along with Agnes Chavez, for taoStyle’s Woman or in this case, Women of the Year (2019.) Patricia is related to my dear friend Rhoda Concha Hopper, whose family owns the little house beside the river.
Patricia became known outside of her home state when she was the runner up on Season 11 of Project Runway, but her extraordinary life does not begin, nor end there. She has since gone on to show her collections in Manhattan during Fashion Week as well as in Sante Fe during Indian Market. She designed the exclusive Heritage Hotel Chaco’s chic staff uniforms, a line of textiles and bed linens and parasols covered with her magical feather designs. She has also been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. Because aside from her work as a designer, Patricia is a long time, extremely committed advocate for women’s rights.
And this year she found herself once more under the National spotlight.
Responding to a call for artists to represent a congresswoman of their choice at the “Seat At The Table” installation at the Edward Kennedy Center in Massachusetts, she submitted her art work amongst other American artists and was chosen to help bring attention to Dab Haaland’s initiatives to investigate the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“The second time I worked with MMIWG was through an invitation to make a red dress at the N.M State Capital’s Women’s Indian Day. “ Patricia says. “An invitation by (long time Taos Resident) Sandra Claymore led to meeting with Charmaine Jackson (who worked under the late Senator Pinto) to again help the Congresswoman (Haaland) and her initiative.”
“This is all volunteer work,” Patricia emphasizes. “I decided to reach out to my sisters and ask them to create a Taos Pueblo song that would be about healing for the lost souls and hurt families. My cousin Donna Concha composed a song over the following two days and the rest of the family went to work practising singing it together (during the N.M. State Capital Indigenous Day), to the late Senator.”
Most recently Patricia presented a fashion show in San Francisco, earlier this month on Dec 15. The show was sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute and Sewam American Indian Dance.
Designers Sho Sho Esquiro (who is of Kaska Dene and Cree ancestry) and Patricia Michaels, presented their work in a runway performance in the iconic Rotunda. The event, which was free but required an RSVP, was intended to reclaim space for indigenous voices and bring awareness to an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.
The fashion show was part of a citywide initiative titled “The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions.” The initiative explores themes around indigenous culture and history, like the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Alcatraz, the one-year anniversary of San Francisco’s first Indigenous People’s Day, and the anniversary of the removal of the “Early Days” sculpture.
The show was staged to zero in on these huge numbers of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Over 135 cases in its data on missing and murdered Indigenous women in California, 18 of which occurred in the Bay Area, have been documented by these organizations.
“This fashion show was a unique way to amplify the voices of Indigenous artists and say, in our own words, how our communities are being impacted by the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” says Annita Lucchesi, executive director of Sovereign Bodies Institute.
“There is such a rich tradition of Indigenous women’s leadership and resistance to violence in San Francisco, we are honored to partner with the San Francisco Arts Commission to highlight those stories and use this fashion show as a path to dialogue on how to make our communities safer for Indigenous women and girls.”
Patricia remains front and center in this battle using her voice and her talent to bring attention to injustice, oppression, violent brutality and murder of Native Women and children, and in doing so, she calls attention to ongoing crimes against all women, and she always does it with love. Understanding deeply that love alone triumphs over evil, bringing it all back to the Heart. She epitomizes the ethos of this blog. Taos style to the core!
I leave this blog as I began it, at the village, and with tremendous gratitude and so much love for all of you, my readers, who have journeyed with me along the way.
taoStyle heads in a new and exciting direction, under the stewardship of UNM-Taos DMA Department Chair Peter Walker. The archives will remain intact; connecting all the dots that make up the tapestry of Taos.
Peter and his students will continue to update the blog and evolve it with their formidable talent and boundless creativity. I am thrilled to give them yet another platform on which to practice the skills they acquire in the classes and workshops available to them at UNM-Taos DMA, and to broaden their base on Social Media and the WWW.
On Jan 2 2020, I begin my new role as editor of Tempo, the Taos News’ Arts & Entertainment Magazine. I take on this position with much humility; Rick Romancito leaves behind a 30 year legacy – a lot to live up to. In this coming Leap Year, it’s fitting I think, that I take a giant leap of faith!
I will learn everything I can from him over the following two weeks or so, and will probably move at a snail’s pace for awhile. No revolutions at the Taos News Headquarters folks! But once these feet get a bit wet, I do intend to start putting my stamp on the weekly supplement as we head into the new, roaring 20’s, ensuring that Tempo is an authentic reflection of what Taos is, and what it is becoming.
I am excited to join the creative team at the Taos News and to have this opportunity to collaborate with them.
But first I will visit the village, where Rick Romancito like Patricia Michaels, has deep roots. I will go to give thanks to the land, to the place in time where I find myself after all these years. To the spirit guardians who have allowed me to call this valley home. To the ones I have known who have since passed on, who once sat beside me as we warmed our hands by that fireplace in the corner.
Thank you everyone, with love. I hope you will stay with me as I cross the bridge into 2020.
Happy New Year to you all, may it be a year of Blessings & Grace
You can find me at Tempo online and in print, every Thursday, where I’ll continue to cover the people and places, the music, art, culture and rich history that make Taos unique.
To stay tuned to taoStyle and its changes, bookmark UNM-Taos DMA site linked below this post, and keep checking the blog for their new updates beginning in Feb 2020.
Contact DMA Department Chair – Peter Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
And for much more about Patricia Michaels and her gorgeous Haute Couture design, please visit her site linked below.
Post title from Series Of Dreams by Bob Dylan
copyright © 1991 by Special Rider Music
Top photograph of Taos Pueblo by Geraint Smith
Portrait of Patricia by Bill Curry
Images of Patricia’s designs in and off the runway, thanks to Patricia