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A Tewa Hopi artist shares a Native perspective on human history in southwest Colorado

Clark Adomaitis, KSUT/KSJD

Ed Kabotie played a wooden flute in the Canyon of the Ancients Museum auditorium. Behind him, an archival image of Puebloan archaeological sites illuminated a projection screen. Within a few moments, Kabootie’s serious tone gave way to humor.

He mixes his music with strong opinions, challenging his mostly white audience to reconsider their notion of history.

“Christopher Columbus discovered America. Whatever!” Kabootie exclaimed. “But the Vikings may have done it centuries before that. Well, hello, the Native Americans did it centuries and centuries, millennia before any of that. Hello, you guys aren’t the only ones that can figure out how to maneuver a boat!”

Kabotie identifies as Tewa and Hopi. His performances touch on race, colonialism, and equity in North American history.

“As a Native American,” he continued, “when you hear somebody give a land acknowledgment, at the end of it, I come to the conclusion, ‘So why are you still here?’ We’re acknowledging extreme injustice, glossing it over, and patting ourselves on the back for doing it.”

 Ed Kabotie shows a map outlining various Native language groups in North America.
Clark Adomaitis, KSUT/KSJD
Ed Kabotie shows a map outlining various Native language groups in North America.

Kabotie closed his presentation with a question-and-answer session. The audience asked Kabotie about his solutions to injustice. They also approached him after his presentation.

One woman asked whether he finds it emotionally challenging to perform his material. Kabotie responded gently but later said that his performances involve a mix of emotions.

“There’s a lot of times when it’s draining, exhausting, disheartening,” he admitted. “But the work also has its own strength and momentum, and it gives energy. When we’re following what we believe in, when we’re pursuing a calling in our life, it brings its own energy.”

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, located near Cortez, Colorado, contains more than 8,000 known archaeological sites. It serves as a well-preserved document of Native American cultures. But Ed Kabootie challenges the legitimacy of both the monument and its museum.

This story was published as part of the project Voices From the Edge of the Colorado Plateau. It seeks to cover underrepresented communities in the Four Corners. KSUT provides editing and web production for the project and its stories.

Copyright 2023 Four Corners Public Radio. To see more, visit Four Corners Public Radio.

Clark Adomaitis