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"In large part, thanks to the efforts of the St. Francis Women’s Club, the church was rebuilt and remains a central place of worship in the community."
St. Francis Women’s Club
County : Santa Fe
Category : Arts
St. Francis Women’s Club
St. Francis Women’s Club
St. Francis Women’s Club
County : Santa Fe
Category : Arts

The San Francisco de Assisi Church at Nambe Pueblo has undergone several incarnations throughout its history. Most recently, the church had fallen into disrepair and was condemned in about 1960. In large part, thanks to the efforts of the St. Francis Women’s Club, the church was rebuilt and remains a central place of worship in the community.

 

Nambe is a Tewa speaking Pueblo twenty miles north of Santa Fe. The Pueblo has been occupied since 1300, but was first described by Gaspar Castaño de Sosa in 1591. The San Francisco de Assisi Church has been rebuilt a number of times since the Spanish established the first Catholic mission there. A church dedicated in 1725 replaced an earlier one that may have undergone damage during the 1696 revolt, which Nambe residents participated in. By 1908, the church had collapsed. A new church was built in 1910, but eventually condemned and demolished in 1960, leaving the community without a church for several years.

 

Community members at Nambe proposed hosting an annual ceremonial to raise money for rebuilding the church. In response, the St. Francis Women’s Club formed a committee to organize a ceremonial as a fundraiser. The inaugural ceremonial was held on July 4, 1961 at the village of Nambe. The following year, the ceremonial was relocated a few miles away, to Nambe Falls, a place that the Nambes revere as sacred. The ceremonial featured traditional dancers from Nambe and sometimes those from nearby pueblos.

 

For the ceremonial, the St. Francis Women’s Club prepared a menu of traditional Pueblo foods, including posole and chile stews and bread. According to a 1965 article from the Santa Fe New Mexican, the ceremonial had become a community spectacle. As in other Pueblo celebrations, community members worked together to welcome attendees with traditional food and dances. According to the same article, the women made more than 250 pounds of bread and were expected to feed more than one thousand visitors that year.[1] Proceeds from food sales and admission funded the church’s reconstruction; by 1974, the group had raised enough money to rebuild the church.

 

The new church designed by architect Allen L. McKnown was built within 100 feet of the previous one. The bell from the 1725 mission remains as well as several beams (including one inscribed with “The Lord Governor Don Juan Domingo Bustamante built this church at his own expense in 1725”) and an altar screen panel painted by eighteenth century santero Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco—these were incorporated into the Gerald Cassidy and Ina Sizer Cassidy house in Santa Fe.

 

Upon completion of the church, revenue was divided between maintenance and funding other community projects; and organizational responsibility was transferred from the church committee to tribal officials. In addition to funding the reconstruction of the church, the ceremonial helped to refuel cultural traditions at Nambe, which had suffered due to the loss of elder spiritual leaders in the mid-twentieth century, intermarriage, and a decreased population. Although the ceremonial originated as a church fundraiser, it continued after sufficient funds had been raised to rebuild the church and remains a popular event today. Nambe continues to celebrate the patron saint of the mission, Saint Francis of Assisi, with traditional dances on October fourth each year.

[1] Santa Fe New Mexican. “Nambe Falls Ceremonial Set July 4th.” New Mexican, 24 June1965. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

 

Sources:

Bryan, Howard. “Nambe Pueblo Needs a Church; Dances to Help Raise Money.” Albuquerque Tribune, 2 July 1971. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Bryan, Howard. “Nambe Pueblo Plans Ceremonial July 4.” Albuquerque Journal, 3 July 1975. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Bryan, Howard. “See Indian Dances, Eat Chili and Help Build Nambe Church.” Albuquerque Tribune, 29 January 1968. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Eutsler, Beth. “Nambe Plans Annual 4th of July Fete.” Albuquerque Journal, 28 July 1969. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Kessell, John L. The Missions of New Mexico Since 1776. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1980.

Noble, David Grant. Pueblos, Villages, Forts and Trails: A Guide to New Mexico’s Past. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

Santa Fe New Mexican. “Ceremonial at Nambe Falls to Help Build New Pueblo Church.” Santa Fe New Mexican, 25 June 1967. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Santa Fe New Mexican. “Dances Set at Nambe for Fourth.” New Mexican, 30 June 1966. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Santa Fe New Mexican. “Nambe Ceremonial Set Monday.” New Mexican, 3 July 1966. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Santa Fe New Mexican. “Nambe Falls Ceremonial Set July 4th.” New Mexican, 24 June1965. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Santa Fe New Mexican. “Nambe Pueblo Sets Celebration.” New Mexican, 27 June 1965. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Santa Fe New Mexican. “Nambe Women Bake Indian Bread for 4th.” New Mexican, 30 June 1966. “Nambe Pueblo, N.M.” Vertical File, Special Collections Library, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

Sweet, Jill D. Dances of the Tewa Pueblo Indians: Expressions of New Life. 2d. Ed. Santa Fe, N.Mex.: School of American Research Press, 2004.