Tempo's third installment of In the Valle: Prejudice and Reconciliation in Taos features Taos Pueblo Tourism Director Ilona Spruce.
Spruce has been dedicated to tourism at Taos Pueblo for the better part of the 2000s, including through the challenges of the current pandemic. It is Spruce's direct experience with the rest of the world that made her ideal to join this ongoing conversation regarding prejudice and racism in Taos.
Often visitors to Taos Pueblo may wonder where all the tepees are, or why a Catholic Church still stands within the village walls. Spruce addresses some of these misconceptions about Taos Pueblo culture and life. "As far as my opinion in this, is the fact that we [Taos Pueblo Tourism] deal with the outside community day in and day out, not so much these days but on a normal basis, just trying to change the direction of the preconceived ideas about Native people, the Native population," said Spruce.
So where does prejudice come into play? Spruce draws from her own life experiences away from Taos to shed some light on how prejudice takes form in our valley. Spruce said, "There's more of this like, undertone, whereas you know if you go to the North it's more blatant, you walk into a gas station and someone starts following you … they already have an idea or they think they do, of what a Native person is …. and you are judged by the color of your skin."
There is a politeness in Taos that exists due to the cultural diversity, which yet plays a part in the underlying prejudice. "There is such a cultural mesh of everybody here that there are times when people are a little bit more adherent, and they are just a little bit more conscious of that but when they know that someone is out of the room, I don't know how conscious they are," said Spruce.
Still, she said, "I think Taos as a whole has come a long way. I think people who just moved here don't see how far we've come," said Spruce. Indeed Taos, has endured some of the most tumultuous times any civilization can.
As department director, Spruce often has to appear before Tribal Council, an arena not many Taos Pueblo women, as of yet, have had the opportunity to address.
Spruce brings attention to the division of people as being key to the way things are in our country, versus the unanimous actions leaders at Taos Pueblo have taken during the current pandemic, such as closing the tribe's border to noncommunity members. "Everything that's happening right now is a direct reflection of our leadership," said Spruce.
Spruce's conversation with Tempo spans a vast array of ideas and aspirations, which might just reflect the ideal Taos all our ancestors envisioned. An education including clarification of the Bering Strait theories, Kit Carson and assimilation. Spruce proves to be a true diplomat for her people. "Historically the town has always taken steps that were kind of out of the ordinary, and I think that's something that, you know, has to continue," said Spruce.
Watch the entire conversation online at the Taos News Youtube channel or on taosnews.com.
• Support In the Valle: Prejudice and reconciliation series
• Part 1: Interview with John Nichols
• Part 2: Interview with Larry Torres
• Part 3: Two Taos Natives have one crazy conversation in the Couse House
• Part 4: Anita Rodriguez talks systemic racism in Taos
• Part 5: Writer Bill Whaley goes full disclosure
• Part 6: Interview with Nikesha Breeze
• Part 7: Anne MacNaughton gives a thorough schooling
• Part 8: Iris Keltz expounds on our multicultural bonds
• Part 9: David Fernandez de Taos speaks of blending faith ways