Morning Word

Literary Giant N. Scott Momaday Dies at 89

Pre-trial detention bill tabled by committee

Literary giant N. Scott Momaday dies at 89

Grief and accolades from all corners poured into the world yesterday at the news that Pultizer Prize winning author N. Scott Momaday had died at the age of 89 at his home in Santa Fe. A member of the Kiowa Tribe, Momaday became the first Native American to win the Pultizer for his 1969 novel House Made of Dawn,” considered by many to have sparked what has been called a Native American Renaissance,” a statement from HarperCollins noted. Indeed, author Sherman Alexie, in a statement to the New York Times yesterday, described Momaday as “one of the primary foundations for all Native American literature.” Momaday’s most recent books include Dream Drawings: Configurations of a Timeless Kind; Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land; and The Death of Sitting Bear: New and Selected Poems. In addition to the Pulitzer, Momaday received a National Medal of Arts, awarded to him by President George W. Bush in 2007; a Guggenheim fellowship; an Academy of American Poets Prize; the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award; the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize; and the list goes on. He also held 23 honorary degrees from American and European colleges and universities. “Scott was an extraordinary person and an extraordinary poet and writer. He was a singular voice in American literature, and it was an honor and a privilege to work with him,” Jennifer Civiletto, director of Backlist at Harper and Momaday’s editor, said in a statement. “His Kiowa heritage was deeply meaningful to him and he devoted much of his life to celebrating and preserving Native American culture, especially the oral tradition. He also cared passionately about the American landscape and preserving the Earth and wrote about it so beautifully in Earth Keeper. We have lost an American treasure. He will be deeply missed but his legacy will live on.” Momaday is survived by his daughters Jill Momaday, Brit Momaday-Leight, and Lore Denny, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild. In a 2010 interview with SFR, N.Scott Momaday said: “I think everybody—and especially writers—creates themselves…Invents themselves. That’s what we do; that’s the power of the imagination. We have to have an idea of ourselves or we don’t exist. So yes, I’ve created myself. I’m a writer, a painter, a thinker. In this period when my body seems to have grown weaker for the time being, my mind remains strong. Maybe even stronger because of that.” (For a more recent interview, be sure to check out The Paris Review’s 2022 Art of Poetry discussion with Momaday.)

In announcing Momaday’s death, HarperCollins concluded with this quote from Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land, and so shall we:

“May my heart hold the earth all the days of my life. And when I am gone to the farther camps, may my name sound on the green hills, and may the cedar smoke that I have breathed drift on the canyon walls and among the branches of living trees. May birds of many colors encircle the soil where my steps have been placed, and may the deer, the lion, and the bear of the mountains be touched by the blessings that have touched me. May I chant the praises of the wild land, and may my spirit range on the wind forever.”

Committee tables pre-trial detention proposal

For the third consecutive year, a governor-backed proposal to change the state’s approach to pre-trial detention will not be making it to the governor’s desk. The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee yesterday voted 5-4 to table Senate Bill 122, which would have created a “rebuttable presumption,” essentially shifting the burden of proof from prosecutor to defense when it comes to holding suspects until trial. Last year, state Supreme Court Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon urged lawmakers during her State of the Judiciary address, to be cautious regarding such proposals, saying “we must remember why our Constitution protects the rights of every person, including those accused of crime. They are just that—accused, and presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.” A 2022 study from researchers at the University of New Mexico found such proposals actually don’t reduce crime because they don’t accurately identify the individuals most likely to be arrested for a new offense if released prior to trial. This year’s bill also faced opposition: In yesterday’s hearing, ACLU of New Mexico policy advocate Daniel Williams said the New Mexico Safe Coalition had given the bill an “F” grade in terms of whether it would make people safer. That being said, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday issued a statement saying she was “dismayed that our Legislature has once again refused to undertake an honest, robust debate on the state of our pretrial release system. Crime is out of control and something needs to change. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in behavioral health services, education, economic opportunity—critical components that ensure every New Mexican gets a fair shake. However, I will not stand by as repeat violent offenders walk in and out of our courthouses without consequence.” Rebuttable presumption, she said, “is not an extreme policy, and ours is modeled after federal law that has been in place for decades.”

Tax season is here

The state Taxation and Revenue Department began accepting returns yesterday, and urging New Mexicans to file early. Paper returns are due April 15, but taxpayers who file and pay electronically (the state’s Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) website is free to use) have until April 30. The department also announced a new child tax credit that can be worth up to $600 per qualifying child, and gradually decreases in value as income rises. The state says it expects the credit to provide approximately $180 million total to 292,000 families statewide. “We’re very excited about this new credit, which will provide more financial stability for thousands of New Mexico families,” Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement. Last year’s state special rebates and relief payments do not need to be declared as income for New Mexico income tax purposes, but may have federal income tax implications for taxpayers who itemize their federal returns. Personal income tax forms and instructions are available at tax.newmexico.gov in the Income Taxes folder on the Forms & Publications page. Paper forms will be available in Taxation and Revenue district offices and in many libraries throughout the state. A list of groups that provide assistance in filing taxes can be found here.

Police arrest accused kidnappers

Santa Fe Police announced yesterday they had arrested two people accused in a kidnapping incident on Saturday, Jan. 27. According to a news release, SFPD was dispatched at about 5:30 pm to 1341 Alamo Road where a woman said a man identified as 20-year-old Giovanni Aniles had come to her house in a white truck, demanded she pay him money she allegedly owed him; physically struck her daughter a handgun; and then left the area with her daughter. Police and detectives subsequently searched for Aniles and a second man involved, identified as 18-year-old Elijah Gallegos. Later in the day, the victim was located near the Interfaith Shelter and transported to an area hospital to receive medical treatment, while police continued to search for Aniles and Gallegos, drafting arrest warrants for both. Their truck was located on Sunday at a Speedway gas station at 2691 Sawmill Road, prompting a high-risk traffic stop and short foot pursuit, after which both were taken into custody. Aniles has been charged with kidnapping, extortion, multiple counts of aggravated battery on a household member and resisting and evading arrest, while Gallegos faces charges of accessory to kidnapping and extortion, along with resisting arrest.

Listen up

Santa Fe native, public school teacher and “happy music listener” Rebecca Scott Gonzales provides today’s installment in the 2024 Morning Word Playlist Project.

1. Teeth of Won’t” by Evarusnik: “Really any song on any of their albums is top-five playlist-worthy (plus they are a local Santa Fe band).”

2. “Forgiveness” by Patty Griffin: “Singer songwriter extraordinaire.”

3. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” by Radiohead: “There are so many Radiohead songs that resonate, but this one is my favorite. The ‘mood’ of this one and the lyrics. Wink, wink.”

4. “Radio Free Europe” by R.E.M.: “When I was a cocktail waitress at Club West in the mid ‘80s, this was our “set-up the bar and get ready for opening” jam. Good times.”

5. Don’t Let It Bring You Down” by Neil Young: “I also love Annie Lennox’s version (from her Medusa album).”

Beyond soup

ICYM last Saturday’s Souper Bowl, the event benefiting The Food Depot, sold out, with 1,700 people (including the organization’s staff) attending; 1,400 voting attendees; and 24 competing restaurants, six of which were first-time participants (here’s a list of all the restaurants, chefs and soups). Jambo Café Chef Ahmed Obo’s Roast Beet and Ginger Coconut Bisque won both the best soup and best vegetarian soup categories (we’ve lost track of how many times Obo has won at the Souper Bowl; we know he’s won best chef in SFR’s annual Best of Santa Fe competition for several years running, and a slew of other awards). Other award-winning soups included: Tibet Kitchen’s corn chowder by Chef Rodolfo Flores for best cream; Flying Tortilla’s savory green chile clam chowder by Chef Carlos Ruvalcaba for best savory: and Boxcar Santa Fe’s New England shrimp chowder with green chile hush puppies by Chef Francisco Delgado for best seafood. “Souper Bowl is truly a community event,” The Food Depot Executive Director Sherry Hooper says in a statement. “While we gather to enjoy a wonderful meal, this event is only possible with the incredible support of our restaurants, sponsors and community members. Souper Bowl is both enjoyable today and has a lasting impact for our hunger-relief programming across Northern New Mexico.” To that end, the Souper Bowl’s revenue will provide more than 400,000 meals, the organization says. And there’s more work to do! The Food Depot will be hosting the premiere of Movement, a short documentary about its food security network, with a Feb. 7 $125 event that includes a meet-and-greet with The Food Depot staff from 5 to 6 pm before the film, and a panel discussion with several nonprofit leaders and others after the screening tackling the question: “What are we going to do, as a community, as a state, and as a country, to begin addressing poverty?”

Taos FTW

Local Freshies, a web-based publication focused on mountain-town local businesses, provides a primer of the nine most popular ski resorts folks should avoid and which ones they should visit instead, suggesting snow bunnies seeking ski-town culture patronize Taos Ski Valley instead of Aspen Snowmass. Reasons: the snow “is so dry that it seems to be made of bird feathers” and the delicious New Mexican food. Meanwhile, Texas Tasty (an online publication that is basically what it sounds like it is) “discovers Taos” in its week-long adventures of art and cuisine. “Our anticipation for Taos had been building long before our plane touched down,” the “Texas Tasty Team,” writes. “Known for its vibrant art scene, Taos is a haven for artists and art enthusiasts alike, boasting an array of galleries, studios, and installations that span a wide range of styles and epochs.” The story includes a day-by-day itinerary for the five-day visit, including lots of meals (dinner at ACEQ sounded particularly good); skiing; a trip to Taos Pueblo; a stay in an Airbnb Earthship; and of course stops at galleries and stores. The crew also took advantage of a two-hour direct flight from Austin to the Taos airport (which appears to have more direct flights than Santa Fe’s airport). “As we soared above the landscapes we had explored, it became clear why Taos is a must-visit destination,” the story concludes. “It’s a place where history is not just preserved but lived, where art is not just displayed but experienced, and where the beauty of nature is not just observed but embraced.”

The warm final days of January

The National Weather Service forecasts another sunny day, with a high temperature near 54 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. NWS says the “quiet and seasonably warm” weather will continue through Thursday, before another winter storm comes through. In other words: a warm end to January, but winter is far from over, so here’s a poem by Anne Bradstreet to keep us in the mood.

Thanks for reading! The Word wanted to end with a few more words from N. Scott Momaday. Here is his poem, “Prayer for Words.”

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