Daryl Whitegeese

Santa Clara/Pojoaque
Daryl Whitegeese
Carved red jar with sun and kiva step design

Daryl Whitegeese was born in March, 1964 to LuAnn Tafoya of Santa Clara Pueblo and Sosi Tapia of Pojoaque Pueblo. He learned the basics of the traditional art of making pottery from his mother as he was growing up but he also grew up in a family where everyone was a potter. He says he produced his first pot on his own when he was about 32. He enjoyed it so much that by the time he was 40 he was a full-time potter. Prior to that, he'd been working at Digital Equipment Corporation as a systems administrator for 14 years.

After leaving DEC he returned to Santa Clara Pueblo and took on some free-lance computer work. That's how he met his wife, Rosemary Hardy at Pojoaque Pueblo. They were married in 1997 and now have 3 daughters and 3 granddaughters.

Over the years since he began making pots Daryl has participated in the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair and the Eiteljorg Museum of the American Indian (in Indianapolis), earning multiple ribbons at all three, including ribbons for Excellence in Traditional Arts, Best of Division, 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place and Best of Traditional Pottery.

When we asked him where he gets his inspiration he immediately said "Mom and Grandma" (meaning LuAnn and Margaret Tafoya). He said his favorite shape to make is the red water jar with a bear paw imprint, "just like Mom and Grandma used to make." He also loves to decorate his pots with traditional designs, using his own distinctive carving style on a surface polished to a mirror-like, high lustre finish.

While we were talking to him Daryl told us he loves music, especially blues and jazz. He also loves to go to Bronco games in the winter. When he's not busy making pots he's probably somewhere with his family, "spoiling the kids."


Santa Clara Pueblo

The Puye Cliff Ruins
Ruins at Puye Cliffs, Santa Clara Pueblo

Santa Clara Pueblo straddles the Rio Grande about 25 miles north of Santa Fe. Of all the pueblos, Santa Clara has the largest number of potters.

The ancestral roots of the Santa Clara people have been traced to the pueblos in the Mesa Verde region in southwestern Colorado. When that area began to get dry between about 1100 and 1300, some of the people migrated to the Chama River Valley and constructed Poshuouinge (about 3 miles south of what is now Abiquiu on the edge of the mesa above the Chama River). Eventually reaching two and three stories high with up to 700 rooms on the ground floor, Poshuouinge was inhabited from about 1375 to about 1475. Drought then again forced the people to move, some of them going to the area of Puye (on the eastern slopes of the Pajarito Plateau of the Jemez Mountains) and others to Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo, along the Rio Grande). Beginning around 1580, drought forced the residents of the Puye area to relocate closer to the Rio Grande and they founded what we now know as Santa Clara Pueblo on the west bank of the river, between San Juan and San Ildefonso Pueblos.

In 1598 Spanish colonists from nearby Yunque (the seat of Spanish government near San Juan Pueblo) brought the first missionaries to Santa Clara. That led to the first mission church being built around 1622. However, the Santa Clarans chafed under the weight of Spanish rule like the other pueblos did and were in the forefront of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. One pueblo resident, a mixed black and Tewa man named Domingo Naranjo, was one of the rebellion's ringleaders. When Don Diego de Vargas came back to the area in 1694, he found most of the Santa Clarans on top of nearby Black Mesa (with the people of San Ildefonso). An extended siege didn't subdue them so eventually, the two sides negotiated a treaty and the people returned to their pueblo. However, successive invasions and occupations by northern Europeans took their toll on the tribe over the next 250 years. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 almost wiped them out.

Today, Santa Clara Pueblo is home to as many as 2,600 people and they comprise probably the largest per capita number of artists of any North American tribe (estimates of the number of potters run as high as 1-in-4 residents).

Today's pottery from Santa Clara is typically either black or red. It is usually highly polished and designs might be deeply carved or etched ("sgraffito") into the pot's surface. The water serpent, ("avanyu"), is a traditional design motif of Santa Clara pottery. Another motif comes from the legend that a bear helped the people find water during a drought. The bear paw has appeared on their pottery ever since.

One of the reasons for the distinction this pueblo has received is because of the evolving artistry the potters have brought to the craft. Not only did this pueblo produce excellent black and redware, several notable innovations helped move pottery from the realm of utilitarian vessels into the domain of art. Different styles of polychrome redware emerged in the 1920's-1930's. In the early 1960's experiments with stone inlay, incising and double firing began. Modern potters have also extended the tradition with unusual shapes, slips and designs, illustrating what one Santa Clara potter said: "At Santa Clara, being non-traditional is the tradition." (This refers strictly to artistic expression; the method of creating pottery remains traditional).

Santa Clara Pueblo is home to a number of famous pottery families: Tafoya, Baca, Gutierrez, Naranjo, Suazo, Chavarria, Garcia, Vigil, Tapia - to name a few.

Harvest, Santa Clara Pueblo c. 1912
Courtesy Museum of New Mexico Neg. No. 4128

Santa Clara Pueblo c. 1920
Courtesy Museum of New Mexico Neg. No. 4214
Santa Clara Pueblo location map

For more info:
at Wikipedia
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001
Upper photo courtesy of Einar Kvaran, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

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