As a hawk circled high overhead, Joey Gutierrez drove a small tractor back and forth over his family’s field, still moist from the previous day’s rain, planting beans and corn. Joey, his father, Joe Val Gutierrez, and his sister Jacquelyn, who planted potatoes, were working the field their family had planted for generations at Puye, Santa Clara Pueblo’s ancestral land. Numerous cliff-dwelling ruins overlook the field. The remains of a 200-year-old log cabin lodge Joe Val’s ancestors built stand nearby.
Every other year, the family plants dry-land (non-irrigated) crops, enough for eating, for seed, and extra for any deer, elk or turkeys that might browse the field. “It’s good to be generous, not stingy. It will come back to you,” Joe Val said. In the fall, family, neighbors and friends help harvest and receive some of the bounty. In the off years, a cover crop of winter wheat, rye or oats is disked into the soil to help it recover.
Joey has been a ranger, fighting forest fires and building dikes in the area. Joe Val has worked this land since he was a child. A former tribal councilman, he was a heavy-equipment operator for many years. He is now disabled and has diabetes. “I continue to do this to try to inspire young people to keep up the tradition,” he says. “We don’t want to lose the culture.”