Ohkay Owingeh (“Place of the Strong People”), located at the confluence of the Río Grande and Chama rivers just north of Española, New Mexico, has been in its current location for 700 years and is home to 2,800 tribal members. The ceremonial core of the pueblo, Owe’neh Bupingeh, was once surrounded by hundreds of homes, but time and federal housing projects reduced that number to 60 adobe structures and only 12 families living there.
In 2005 the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority began the complex task of rehabilitating those ancestral homes with the goal of balancing the cultural and historic preservation of the plazas with functional renovations. Housing needs are being met in a way that is culturally relevant and that reflects the identity and of this particular place. Thirty-four homes have been completed, and 42 families now live in the pueblo’s core, creating a sense of vibrancy and traditional community. Feast Days have become more crowded. More tribal members participate in dances and ceremonial activities. The project has won numerous awards and serves as an instructive model for pueblos across the region.
The Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority is gearing up to complete renovation of the final 25 ancestral homes in the tribe’s ceremonial core. Fundraising is underway with an ambitious goal of $4.5 million being sought from the private sector. Even though few Native communities seek private funding, Ohkay Owingeh made the decision to do so in order to address decreasing federal funds, create sustainable funding sources, and move toward tribal self-determination and equity. To kick off this effort, the State of New Mexico has made $500,000 in state tax credit funding available, offering an incentive in the form of tax relief equaling half of any project donation over $200—an opportunity for individuals and businesses with state tax obligations.
For more information or to tour the project, call 505.852.0189 or go to the website: www.ohkayowinghehousingauthority.org