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School of Architecture + Planning


Our condolences are with the friends and family of UNM alumna Rina Swentzell

October 30, 2015 - Carolyn Gonzales

When word came out at the UNM School of Architecture and Planning that alumna Rina Swentzell – Santa Clara Pueblo architect, potter teacher and activist, died on Friday, Oct. 30, faculty responded.

Christopher Wilson, J.B. Jackson Chair of Cultural Landscape Studies, said, “Rina is certainly one of the most distinguished intellectuals to have graduated from our school.”

He added, “Through her eloquent essays, books, lectures and media appearances, Rina Swentzell brought a Tewa Pueblo world view to life for a wider audience, and thereby made an invaluable contribution to the deepening of American cultural pluralism. By translating a few key concepts from Tewa into English—po-wa-ha, for instance, the life force or water-wind-breath—and then elaborating these into a compelling philosophy, she made a view of the sacred balance within nature accessible, believable and potentially useful to us all.

Starting with her 1976 masters of architecture thesis at UNM, Swentzell was a pioneer in elaborating on the mismatch between federal government policies and the contrasting values of Native peoples. In this, she influenced succeeding generations of Native and non-Native intellectuals and activists working in education, architecture and tribal sovereignty.”

“Her death is a profound loss for those whose minds were touched by her quiet eloquence,” he wrote.

Ted Jojola, director of the school’s Indigenous Design + Planning Institute reflected on Swentzell as a “cherished colleague.” He said, “We had been working together on one board or another since the late 1980s.  I will miss her calm demeanor and effusive wit.

“Through our upcoming Contemporary Pueblo Architecture Exhibit we were fortunate enough to do a one-hour video interview with her last fall on architecture.  I suspect this is the last pubic document she did.  I hope an edited version of this can be incorporated into that tribute.” He added that he will be reaching out to the family about a memorial at the school.

The following repriint is courtesy of Santa Fe New Mexican and reporter Steve Terell: Rina Swentzell, 1939 - 2015: Daughther says Santa Clara artist, activist fought for all but put family first