“You are no longer blind when you can see through your fear.” – Tahu
Over the past several years as I have been creating the Pueblo Revolt 1680/2180 stories in clay, the words
and advice of my mother keep coming back to me. When I was young I was very close to her and not only
did she teach me, my sisters and brother to make pottery, but she would tell us stories of our Pueblo people.
Cochiti is a matriarchal society, with clans passed through the women. It is also the women who, when
raising their children, share their stories of the past to help guide our future. One lesson has stuck with me
and lately it resonates with a growing importance. It is about how the grandmothers would inspire us with
positive instructions, saying, “do it this way”, instead of negative critiques, “don’t do it that way”. The mind
has difficulty coping with the multitude of negatives and yet responds quickly to the positives. I have used
the character of Tahu to convey this advice of the grandmothers and their positive outlook even in the face
This attitude of the grandmothers has endured despite nearly 300 years of fear and intimidation imposed on
the Pueblo people. They were forced through fear to stop speaking their native languages. Fear of retribution
and punishment demanded that they change or hide their religious views. Fear of arbitrary restrictions, rules
and regulations enforced upon them made them adapt unorthodox methods of survival in an ever more
complex world. Yet we have endured. It was the women who helped pass down our culture, history and
teach us how to overcome our fears, both real and imagined. My mother would often say, “If it wasn’t for the
women, a lot of our traditions and ceremonies would be forgotten.”
Blind Archers is a story about survival. It’s about hope, courage, determination, and appreciation. It’s about
overcoming challenges and regaining strength. It is from this place of self-worth and empowerment that we
can see the world as a place where we can freely express who we are and surround ourselves with people
with whom we share a mutual honor and respect. It is inspired by women, but it is a story of how each of us
can overcome fear in seeking the truth.
I dedicate Blind Archers to my grandmothers, mother, sisters and nieces, and to all women. May the spirit of
Tahu be with you.
Peace + Blessings, Virgil Ortiz
Meet Leslie Elkins: The woman behind Tahu. Leader of
the Blind Archers.
Q: Virgil Ortiz created the character of Tahu several years ago
based on your heritage, spirit and persona. Tell us about Tahu.
LE: Tahu is a leader, she is a strong Pueblo woman with the
ambition to lead her people toward tranquility. People look to
her for guidance. She listens to all and makes decisions based on
the good of her people, not for selfish reasons. She is a spiritual
leader, a medicine woman and a storyteller.
Q: You’re from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, New Mexico, home of
our great leader Po’Pay. How has this influenced you playing
the role of Tahu?
LE: Po’Pay organized the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. He was not
afraid to fight for his people, not just the people of Ohkay Owingeh,
but all Native people. Even with the different language barriers,
he was still able to lead one of the greatest battles in history.
Being from the same pueblo as Po’Pay makes me feel connected
to keep my heritage alive. Tahu helped to fight a battle to save
her people. She is not afraid. Po’Pay has taught me to stand up
for what you believe in, and for the good of the people, and as
ONE we will persevere.
Q: What’s in Tahu’s future?
LE: Tahu will continue to serve as a guide for her people. She
will teach the young women they too can become leaders, and
continue to teach the lessons taught by her elders. She will live
by these words: “Always believe in yourself. What makes you
strong is the belief and the will, everything else falls into place.”