Taos elder to receive 'Spirit of the Heard' award

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Tony Reyna of Taos Pueblo was chosen as this year's recipient of the Seventh Annual Spirit of the Heard Award. The ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1 in the Steele Auditorium at the Heard Museum. During the ceremony, Reyna will be presented with traditional gifts and a cash award, and his photograph will be installed with other recipients of the award at the west entrance to the Steele Auditorium.

Each year, the museum's board of trustees honors an individual who has demonstrated personal excellence either individually or as a community leader. The Spirit of the Heard Award reinforces the mission of the museum, which is to educate the public about the heritage and living arts and cultures of Native peoples.

Museum Director Dr. Letitia Chambers says, "Tony Reyna's life has been one of service and commitment to his people." His efforts to preserve the culture of Taos Pueblo were instrumental in Blue Lake being returned to the tribe. Reyna was twice elected governor of Taos Pueblo and was governor when Blue Lake was returned by an act of Congress signed by President Richard Nixon. 

Wayne Mitchell, Mandan/Dakota, chairman of the Museum's American Indian Advisory Committee says, "This year's recipient of the Spirit of the Heard Award is a man of extraordinary and diverse accomplishments. Tony Reyna was chosen for a variety of reasons, but primarily because he dedicated his life to the betterment of Indian people and, in particular, to helping preserve the culture, resources and traditions of his tribe."

Reyna, 94, has made the concept of community service central in his life. As a young man, Reyna endured the horrors of the Bataan Death March and three and a half years in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. However, his spirit remained strong.

"Determination kept me going," he said during being honored as a Santa Fe Living Treasure in 1992. "I had a family, a home to come back to."

His daughter Diane, director of the Learning Support Center at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and director of the Peabody Award-winning video "Surviving Columbus" notes that her father simply "got busy" in order to overcome the trauma of war and prison camp.

And busy he has been. After returning to Taos, Reyna opened a retail shop to promote his people's arts and crafts. This shop is still open and is a thriving enterprise under the direction of his son Phillip. However, Reyna still works in the shop a few days a week, Diane said.

Reyna's four children have also followed in his footsteps; all four are adults of accomplishment. In addition to Diane and Phillip, John Anthony teaches at the Contemporary Indian School in Rowe, N.M. and daughter Marie Anthony teaches at the Children's Arts Center at Taos Pueblo. Reyna's wife, Annie Cota, passed away in 1993.

Reyna has also served in non-tribal positions of authority and responsibility and is highly respected by the non-Indian world.

Mitchell notes, "He is a man who has given much, but has asked for little in return."

The Spirit of the Heard award ceremony also serves as one of the official kick-off events for the 2010 Native American Recognition Days (NARD), held each year in the Phoenix metropolitan area to celebrate Native life and culture. This event is free and open to the public. For more details, please call (602) 252-8840.

About the Heard Museum

Since 1929, the Heard has educated visitors from around the world about the art and cultures of Native people. With nearly 40,000 artifacts in its permanent collection and education center, the Heard remains committed to being a place of learning, discovery and unforgettable experiences.

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