Myrtle Cata

Ohkay Owingeh
(San Juan)
A formed, not carved, golden micaceous melon shaped jar

Myrtle Cata was born into the Turquoise Clan of Ohkay Owingeh in 1953. Her lineage is part Ohkay Owingeh, part San Felipe.

Myrtle has said it was her heart that guided her into the traditional craft of pottery making, that and the income potential. There haven't been many active potters at Ohkay Owingeh in a long time, so Myrtle went to school to learn the fundamentals of the ancient art. In one of her classes she met Tina Garcia (of Santa Clara Pueblo) and they became good friends, sharing their methods of working with clay and special techniques they'd learned with each other.

Myrtle has specialized in contemporary hand-coiled Ohkay Owingeh-style pottery. Her pieces tend to be graceful and undecorated with thin walls. Some of her pieces are micaceous.

Myrtle is involved in other artistic pursuits, too. Among those other pursuits, she constructs traditional men's headdresses. She signs her pottery as: Myrtle Cata, San Juan Pueblo.

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - - All Rights Reserved


Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan)

The Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Mission, built in the 1800s
Ohkay Owingeh Mission

In 2005 San Juan Pueblo officially changed its name back to the original name (before the Spanish arrived): Ohkay Owingeh (meaning: Place of the strong people). The pueblo was founded around 1200 AD during the time of the great Southwest drought and migrations. The people speak Tewa and may have come to the Rio Grande area from southwestern Colorado or from the San Luis Valley in central Colorado.

Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate took control of the pueblo in 1598, renaming it San Juan de los Caballeros (after his patron saint, John the Baptist). He established the first Spanish capitol of Nuevo Mexico across the Rio Grande in an area he named San Gabriel. In 1608, the capitol was moved south to an uninhabited area that became the Santa Fe we know today.

After 80 years of progressively deteriorating living conditions under the Spanish, the tribe participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 (one of the revolt's ringleaders, Popé, was an Ohkay Owingeh native) and helped to expel the Spanish from Nuevo Mexico for 12 years. However, when the Spanish returned in 1692 that tribal unity had fallen apart and the individual pueblos were relatively easy for the Spanish to reconquer.

Today, Ohkay Owingeh is the largest Tewa-speaking pueblo (in population and land) but few of the younger generations are interested in carrying on with many of the tribe's traditional arts and crafts (such as the making of pottery). The pueblo is home to the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, the Oke-Oweenge Arts Cooperative, the San Juan Lakes Recreation Area and the Ohkay Casino & Resort. The tribe's Tsay Corporation is one of northern New Mexico's largest private employers.

Ohkay Oweingeh location map

For more info:
at Wikipedia
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - - All Rights Reserved