Team Santa Fe

Team Santa Fe

About the Team

Santa Fe, New Mexico has a dry desert climate—hot during the day and bone-chilling cold at night—and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It's a pageant of desert colors, from the adobe brick to the sage brush and other native flora.

Mentored by Coach Tim McLaughlin, the Santa Fe team delivers poetry that offers rarely heard perspectives about the earth, indigenous philosophies, healing injustices, and prayer. Deeply connected to their culture and family, these writers continue to honor Native American traditions. Each poet on the team comes from a different pueblo or reservation, but they all attend one boarding school—the Santa Fe Indian School, with a population of seven hundred Native American students. This is where creative writing classes and spoken word club meetings take place; the place where poetry is produced and rehearsed. The perceptive and compassionate writers trained here plan to bring a profound message about survival and humanity to this year's Brave New Voices festival.


About the Coach

Tim McLaughlin works triple duty as a creative writing teacher, facilitator of the writing center and coach of the spoken word team at the Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico. From a family of faith and service, Tim earned the honorific "Grandpa" among the Lakota tribe when he taught at the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota. He has been working for six years with Pueblo and Navajo students—contemporary kids with ancient traditions. "The kids on Team Santa Fe are like any other teenagers," he says. "New Mexico is certainly a little more rural and their reservations are rooted in traditional culture and ways of life. But they're navigating the world just like everyone else—they certainly have access to technology." At least they usually do. "One of my rules for the team is that none of the kids will bring cell phones to BNV." Clearly, McLaughlin wants his team to be focused for their trip to the nationals.

The Contenders

April Chavez
Nolan Eskeets
Heilery Yuselew
Andrew Nutumya
Santana Shorty
Davin Jimmy Coriz

April Chavez

April Chavez is half Pueblo and half Navajo and all-American. A senior at the Santa Fe Indian School, April's Indian name is "Woman Who Comes Back from War." With one foot in her culture and one foot on the slam stage, 18-year-old April is bringing her Native American perspective to the slam community. "I write so I can keep my ancestors alive," April says. "The stories they had were so powerful and I want to share that with all my brothers and sisters, all my relatives and just the people of the world."

In their poetry, April and Team Santa Fe are concerned about keeping indigenous languages alive. "We're writing about language loss," she says. "We may be losing our Navajo language, but there's also people in Africa who are losing their language. There's people in Hawaii who are losing their language." She explains the issue's importance, saying "there is a lot of tension between the young people and the elders, because of cultural separation that's growing each day due to the language loss."

Embodying what she calls the "circular mentality" of Native Americans, April embraces the connectedness of things—of the land and the people, the past and the future, of action and belief. Determined to give back by improving life on the reservation, she is going to Stanford, even though some on the reservation might consider her disloyal for leaving the Native community. She hopes to return to the reservation with a law degree and become a "briefcase warrior." She wants to be an environmental advocate. April's used to Native skepticism about deviating from customs—her family was the first on her pueblo to vote in "the white man's government"—but she believes that real world change comes through political action. That's why she's helping her dad in his campaign for the New Mexico State Senate.

April feels that her rich cultural heritage gives the real world meaning, so she keeps her culture alive, studying its language and lore, learning to weave and even to herd goats. And, of course, April loves performing poetry to express her identity and share stories of the traditional life on pueblo and reservation. She also uses poetry to confront America about its treatment of Native peoples. For April, slamming in DC will mean exchanging messages with the outside world. And then she'll come home, bringing a piece of that world back to her people.

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