Guest post by SAR members Russ and Diane Kyncl.
This is our fifty-year story of how we came to know about SAR and why we have included SAR in our legacy plan.
Back about 1970, when I (Russ) was a teenager, I fell in love with the work of Zuni jewelry makers Dennis and Nancy Edaakie. I saw a bolo tie made by them, a red cardinal inlay/overlay masterpiece, in Eagle Plume’s, a trading post near Estes Park, Colorado. My family spent part of every summer near Estes Park, and we always stopped in at Eagle Plume’s. The owner, Charlie Eagle Plume, was a Native American man who deeply influenced my life through his storytelling. Fifteen years ago, I purchased my first bolo tie, an Edaakie red cardinal, at Charlie’s store. I wrote a story about Charlie’s influence on me and my love of Zuni jewelry. I was able to share that story with the Edaakie family. That led to a friendship between our families that has developed over the years.
I visited Zuni and got to know Dennis and Nancy, first by myself, then with one of our sons, then both sons. During those visits I spent time with Tim Edaakie, Dennis and Nancy’s grandson, who lived with them. Tim would take us out on hikes and share about Zuni history, language, and culture. On our third visit, Nancy expressed extreme displeasure at not having met my wife, Diane. Dennis invited us to come back for Shalako as their guests, as one of their nieces was building a Shalako house.
That December Diane and I drove down to Zuni to witness the all-night Shalako dance. Dennis was horribly ill with nausea caused by his recently beginning hemodialysis, so he was not able to be with us at the Shalako house. We checked on him every couple of hours through the night. Dennis was so dehydrated that we thought he might need to be hospitalized. Tim was with us throughout the weekend and told us we were being introduced in the Zuni language as Dennis’s friends. We were deeply touched by the hospitality extended to us by the entire extended Edaakie family. At the end of the weekend, when we dropped by the Edaakie home to thank Dennis and say good-bye, Diane, a registered nurse, knelt next to Dennis as he sat on his couch and gently discussed some medication ideas that she thought might be useful. She suggested he ask his doctor about them. The doctor ordered the medication change, which made what would be the last six months of Dennis’s life more bearable.
Over the years, we have dropped by Zuni when we visit New Mexico, often with our daughter or other family members. We have returned for Shalako several times whenever an Edaakie niece builds a Shalako house.
A few years ago, we were in Santa Fe for a week in mid-December, a couple of weeks after Shalako. On a Wednesday, we made a day trip over to Zuni for a visit. Tim and his partner at the time took us out to explore a Pueblo ruin west of the current pueblo, where the Spanish first attacked the Zuni. The two collected pottery shards, looking for designs that they could copy as they worked to replicate methods of Zuni pottery from hundreds of years ago. Tim had been an art student in Santa Fe, where he learned about SAR. His partner had never been there. We decided at the last minute, on the way back to Zuni, to see if they could come back to Santa Fe with us. Tim hoped he would be able to show his partner the pottery collection at SAR. After consultation with Nancy about how Tim and his partner could make the trip while honoring the post-Shalako tribal fast, they came back with us for an overnighter in the hope that we could get them into SAR the next morning.
On Thursday morning Tim gave SAR a call. Without explaining any details, he asked if we could drop by. Of course, the answer was no. Tim hung up the phone, disappointed. After asking Tim’s permission, I called back to explain who Tim and his partner were, why Tim had called last minute, and why this was so important to them. I also explained why we had a short time window, as they had to be in Albuquerque at 3:00 p.m. to catch a ride home with Tim’s cousin Evan Edaakie so they could get back to Zuni without violating their religious fast. Once SAR staff understood the situation, they went out of their way to make the last-minute visit happen. Diane and I were able to tag along as Elysia Poon gave Tim and his partner a personal tour of SAR’s Zuni pottery collection. We were brought to tears by the sacredness of the moment, as Elysia carefully brought pottery for them to handle and examine. We witnessed firsthand SAR’s mission to connect modern Native American artists to the work of their ancestors. Tim excitedly showed us the complete designs on the pots that matched what we had seen on shards the day before.
We were able to further appreciate SAR’s mission in 2019, when Tim became the Rollin and Mary Ella King Native Artist fellow. We came to Santa Fe to see Tim present his work at SAR at the conclusion of that fellowship. It was exciting to see Tim’s growth as an artist and as a person. We thought Tim would have decades to continue his exceptional work. Sadly, a rare, aggressive cancer took Tim’s life just ten months later.
Timothy Edaakie’s work in the studio. Photo by Russ Kyncl.
We have included SAR in our own estate plan, naming SAR as a beneficiary of a traditional IRA. It is simple, easy to do, and does not require an attorney. In a few years, when we begin to take required minimum distributions, we intend to direct a portion of those distributions to SAR as qualified charitable distributions. We have made our gift unrestricted, so that SAR can use it where most needed. It is our way to honor Tim and help SAR continue in their excellent work supporting Native American artists.
Russ and Diane Kyncl
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Russ and Diane Kyncl with Timothy Edaakie.