New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Awards 2012
Recognizing Those Committed to Making a Difference
Joe A. Garcia
Joe Garcia serves as Head Tribal Councilman for Ohkay Owingeh, headquarters of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, representing the Tewa ethnic group of Native Americans. It is one of the largest Tewa-speaking pueblos in the nation. The Tewa name of the pueblo, previously known as San Juan Pueblo until returning to its pre-Spanish name in November 2005, means “a place of the strong people,” and Mr. Garcia’s life of service reflects that tradition.

He is, and has been, a strong advocate for Indian Country, and has worked tirelessly for the protection of Native American sovereignty. Mr. Garcia has worked to strengthen the relationship between tribal peoples and nearby communities. He understands the need for unity and cooperation among Native American governments and community groups for the security and protection of treaty and sovereign rights. His life’s work has been for improved quality of life for Indian people.

One of the causes Mr. Garcia has championed is to ensure that educational services at Ohkay Owingeh are provided or otherwise met. Of particular importance to him is the preservation of the native language. Mr. Garcia has worked hard to ensure the language is implemented into the pueblo’s Head Start, elementary school and high school curriculums, so that these students can learn and be proud of their native language of Tewa. The language, also known as Tano, is one of five Tanoan languages spoken by the Pueblo people of New Mexico. The Pueblo has published a dictionary of Tewa, and today there are Tewa language programs teaching children to read and write in most of the Tewa-speaking pueblos.

In addition to serving as Head Councilman, Mr. Garcia serves as the 2013 Vice President of the Southwest Region of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and also represents his people as the tribal liaison for Ohkay Owingeh at the local and national levels of government.

He is a past chairman of the All Indian Pueblo Council of the 19 pueblos of New Mexico. Mr. Garcia also has served two terms as 1st Lt. Governor of Ohkay Owingeh, and then spent two terms as Governor. His service with the NCAI from 2005 to 2009 includes terms as President and Vice President of the national organization.