Dr. Joe S. Sando. Photo Courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.


Despite Pueblo’s long history in the area, little has been written about Pueblo people and our contributions to history. What was written, especially for children, was not always complimentary and lacked accuracy. Dr. Joe S. Sando set out to change that…

Dr. Joe S. Sando. Photo Courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.


Despite the Pueblo’s long history in the Southwest, little has been written about Pueblo people and our contributions to history. What was written, especially for children, was not always complimentary and lacked accuracy. Dr. Joe S. Sando set out to change that, to correct misconceptions and misinformation. He became one of the first Pueblo people to research, write and talk about our history.

Sando was born on August 1, 1923 into the Sun Clan at Walatowa (Jemez Pueblo) and that was where he grew up. His childhood was typical of Pueblo boys in the 1930s and 40s. When not in school, he herded rams, tended to baby lambs and worked at sheep camp with his brother, Frank. He irrigated and hoed the garden and fields, cut wheat and fetched drinking water.

Joe graduated from Santa Fe Indian School in 1941 then enrolled at Highlands University for the 1942 fall semester. Rather than get drafted to the Army, he signed up for the Navy because the recruiting poster said he would learn a trade in the service. But, he writes, “neither I nor any of my boot camp mates went to any school.”

In 1944, Sando applied to be a yeoman striker (office clerk and typist). He had taken the time to learn to type while at boot camp Liberty in San Diego. He and boot camp mate Ricardo Otero from Tamaya (Santa Ana Pueblo) would go to the United Service Organization (USO), put a quarter in a typewriter and type for an hour. That skill certainly helped years later when he wrote an editorial column for the Albuquerque Tribune. Sando was honorably discharged in April 1946.

Military service gave Joe the opportunity to attend college on the G.I. Bill. He enrolled at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales in the fall of 1946. He graduated in 1949 with a degree in education. Over the next 10 years, Sando worked in various occupations at schools, met his dream girl, Louisa Barry Parker, married and started a family, and started graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

In the 1960s, Joe served as consultant to the UNM Cultural Awareness Center, and with the Albuquerque and Bernalillo Public Schools. He gave lectures to the teachers on the problems Native children face in getting an education and on their socio-cultural background.

Sando started on the path of education with the All Indian Pueblo Council (AIPC) Education Community in 1969. He organized education conferences and worked to make Native students aware of higher education opportunities.

In 1970, Joe joined the Southwest Cooperative Education Laboratory (SWCEL) at UNM, where he developed curricula, spoke at workshops and taught Pueblo Indian and Southwest Indian history. In 1982, he began teaching ethno-history of North, Central and South America at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sando received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 1978 to research and write. He states in his autobiography, Pueblo Recollections: The Life of Paa Péh – Joe S. Sando, that his writing career started in 1949, his senior year at Eastern New Mexico University. Dr. Thelma Mallory said, “Did you know you can write?” In typical Joe Sando fashion, he told her, “Why do you tell me this now? I could have relished this compliment a thousand times when I was in English 102.” Thus begin his research and writing of several books on Pueblo history and highlighted the stories of people that helped shape Pueblo life.

In 1985, Joe came to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center as a volunteer. He was assigned to the archives and the Institute for Pueblo Indian Studies (IPIS), which was established to be a library, to plan and direct educational programming and research projects. Here, he answered phone calls and email (those typing skills helped again!) from all over the world, from people wanting to know more about American Indians. Joe provided recommendation for books, was interviewed and filmed speaking on various topics, read transcripts and, sometimes, unexpectedly provided a Pueblo visitor their genealogy.

The IPCC Archives holds his research material, book drafts, speeches, correspondence and honors and awards. (I did the preliminary organization of his papers and can say there is some interesting material in here!) Of note, Joe received the Excellence in Humanities Awards from the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities on November 1, 2000.

Throughout his life, Joe served the Pueblo and Native communities. He was an interpreter, guidance counselor, adviser, audiometric screener, project director, curriculum developer, instructor, speaker, researcher, writer, lecturer, a historian and a subject specialist, and world traveler. He was on several boards and won awards for his books. In 2008, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, through an Executive Order, proclaimed October 25th Joe Sando Day. The University of New Mexico awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in 2007. His enduring legacy is honored by the Joe Sando Symposium on Pueblo Indian Studies which brings together Indigenous scholars to highlight their work.

And so we go―Pueblo scholars and researchers alike―traveling in the footsteps made by Dr. Joe S. Sando to add our voices to history, to increase representation, to honor our ancestors.


Hartranft, M. (1973) Joe Sando: Man of many talents deeply cares about Indian affairs. Pueblo News.

Sando, J. S. (2008). Pueblo Recollections: The life of Paa Péh – Joe S. Sando. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishing.

Headshot photo of Jonna Paden
Blog author and contributor Jonna C. Paden.





Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post/article does not necessarily represent those of the New Mexico Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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Jonna C. Paden is from Acoma Pueblo and is the Librarian and Archivist at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Library and Archives. She holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from San José State University.