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Tewa Pueblos at the Dawn of Atomic Modernity

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Tewa storytellers knew that the sun could be captured—a boy had done it out of misplaced anger. In August 1945, President Harry Truman announced that the atomic bomb dropped on Japan had harnessed the power of the sun. The Manhattan Project and its scientific headquarters at Los Alamos, New Mexico gave rise to a clouded legacy. In the valley below Los Alamos, the Tewa Pueblos maintained political integrity and cosmological purpose at the center of the world. A traditional pattern of accommodation, expressed in storytelling, pottery, language, architecture, and dance, helped Tewa communities absorb and refract modern incursions like the railroad, anthropology, tourism, and boarding schools. In many ways the Manhattan Project’s installation on the Pajarito Plateau played into this dynamic. Yet it also posed challenges unlike any the Pueblos had faced. Archival stories and personal narratives of the Tewa world recontextualize atomic modernity. They provide opportunities to link humanistic, scientific, and traditional perspectives and to explore the harmony and dissonance between physics and Tewa philosophy. “Tewa Pueblos at the Dawn of Atomic Modernity” shows how the birth of the Atomic Age created a new and shared sense of complicity and powerlessness. It shows, too, that this shattering moment holds the potential to bridge disparate worlds.

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This item is under embargo until May 23, 2028.