Monday, December 4, 2023

Our Beginnings

Gregory Gomez with Co-Founder Cathy Gutierrez Gomez and their children.
The Indigenous Institute of the Americas was founded in the 1980's through the inspiration of Gregory G. Gomez, MSSW-Apache, Eddie Sandoval-Apache, and Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez, Ph.D.-Huastec , who were all Dallas - Ft Worth, Texas residents. 

Gregory G. Gomez is a Mescalero Lipan Apache and a  Marine, Vietnam Veteran with a long history working with and for the Native American Indian communities where he has lived. He has served as a Child Welfare Specialist at the Administration of Children and Families for the US Department of Health and Human Services and other leadership positions which created many opportunities to provide cultural guidance and consultation to  Universities, Corporations, Religious Institutions, State Governments and Key notes at National conferences.  Gregory has spoken on such diverse topics as  our culture, multi-cultural education, stress and burn out, tam building, human resources, child abuse and neglect and much more.  Mr. Gomez currently serves as President of IIA-Indigenous Institute of the Americas.
Spiritual Advisor Eddie Sandoval and IIA volunteer Tabitha Tan meet at TCU University for a presentation.

Eddie Sandoval, -Mescalero Chiricahua Apache grew up in west Texas. He was known for his athleticism in all sports in his early years. He received a scholarship for college in track & field Many people know Mr. Sandoval in the academic world as a  Professor and Counselor at Tarrant County Junior College.  He holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in industrial technology, as well as a master’s degree in educational counseling from the Sul Ross University of Texas. Mr. Sandoval is now retired as the Head of Counseling at Tarrent County Jr. College after teaching for almost 40 years.

Many people do not realize Mr. Sandoval is an avid horseman. He spends most of his time with his horses and actively supports the Ft. Worth Stockyards. He is on the Board of the FRIENDS OF THE FORT WORTH HERD and his most recent accomplishment was the dedication of a star on the Texas Trail of Fame for Geronimo. In 2018 an endowment from Margie Reynolds of Granbury created The Eddie Sandoval Industrial Technology Excellence Fund at Sul Ross.  The Fund will provide financial assistance for students and continue developing Sul Ross’ industrial technology program.

Mr. Sandoval is the IIA Spiritual advisor and is commonly called upon for various ceremonial needs in the community, such as the repatriation and re-internment of remains. Mr. Sandoval worked extensively with the US Department of Justice to ensure Indian men had access to a sweat lodge and sacred amulets for spiritual ceremonies. We are very glad to have Mr. Sandoval providing his wisdom and advice on the spiritual concerns faced every day.

Mr. Gomez and Mr. Sandoval are both Sun Dancers and worked together for many years to maintain a sweat lodge in Burleson, TX. In the 1990s and for many years after, both received traditional knowledge from a well-known healer from the Rosebud reservation. Marcellus Bearheart Williams was influential in helping many Native people in Texas find their spiritual path in what we refer to as a “good” way.   We feel very fortunate to have both Mr. Gomez and Mr. Sandoval – Sundancers, Pipe Carriers, and Gourd Dancers, among the elders in our organization.

Gregory Gomez at Gourd Dance to honor the Navajo Code Talker from WWII.
Gregory Gomez at Gourd Dance in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to honor the Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.

Picture from Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez, PH.D. and Gregory Gomez met in 1980. Cathy grew up with the message common to many young women; finish High School, get married, have children, become a Secretary, or at most, a beautician. We are grateful that Cathy listened to her family’s message but incorporated her passion into education to fulfill her personal goals. She is married to the love of her life and has two amazing children and two grandchildren. But that is where that story began, not ended.

Dr. Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez works with children interested in Native culture.

Presentation of a thank-you recognition at an IIA gathering.

Cathy is an amazing role model for our organization’s young women leaders who are working on higher education. But she is also an amazing confidant and consultant for our mature women trying to balance the many roles life throws in our direction.

In the 1980s, Cathy’s hard work led to completing her BA degree, which then launched her several decades of professional work in Early Childhood education. She achieved her master’s degree and then finished her doctorate in December of 1996 from the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. She has always fought for equality-based education, committed to children and their families. As a mother, she recognized that indigenous children do not have the advantage of written and video material that reflects accurate stories of our many cultures. She is one of the few professionals nationally, focusing on the needs of indigenous infants and toddlers who are being cared for in daycares, head start, and other early childhood education programs. Her strong work ethic is an inspiration. She has helped guide several generations of teachers who attended the University of New Mexico from Pueblos and Tribes. These teachers wished to return to their Indigenous communities as certified teachers and bring back the educational values of our cultures.

On a personal level, Cathy and Gregory raised their children in the traditional Apache way. While living in Texas, they experienced a tumultuous time for their son Itsa-Lichii. As with many American Indian families, Itsa-Lichii wore a long braid that had never been cut. In 1991, Itsa-Lichii attended Mesquite ISD in Kindergarten, where he was kicked out of school for his long hair and his family’s unwillingness to permit the cutting of his hair. This experience of racism led Cathy to push even harder to get her Doctorate so that she could impact educational systems in the future. The family eventually had to make the hard decision to leave Texas. The trauma of the school experience, intensive lawsuit, and an unbending educational system was true example of institutional trauma. The Gomez’s moved to New Mexico, where Dr. Gomez became an Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Individual, Family, & Community Education. It was a major loss for Texas, but the move to New Mexico opened doors for Dr. Gomez’s work and helped the Gomez family find schools that respected American Indian cultural values.

Itsa Lichii is now grown up and supporting his father and mother’s efforts at IIA.

Cathy began working at the University of New Mexico in January 1998 and recently retired and is a Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico Family and Child Studies Program. She taught courses on teaching reading and writing, curriculum development and implementation, and multicultural education. Her research interests include children’s language and literacy development, diversity and multicultural early childhood curriculum, and American Indian early childhood curriculum development. Dr. Gutierrez-Gomez has published articles and chapters and given national and international presentations on topics related to her research interests.

Educators Healing Racism