Yolanda Toya Toledo
Yolanda Toya Toledo specializes in making storytellers, Nativities, angels and Christmas ornaments. She and her seven sisters are continuing the legacy of their mother, the renowned Jemez Pueblo potter Mary Ellen Toya and their grandmother, Carrie Loretto of Laguna Pueblo. Using traditional Pueblo methods, Yolanda digs her clay on the Jemez Reservation, uses natural pigments and fires her pottery outdoors.
In 1540, when the Spanish first arrived in the American Southwest, there were more than 100 pueblos in the Rio Grande Valley. Today there are 19 pueblos in New Mexico, all of which are linked by common history, culture and traditions. European influence has brought many changes to the Pueblo Indian way of life, with most of the residents accepting Christianity as an addition to their own pre-Christian traditions. Christmas is celebrated each year at the Jemez Pueblo with traditional songs, dances, food, and a home hosts a live Nativity for two weeks.
The Pueblo Indian population first became familiar with Nativities in their local mission churches. It was not until the late 1950s that Pueblo residents began making their own. Today a number of Pueblo Native American artists make Nativities, along with other works such as the famous ceramic storyteller figures. Native American culture is rich with myths and stories, all of which are used to convey traditions and values. Both the storyteller figures and Nativity figures have an open mouth in order to “let the stories out.”