Richard Mermejo, former Governor of Picuris Pueblo, passed away on Saturday, January 27, 2024. Richard was a beloved member of the extended Barnard community, having served as the tribal liaison for the college’s archaeological field program in New Mexico, which since 2017 has focused on the cultural history of his ancestors. In that context, Richard mentored dozens of Barnard students, working with them daily in the field and continuing to consult with them on their senior theses during the academic year. In 2022, he led a delegation to visit Barnard, meeting with students and performing a traditional Basket Dance alongside other Picuris tribal members on Low Plaza as part of the college’s first formal celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In recognition of the generous mentorship he has offered our students, Richard was invited to march in Barnard’s 2023 commencement ceremony an honorary professor. He is greatly missed.
This project spurred my interest in how people (in this paper, morgue workers) balance caring for themselves and others in times of crisis or endless need (as they did when faced with mass death at the onset of COVID). I currently work at the COVID-19 Mother Baby Outcomes (COMBO) Initiative where I research the pandemic’s effects on mother-infant relational health and infant development. I aspire to be a clinical psychologist who focuses on primary relationships, including those parental or romantic in nature or any others involving caregiving central to survival.
The award was given to me by the Dying and Bereavement special interest group of the Society for Medical Anthropology, a section within the AAA.