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Joel Nakamura likes to tell the story about the day he was walking across Santa Fe Plaza, close by the Palace of the Governors where Native Americans ply their arts and crafts to tourists passing on the sidewalk. A tourist spied Joel, resplendent in his Santa Fe “uniform”- well-worn cowboy boots, silver and turquoise belt buckle, bolo tie and cowboy hat. The woman, visiting from Texas, approached him and, gently pressing her hand to his arm, asked: “Excuse me sir, which Pueblo are you from?”

Nakamura’s reply suggests the depth of his character: forgiving, generous, compassionate, intelligent and, above all, devillishly funny. “Why lady,” he said, without skipping a beat, “the Sukiyaki Pueblo.” Nakamura then posed cheerfully while she snapped photos, certain that hers was a “real” Native American. Nakamura neither refuted nor affirmed her Southwestern fantasy: he merely participated in it, with a smile.