Bataan Death March survivor Tony Reyna dead at 100

Tony Reyna addresses the audience gathered for Memorial Day ceremonies at Taos Pueblo in 2003.


By T. S. LAST | The Albuquerque Journal (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 5, 2016

TAOS, N.M. — Dressed in a deerskin robe, Tony Reyna was buried Monday with full military honors at the Taos Pueblo cemetery following a Mass at the pueblo’s San Geronimo Church.

“It’s reserved for high level kiva religious leaders,” Phillip Reyna, the youngest of Tony Reyna’s four children, said in explaining the significance of the deerskin robe.

Tony Reyna was many things during a life that spanned a century, including a family man, business owner, pueblo governor, and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. He died in his sleep early Sunday morning at his home in Taos Pueblo at age 100.

Reyna was born Feb. 1, 1916, to Helario and Crucita Reyna of the pueblo. Phillip says his father was given the name “Chuta,” meaning “Hunters Call.”

He attended Taos Day School as a boy, went on to Santa Fe Indian School and graduated from Santa Fe High in 1936. He taught wood working at Albuquerque Indian School before becoming a soldier.

Reyna was a member of the New Mexico Army National Guard in 1941, a time when Native Americans did not have the right to vote, when he was deployed to the Philippines. He was among 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers captured by Japanese forces on the Bataan Peninsula. The prisoners were made to march roughly 70 miles to be transported to a prison camp where those who survived spent the next 3 1/2 years. The soldiers were subjected to harsh treatment by their captures both during the march and while imprisoned.

Phillip said his father didn’t talk much about his experiences during the war. “I think he just wanted to get away from it,” the son said.

One of his daughters, Diane, said her father likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, before there was a term for it, when he returned from the war.

She said she once asked her dad how he managed to adjust to life back home after witnessing the atrocities he did. “And he said, ‘I stayed out of the bars and got busy.’ By getting busy, he meant starting a family, starting a business, and getting involved in his community,” she said.

Reyna married Annie Cata Reyna, who died in 1993, when he returned to Taos and started a family. In addition to Diane and Phillip, he is survived by two other children, John Anthony and Marie.

Reyna also built and in 1950 opened Tony Reyna’s Indian Shop, featuring arts and crafts by Native Americans, on Indian land on the road to Taos Pueblo. The business still exists, operated by Phillip.

Earlier this year, the New Mexico state Legislature passed a memorial proclaiming his 100th birthday “Tony Reyna Day” in New Mexico. It mentions he became secretary for the Taos Pueblo governor’s office in 1975, then served as lieutenant governor in 1977. He served two years as pueblo governor, in 1982 and 1992, and became a lifetime member of the tribal council.

Reyna also worked for a time as police commissioner for the town of Taos, served on the school board, was a trustee for the Millicent Rogers Museum in El Prado, and was a tribal judge at the Santa Fe Indian Market. He was named a Santa Fe living treasure in 1992.

©2016 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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