Skip to main content

Oral history interviews of the Lama Foundation Oral History Project

 Collection
Identifier: MSS-860-BC

Scope and Content

This collection contains oral histories documenting the history of the Lama Foundation. Ammi Kohn conducted the bulk of these interviews between 2005-2009. He interviewed the founders, “coordinators" who oversaw Lama’s operations for a year at a time, and average “residents." The collection contains transcripts of all the interviews and audio for interviews with founders Jonathan Altman and Asha Greer as well as Hans Von Briesen. A few of the interviews in the collection were conducted by Linda Hansen for her thesis, Where have all the Utopias gone?: Ritual, solidarity, and longevity in a Multi-faith commune in New Mexico?.

In addition to the oral histories, the collection also contains the manuscript From Bindu to Ojas from 1970 and the published version, Be Here Now. Lastly, there are 3 posters of spiritual leaders. The collection’s value lies in Lama being one of a few collectives from the 1960s still in operation today.

Dates

  • 1970-2009
  • Majority of material found within 2005-2009

Language of Materials

English

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of print and photographic material is allowed for research purposes. Duplication of recordings permitted only with written permission from artist, performer, interviewer and interviewee, tribal authority, or current holder of intellectual property rights. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws.

Organizational Information

In 1967, Steve Durkee (who goes by Sh. Nooruddeen), Barbara Durkee (who goes by Asha Greer) and Jonathan Altman founded the Lama Foundation. Jonathan purchased 100 acres of land adjacent to Carson National Forest in San Cristobal, New Mexico to build the Lama community. They established a spiritual community, “dedicated to the awakening of consciousness, spiritual practice with respect for all traditions, service, and stewardship of the land." At the time of its foundation, Lama was one of approximately thirty communes in Northern New Mexico.

What makes Lama unique is its openness to multiple spiritual paths including Hinduism, Sufism, Christianity, Native American spirituality and Judaism. Rather than having a resident spiritual leader, Lama has a group of "residents" that run the day-to-day operations as well as guide the spiritual attunement of the community. The Lama Board of Trustees is an active board, ensuring that traditions are “transmitted." Lama engages in two seasons: summer “open" season and winter “closed" season. In the summer, the community averages about 30 people consisting of residents, summer retreatants and visitors. When summer ends, the community shrinks to 10-15 people who wish to stay for the whole year and serve Lama.

In 1970, Ram Dass, a friend of the founders of Lama, engaged in collaboration with Lama to produce the book Be Here Now. Originally titled, From Bindu to Ojas, the manuscript is an account of Ram Dass’s conversion to the guru Neem Karoli Baba’s teachings in India. The community's residents edited and illustrated the book which ultimately became a commercial hit when published under the name Be Here Now. The book is considered a bible for the hippie era. The book’s revenues provided Lama with a small stream of income in the mid-eighties that helped keep the community stable until other income sources were developed.

While all the other collectives and communes in northern New Mexico, and all but a very few in other U.S. locations faded from the scene years ago, Lama endures. Its dedication to consensus decision-making, respect for the land and ecology, and spirituality, continues to invite and inspire new generations. Lama even endured after the catastrophic Hondo Fire in 1996, which destroyed 20 out of 23 buildings and some of the surrounding Carson National Forest. The Lama Foundation decided to rebuild and these efforts continue into the present. Lama remains a viable spiritual community.

Extent

2 boxes (1.3 cu. ft)

Abstract

Ammi Kohn, former resident of the Lama Foundation, a spiritual community in San Cristobal, New Mexico, conducted and transcribed oral histories of the Lama Foundation and created the Lama Foundation Oral History Project. The oral histories begin with the earliest conceptions of Lama, before land was purchased, to interviews with residents in the present community. Some interviews were collected by Linda Hansen to support her M.A. thesis research about the Foundation.

Related Archival Material

A complete set of audio and transcripts is housed at the Lama Foundation Library.
Title
Finding Aid of the Oral history interviews of the Lama Foundation Oral History Project, 1970-2009
Status
Completed
Author
Jordan Biro
Date
© 2010
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131
505-277-6451