Pueblo of Laguna


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Laguna Pueblo is made up of six major villages in central New Mexico, 42 miles west of Albuquerque on Interstate 40. The residents of Laguna Pueblo live in six villages which are Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Seama, Paraje, and Encinal. The Laguna Pueblo (and the Acoma Pueblo) lie in the river basin of the Rio San Jose. The Rio San Jose flows into the Rio Puerco near the southeast corner of the Laguna Reservation.

Official Tribal Name: Pueblo of Laguna

Address:  PO Box 194,  22 Capitol Rd, Laguna, NM  87026                    
Phone: (505) 552-6654
Fax:  (505) 552-6941                          

Official Website: http://www.lagunapueblo-nsn.gov/

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Kawaik, meaning lake. The laguna or lake was historically much larger than the present time and hosted waterfowl of many kinds, including ducks, geese and swans.

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name: Laguna is Spanish for “lake,” and refers to a large pond near the pueblo. The word “pueblo” comes from the Spanish word for “village.” It refers both to a certain style of Southwest Indian architecture, characterized by multistory, apartmentlike buildings made of adobe, and to the people themselves.

 Mission San José de la Laguna was erected by the Spanish at the old pueblo (now known as Old Laguna), finished around July 4, 1699.

Alternate names / Alternate spellings:

Name in other languages:

Region: Southwest

State(s) Today: New Mexico

Confederacy: Puebloan

Treaties: None of the Pueblo tribes signed any treaties with the United States.

Traditional Territory: All Pueblo people are thought to be descended from Anasazi and perhaps Mogollon and several other ancient peoples, although the precise origin of the Keresan peoples is unknown. From them they learned architecture, farming, pottery, and basketry.

Larger population groups became possible with effective agriculture and ways to store food surpluses. Within the context of a relatively stable existence, the people devoted increasing amounts of time and attention to religion, arts, and crafts. 

In the 1200s, the Anasazi abandoned their traditional canyon homelands in response to climatic and social upheavals. A century or two of migrations ensued, followed in general by the slow reemergence of their culture in the historic pueblos.

Laguna and Acoma Pueblos have a unique descent. They have lived continuously in the area since at least 3000 B.C.E. Tradition has it that their ancestors inhabited Mesa Verde. In any case, Laguna’s prehistory is closely connected with, if not identical to, that of Acoma.

Reservation: Laguna Pueblo and Off-Reservation Trust Land

There are also two outlying settlements of Laguna people, one at Gallup, New Mexico and one at Casa Blanca, New Mexico.
Land Area: 528,079 acres of land situated in Cibola, Valencia, Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.
Tribal Headquarters:  Laguna Pueblo
Time Zone:  

Population at Contact: Roughly 330 people lived on the pueblo in 1700, plus about 150 more in four nearby villages. In 1990, 3,600 Lagunas lived on the reservation, with perhaps almost as many living away. 

Registered Population Today: The population of the tribe exceeds 7,000 enrolled members.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements: Any person one-fourth (1/4) or more Laguna Indian blood can apply for a Regular Membership. (There is no time frame to apply for Regular Membership). 

The following persons may appy for a Naturalization Membership:

Persons of at least one-half (1/2) degree of Indian blood of federally recognized tribes who possess at least one-eighth (1/8) degree of Laguna Indian blood can apply for a Naturalization Membership.  (An individual must have one-eighth (1/8) or more Laguna blood AND must have a combined total Indian blood equaling one-half (1/2) from one or more federally recognized tribes.

In-laws who possess at least one-half (1/2) degree Indian blood and are enrolled with a federally recognized tribe. (In-laws married to a tribal member are eligible to be naturalized, however, an individual must possess at least one-half (1/2) total degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized tribe).

Persons who previously relinquished their membership with Laguna. (Returning relinquished Laguna members are eligible to be naturalized, provided that the blood quantum qualifications are met).

There is no time limit to apply for naturalization; however, if the applicant is age eighteen (18) or older, they must serve a five (5) year probationary period where the applicant must report to their respective Village Officials for five (5) consecutive years before they become a naturalized member.

Currently, naturalized members do not receive the same tribal benefits as regular members, however they are eligible for Indian Health and PHS services as well as all other government services.

Genealogy Resources: The Irish surname Riley was adopted by many members of the Laguna tribe in the 1800s, for legal use in European-American culture, while they retained their Laguna names for tribal use.


Pueblo governments derived from two traditions. One was indigenous and included, at Laguna, the town chief—”holding the prayer stick”— or cacique (although Lagunas speak of all leaders as caciques). This official is the overall pueblo leader as well as the religious leader, reflecting the essentially theocratic nature of Pueblo government.

Other indigenous officials included the “outside chief” or “white hands,” the war captains, and the hunt chief. A parallel but in most cases distinctly less powerful group of officials was imposed by the Spanish authorities.

Appointed by the religious hierarchy, they generally dealt with external and church matters and included, at Laguna, a governor, two lieutenant governors, capitanes, and fiscales. In addition, the All Indian Pueblo Council, dating from 1598, began meeting again in the twentieth century.

Name of Governing Body:  All Indian Pueblo Council
Number of Council members:   2 council members from each of the six villages, for a total of 12, plus executive officers
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  Govenor, 1st Lt. Governor, 2nd Lt. Governor, Head Fiscale, First Fiscale, Second Fiscale, Secretary, Treasurer, and Interpreter


Language Classification: Keres – Is a dialect cluster spoken by the Keres Pueblo people in New Mexico. The varieties of each of the seven Keres pueblos are mutually intelligible with its closest neighbors.

Keres is a language isolate. Edward Sapir grouped it together with a Hokan–Siouan stock. Morris Swadesh suggested a connection with Wichita.

Joseph Greenberg grouped Keres with Siouan, Yuchi, Caddoan, and Iroquoian in a super-stock called Keresiouan. None of these proposals has gained the consensus of linguists.

Language Dialects: Western Dialect.

Number of fluent Speakers:

  • Eastern Keres: total of 4,580 speakers (1990 census)
    • Cochiti Pueblo: 384 speakers (1990 census)
    • San Felipe – Santo Domingo: San Felipe Pueblo: 1,560 speakers (1990 census), Santo Domingo Pueblo: 1,880 speakers (1990 census)
    • Zia–Santa Ana: Zia Pueblo: 463 speakers (1990 census), Santa Ana Pueblo: 229 speakers (1990 census)
  • Western Keres: total of 3,391 speakers (1990 census)
    • Acoma Pueblo: 1,696 speakers (1980 census)
    • Laguna Pueblo: 1,695 speakers (1990 census)



Bands, Gens, and Clans: Laguna Pueblo recognized seven matrilineal clans, important in marriage control and other secular activities. The clans also owned all farm land.

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies: The Acoma Pueblo and Pueblo of Laguna have many ties, including location, language and a shared high school.

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Each village annually holds feast days honoring patron saints as well as sacred ceremonial dances.Several seasonal feasts and/or ceremonial dances are open to the public. Photography and sketching is generally discouraged in all the Pueblos.

Before drawing the area and its people, or taking pictures, you should inquire if it is allowed, and if so, what the rules are. Some pueblos charge a fee for picture taking, depending on what you plan to do with your pictures. Your camera may be confiscated and you may be fined or asked to leave if you take pictures without following their procedures. They take this VERY seriously.

The Pueblo and surrounding houses are private homes and should be treated as such. Do not enter any buildings unless invited, or clearly marked as open to the public.

Chaco and Mesa Verde: Southwest parks with similar history but different visitor experiences

Legends / Oral Stories:

Arts& Crafts: Contemporary arts and crafts include fine embroidery, pottery, and yucca basketry. 




Subsistance: As herd workers, Lagunas often used Navajo “slaves,” or people offered by their parents as children, raised with Laguna children, and freed as adults. 

Economy Today: Lagunas still practice agriculture as well as sheep and cattle herding. Wage work is provided by a nearby electronics factory, a commercial center, Laguna Industries, and programs paid for by the tribe and the government. Laguna is considered a relatively wealthy and highly acculturated pueblo. Most Laguna people today live in new or remodeled homes.

The Pueblo owns coal, natural gas, oil, and uranium resources. It has a resort casino with hotels and restuarants.

The Laguna Development Corporation; founded in 1998, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pueblo of Laguna. The company develops and operates the tribe’s retail-based outlets, including two travel centers, a supermarket, a convenience store, an RV park, an arcade, a Superette and three casinos.

Other Laguna Development businesses provide basic services to local tribal communities. 

Laguna Construction Company, a construction company owned by the Pueblo of Laguna, is one of the largest U.S. contractors in Iraq, with reconstruction contracts worth more than $300 million since 2004.

In addition to its headquarters at the pueblo, Laguna Industries, Inc. maintains offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Antonio and Houston, Texas; Baghdad, Iraq, and Amman, Jordan. In 2007, Laguna Construction employed 75 people, most of whom belong to the pueblo.

From 1953 to 1982, the Anaconda Mineral Company (uranium) provided 800 well-paying jobs and brought much money to the tribe. However, yellow radioactive clouds drifted over the pueblo during those years, and people built roads and houses with radioactive ore and crushed rock from the mine. Today the groundwater is contaminated, and cancer rates are rising.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

In traditional Pueblo culture, religion and life are inseparable. To be in harmony with all of nature is the Pueblo ideal and way of life. The sun is seen as the representative of the Creator. Sacred mountains in each direction, plus the sun above and the earth below, define and balance the Pueblo world.

Many Pueblo religious ceremonies revolve around the weather and are devoted to ensuring adequate rainfall. To this end, Pueblo Indians evoke the power of katsinas, sacred beings who live in mountains and other holy places, in ritual and dance.

At Laguna, all boys were initiated into the katsina society. Laguna Pueblo featured two above-ground kivas, religious chambers that symbolize the place of original emergence into this world.

In addition to the natural boundaries, Pueblo Indians have created a society that defines their world by providing balanced, reciprocal relationships within which people connect and harmonize with each other, the natural world, and time itself.

According to tradition, the head of each pueblo is the religious leader, or cacique, whose primary responsibility it is to watch the sun and thereby determine the dates of ceremonies.

Laguna ceremonialism was controlled by shamans and medicine societies. Each had a specialty, though all participated in ceremonies.

Particularly important ceremonies included winter solstice, fertility (which also ensured general health by clowning and making fun of evil spirits), reproduction of game animals and general hunting successes, war and precipitation, and curing.

Pueblo people have strong roots, and in many ways the ancient rhythms and patterns continue.

Many Pueblo Indians, though nominally Catholic, have fused pieces of Catholicism onto a core of traditional beliefs.

Since the 1970s control of schools has been a key in maintaining their culture. Indian Health Service hospitals often cooperate with native healers.

The Lagunas never replaced their religious hierarchy after the schism in the 1870s, although there is a growing interest in ceremonialism, and the people have built a modern “kiva.”

Burial Customs:

At Laguna, the dead were prepared ceremonially and quickly buried, heads facing east, with food and other items. A vigil of four days and nights was generally observed. 

Wedding Customs:

Pueblo Indians were generally monogamous and divorce was relatively rare.

Education and Media:

The Laguna people value intellectual activity and education, so a scholarship program has led to many well educated Lagunas.

Uranium mining on Pueblo of Laguna land has contributed to this scholarship program as well as to skilled labor learning among Laguna members.

While many Native Americans love basketball, Lagunas and other Pueblos enjoy baseball and long distance running. In recent times, several Laguna runners have set multiple world records that have never been broken.


Famous Pueblo People

  • Frank Hudson (1875–1950), football player, coach
  • Michael Kanteena, potter
  • Lee Marmon, photographer
  • Leslie Marmon Silko, author

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

In 1598, Juan de Onate arrived in the area with settlers, founding the colony of New Mexico. Onate carried on the process, already underway, of subjugating the local Indians; forcing them to pay taxes in crops, cotton, and work; and opening the door for Catholic missionaries to attack their religion.

The Spanish renamed the Pueblos with saints’ names and began a program of church construction. At the same time, the Spanish introduced such new crops as peaches, wheat, and peppers into the region.

In 1620, a royal decree created civil offices at each pueblo; silver-headed canes, many of which remain in use today, symbolized the governor’s authority.

The Pueblo Indians, including Laguna, organized and instituted a general revolt against the Spanish in 1680. For years, the Spaniards had routinely tortured Indians for practicing traditional religion.

They also forced the Indians to labor for them, sold Indians into slavery, and let their cattle overgraze Indian land, a situation that eventually led to drought, erosion, and famine. Pope of San Juan Pueblo and other Pueblo religious leaders planned the revolt, sending runners carrying cords of maguey fibers to mark the day of rebellion.

On August 10, 1680, a virtually united stand on the part of the Pueblos drove the Spanish from the region. The Indians killed many Spaniards but refrained from mass slaughter, allowing them to leave Santa Fe for El Paso.

Although Pueblo unity did not last, and Santa Fe was officially reconquered in 1692, Spanish rule was notably less severe from then on. Harsh forced labor all but ceased, and the Indians reached an understanding with the Church that enabled them to continue practicing their traditional religion.

Still, the pueblos of Cochiti, Cieneguilla, Santo Domingo, and Jemez rebelled again in 1692. Over 100 people sought refuge at Acoma and Zuni and then some continued on to found the present village of Old Laguna at the very end of the century.

Peace with Spain was finally achieved in 1698. At that time, the Spanish officially recognized Laguna Pueblo, but questions of boundary, especially with Acoma Pueblo, persisted for over two centuries.

The Pueblos experienced many changes during the following decades: Refugees established communities at Hopi, guerrilla fighting continued against the Spanish, and certain areas were abandoned.

By the 1700s, excluding Hopi and Zuni, only Taos, Picuris, Isleta and Acoma Pueblos had not changed locations since the arrival of the Spanish. In general, the Pueblo eighteenth century was marked by smallpox epidemics and increased raiding by the Apache, Comanche, and Ute. Occasionally Pueblo Indians fought with the Spanish against the nomadic Athapaskan and Plains tribes.

The people practiced their religion but more or less in secret. During this time, intermarriage and regular exchange between Hispanic villages and Pueblo Indians created a new New Mexican culture, neither strictly Spanish nor Indian, but rather somewhat of a blend between the two.

Mexican “rule” in 1821 brought little immediate change to the Pueblos. The Mexicans stepped up what had been a gradual process of appropriating Indian land and water, and they allowed the nomadic tribes even greater latitude to raid.

By this time, sheep, horses, and mules had become important economically at Laguna. As the presence of the United States in the area grew, it attempted to enable the Pueblo Indians to continue their generally peaceful and self-sufficient ways and recognized Spanish land grants to the Pueblos.

Land disputes with neighboring Acoma Pueblo were not settled so easily, however.

By the 1880s, several factors had combined to create a cultural and political explosion at Laguna. These included Spanish settlement in 1700s, Anglo settlement in the 1800s, the proximity to railroad lines, and the presence of Protestant whites living and working on the pueblo as teachers, missionaries, surveyors, and traders.

Some of these people married into the tribe. Impatient with Catholic and native traditions, they wrote a constitution and were soon serving as tribal governors.

These changes inflamed simmering factionalism and led to charges and countercharges of witchcraft.

An Anglo governor in the 1870s had the two big kivas torn down. In the late 1870s, a group of traditionalists moved away to the nearby location of Mesita; some relocated to neighboring Isleta Pueblo.

After a gap of more than 300 years, the All Indian Pueblo Council began to meet again in the 1920s, specifically in response to a congressional threat to appropriate Pueblo lands.

Partly as a result of the Council’s activities, Congress confirmed Pueblo title to their lands in 1924 by passing the Pueblo Lands Act.

The United States also acknowledged its trust responsibilities in a series of legal decisions and other acts of Congress. Still, especially after 1900, Pueblo culture was increasingly threatened by Protestant evangelical missions and schools.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs also weighed in on the subject of acculturation, forcing Indian children to leave their homes and attend culture-killing boarding schools.

Following World War II, the issue of water rights took center stage on most pueblos. Also, the All Indian Pueblo Council succeeded in slowing the threat against Pueblo lands as well as religious persecution.

Making crafts for the tourist trade became an important economic activity during this period.

In 1950 the Laguna sheep herd stood at 15,000, reduced from 52,000 by government edict in the 1930s as a response to overgrazing. Since the late nineteenth century, but especially after the 1960s, Pueblos have had to cope with onslaughts by (mostly white) anthropologists and seekers of Indian spirituality.

The Jackpile Uranium Mine opened at Laguna in 1953, creating an economic boom until it closed in 1982.

Tiguex War
Pueblo Revolt of 1680
New Mexico’s pueblos have a history with the federal government unlike any other American Indian tribe

In the News:

Pueblo family forced to bury twice

Further Reading: