Pueblo Indians: pueblo tribes, chieftains, history and culture index
The Pueblo Indians are a group of native tribes who inhabit primarily regions of north eastern Arizona and north western New Mexico in the United States. There is also one small pueblo in Texas and one in Mexico near El Paso, Texas.The Pueblo Indians are further divided into 25 divisions called pueblos, named after the type of structure they live in. There are five Pueblo reservations. Famous Pueblo chieftains and medicine men include Popé, a Tewan chief of San Juan, Cacique, Paliwahtiwa (Zuni), Jiconella (Pueblo), Elk Mountain, Mountain Lake, and Santiago Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo.
The word Pueblo is the Spanish name for "town or village."
The Pueblo Indians speak seven languages from four different linguistic stocks. However, most Pueblo people speak a variation of primarily two linguistic stocks, Keresan and Tanoan, as well as English and frequently Spanish.
The ancient area of Pueblo culture, as indicated by numerous prehistoric ruins, extended from about the Arkansas and Grand rivers, in Colorado and Utah, southwards indefinitely into Mexico, and from central Arizona eastward, almost across the Texas Panhandle.
At the beginning of the historic period in 1540, the Pueblo population centered chiefly on the upper Pecos and Rio Grande, and about the Zuñi in New Mexico, and upon the Hopi mesas in north-east Arizona. The inhabited pueblos at that date probably numbered close to one hundred. Today, 26 are occupied, excluding the two small Americanized pueblos of Isleta del Sur (Texas) and Senecú (Mexico), in the immediate neighbourhood of El Paso. With the exception of these two, all but the seven Hopi pueblos (including Hano) are in New Mexico. The Hopi are in Arizona. All have US Federal recognition except Senecu, which is in Mexico, and San Juan de Guadalupe, which is currently petitioning for recognition.
The Franciscan monk, Marcos di Niza, first saw the Zuni in 1539 but did not approach them. As soon as he returned, a new expedition was organized Francesco Vasquez de Coronado, for the conquest of this new country. In July, 1540, after nearly five months' march, the advance guard reached the principal Zuñi town, which was taken by storm.
Exploring parties were sent out in every direction, over to the Hopi, the Colorado, and the Buffalo plains, and the expedition finally went into winter quarters at Puaray, among the Tigua (Tiguex province), about the present Bernalillo, North Mexico, on the Rio Grande. The province was rich and populous, having twelve pueblos with perhaps 8000 people.
The Indians were at first friendly, but the conduct of the Spaniards soon provoked hostility and resistance, which was put down with one hundred surrendered prisoners being burnt at the stake, or shot as they attempted to escape, and hundreds or thousands of others being butchered by the Spaniards.
In 1581 a small expedition of priests traveled to Tiguex, where they were soon murdered. The following year, an expedition led by Don Antonio Espejo and Father Bernadino Beltran, went looking for the missing priests and visited almost every Pueblo tribe from the Pecos to the Hopi, finally reaching Mexico in the fall of 1583.
In 1890, a strong expedition under Castano de Sosa ascended the Rio Grande, stormed Pecos, and visited a large number of pueblos, whose inhabitants either fled or made submission. One or two later contraband expeditions seem to have reached the buffalo plains.
The real conquest of the country was accomplished in 1598-1599 by Juan de Onate of Zacatecas with 400 men, including commissary Father Alonso Martinez and nine other Franciscans, who traversed the whole region to beyond the Hopi, generally established friendly relations with the natives, and organizing regular forms of government, with a priest in each district.
A massacre of a Spanish detachment at the almost inaccessible cliff town of Acoma resulted in the storming of the pueblo and the slaughter of most of the inhabitants on January 24, 1599.
In 1630 there were about 50 friars serving over 60,000 Indians in over 90 pueblos grouped into 25 mission jurisdictions. Shortly afterwards began the difficulties between the administration and the missionaries, which led up to the great disaster of 1680. Revolts at various times by the Jemez, Tewa, Piros, and others were harshly repressed by the governors. Taos planned a general rising and several missionaries were killed. The trouble culminated in August of 1680 in a general rising of all the pueblos, with a few exceptions, under Popé, a Tewan chief of San Juan.
Nearly four hundred Spaniards were killed, including twenty-one of the thirty-three missionaries then in the country; every mission was destroyed, with furnishings and records; Governor Otermin was besieged in Santa Fé, and finally compelled to withdraw with every Spaniard in the country into Mexico. Many of the Indians abandoned their pueblos and built new towns in inaccessible regions.
The Pueblo Indians were left alone for twelve years, then sporatic battles continued until 1847, with several major uprisings. In 1853 the Pueblo Indians were hit with a smallpox epidemic. Their pueblo lands were finally secured under old Spanish grants confirmed by an Act of Congress in 1858.
Except for the Hopi of Arizona and about one-half the people of Laguna, most of the pueblo Indians are still under Catholic influence and at least nominally Catholic, although a majority adhere to their ancient rites. The Presbyterians came to Laguna about 1876. Although very few of the elderly Pueblos speak any English, a large number speak Spanish fluently.
Belief in witchcraft was universal and not considered just fun and games, and witch executions were a frequent occurrence until the last century. With the exception of a few minor modern conveniences in housekeeping and working methods, Pueblo life remains basically uninfluenced by European culture. The majority still hold tenaciously to their old beliefs and ceremonials and way of life.
The primitive Pueblo culture stood alone. It centered about the house, an immense communal structure, sometimes in part several stories high, of many rectangular rooms and narrow passageways, of varying sizes and directions, with flat roofs which served as working or resting places, or as observation points for ceremonial occasions. The houses of the pueblo were usually built around a central, open space or plaza in the middle of which was the "kiva"or sunken rock-hewn chamber dedicated to the sacred secret rites of the various priesthoods. For better defence against the wild tribes the outer walls were frequently solid, without door or window opening, entrance being effected by means of ladders — one on the outside for ascending to the flat roof, and another descending into the interior through a doorway in the roof itself.
The "cliff dwelling" and "cave dwelling" of the same region were simply variant forms of the same structure, from which the modern pueblo house differs but very little. The prehistoric "cliff-dwellers" were in many cases the ancestors of the Pueblos of to-day. The Hopi, in fact, are still true cliff-dwellers, their villages being set, for defensive purposes, upon the summits of mesas several hundred feet above the surrounding desert.
Their main dependence was agriculture assisted by irrigation, corn and beans being the principal crops with "chile", pumpkins, native cotton and tobacco, and later, peaches introduced by the old missionaries. In spite of their arid surroundings they were industrious and successful farmers. They also hunted to some extent, particularly jackrabbits, which were taken by circle "drives" in which the whole community participated. Fish was never eaten.
The dog was the only domestic animal, with the exception of the turkey and eagle occasionally kept for feathers.
As weavers and potters they excelled above all other tribes north of Mexico, their pottery being particularly beautiful in ornamentation, finish, and general workmanship. Their native cotton is now superseded by wool. They also make a great variety of baskets, the basket plaques of the Hopi being particularly artistic. The men are expert carvers in wood, and their carvings of katsinas (called kachinas in the tourist trade), which are depictions of more than 400 spiritual deities, are collected world wide.
The Pueblos still only allow limited access to their lands by non-pueblo people, mainly during some public ceremonies, and the taking of pictures is strictly forbidden and strongly enforced.
All Pueblo tribes have the clan system, some having as many as twenty or more clans, with descent generally, but not always, through the mother. Monogamy was the rule, unlike the condition in most tribes in the United States and northward at the time of European contact, and the woman is the virtual owner of both the house and the garden, with correspondingly higher status than in other tribes.
Each pueblo is an independent and separate community, the only larger bond being similarity of language or custom, the chief being simply the executive of the priesthoods. In some pueblos there is said to have been a summer and a winter chief. Since Spanish times the town government is vested in an elective chief or governor, a vice-chief, and a counsel. Practically all affairs of importance — war, medicine, hunting, agriculture, etc. — were controlled by the numerous priesthoods or secret societies, whose public ceremonies made up a large and picturesque part of Pueblo life.
Among these ceremonies the Snake Dance of the Hopi is probably most widely known. Their religion was an animism, with special appeal to the higher powers to control the rain, the growing crops, hunting, and war. Some of their ritual myths are of great length and full of poetic imagery, while some of their ceremonials are of high dramatic character. Special regard is paid also to the cardinal points, to which are ascribed both sex and colour.
While still retaining their ancient and often secret ceremonial life, they often welcome visitors to public ceremonies several times a year. However, there is a strict protocol of ettiquette you must practice when visiting a pueblo, and they are open to the public only during these special ceremonies.
Each Pueblo is an independent political and social entity. The Puebloan linguistic heritage continues in the living languages of Tewa, Tiwa, Towa, Keres and Zuni.
Nineteen Indian pueblos (Spanish word meaning villages) survive in New Mexico. In 1539, before the arrival of the Spanish, more than one hundred pueblos existed in the valley of the Rio Grande and its tributaries. The Pueblo inhabitants are the descendants of the Mogollon and the Anasazi, prehistoric cultures of the Southwestern United States. The remaining pueblos are:
Acoma (Keres, “To prepare or plan”) Called “Sky City” because of its unsurpassed setting high atop a 376-foot sandstone butte. Acoma potters are famed for fine-line black and white pottery.
Cochiti (Keres, “Stone Kiva”) On the west bank of the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Cochiti artist Helen Cordero created the first storyteller in clay which is in the collection of the Museum of International Folk Art. Also noted drummakers.
Isleta (Tiwa, “Knife Laid on the Ground to Play With”) South of Albuquerque, near the Rio Grande. Distinctive pastel style of pottery .
Jemez (Towa, “The People”) Set in a dramatic red-rock canyon of the Jemez River. Jemez potters are known for black-on-red and black/red-on-tan pieces plus engraved (sgraffito) redware.
Laguna (Keres, “Lake People”) Forty miles west of Albuquerque, multiple villages which are nestled in canyons stretching to Mount Taylor (elevation 11,300 feet).
Nambe (Tewa, “Place of Bowl-Shaped Earth) Northwest of Santa Fe, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Known for potters and sculptors, the Nambe Falls, its lake stocked with rainbow trout and a buffalo herd maintained for spiritual reasons.
Picuris (Tiwa, “Those Who Paint”) The mountain pueblo. Known for golden-hued micaceous pottery.
Pojoaque (Tewa, “Water Drinking Place”) North of Santa Fe. Home of the Poeh Cultural Center & Museum.
Sandia (Tiwa, “Green Reed Place”) Borders Albuquerque on the north in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. Bien Mur Market Center, Buffalo Preserve.
San Felipe (Keres. Indian name uncertain) 30 miles north of Albuquerque. Conservative, low-profile pueblo. Nativities and heishi jewelry.
San Ildefonso (Tewa, “Where the Water Cuts Through”) North of Santa Fe on the way to Los Alamos. Known for the black-on-black pottery developed by Maria Martinez. Also redware and polychrome vessels and experimental contemporary pottery.
San Juan (Tewa, “Village of the Strong People”) Located in the shadow of Black Mesa. Known for redware pottery incised with thin, geometric patterns.
Santa Ana (Keres, “Tamaya”) Located 16 miles north of Albuquerque. Home of the elegant Hotel Tamaya with views of the Rio Grande Valley and west face of the Sandia Mountains.
Santa Clara (Tewa, “Valley of Wild Roses”) Site of the Puye Cliff Dwellings; known for many artistic dynasties of potters; origin of artists Pablita Velarde and the late Helen Hardin.
Santo Domingo (Keres. Indian name uncertain) Very traditional, conservative pueblo. Known for fine heishi jewelry as well as pottery painted with bold geometric patterns.
Taos (Tiwa, “Our Village” or “At Red Willow Canyon Mouth”) Historic multistoried village, a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage Site. Arts include leather craft, drums, micaceous pottery, stone sculpture.
Tesuque (Tewa, “Narrow Place of Cottonwood Trees”) Located 5 minutes north of Santa Fe on the banks of Tesuque River. Known for brightly painted figurines called Rain Gods; jewelry, paintings, weavings and beadworking.
Zia (Keres, “Tsia”) Northwest of Bernalillo on a rocky ledge. Source of the sun symbol used on the NM state flag. Known for red and white pottery, especially the design of a big-eyed bird with a split tail.
Zuni (Zuni, Keres “The Middle Place”) Famed for jewelry including mosaic overlay and inlay, petit point; traditional and contemporary animal fetishes carved from stone, shell, wood and antler. Home of the Shalako ceremonial dances.