The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico

Centuries before European explorers found their way to the western hemisphere, the Pueblo Indians of what is now New Mexico developed a distinctive and complex civilization. These peace loving people created an urban life in harmony with the environment and with each other. Their religion was pantheistic [belief that God is (consist of) all forces and powers of the universe] and deeply spiritual and constituted an important part of daily life, within which they created an equitable government, a magnificent architecture, intensive agriculture with a sophisticated irrigation system.

While the majority of Native Americans belonged to nomadic tribes and moved with the seasons to follow game, the Pueblo stayed in one location. They hunted, fished, and traded much like Indians on the rest of the continent but they were very different in two very important ways. They were farmers, growing corn, squash, a variety of beans and other vegetables. They also built permanent structures for lodging, worship and cultural events. One roof-timber has been carbon-14 dated to 217 AD.

As the Europeans arrived and pushed westward the Pueblo offered little resistence, choosing instead to maintain a peaceful life and their own culture.

Today, after suffering disruption by gold-seeking Europeans, alien Indian tribes and Anglo-American westward expansion, the Pueblo people are settled in nineteen communities, some of which have been continuously inhabited since long before the discovery of America. Still retaining their ancient and largely secret ceremonial life, they nevertheless welcome visitors from all over the world, and offer a glimpse of the proud heritage which they have kept alive for more than a thousand years.

The tribes are The Acoma, The Cochiti, The Isleta, The Jemez, The Laguna, The Nambe, The Picuris, The Pojoaque, The Sandia, The San Felipe, The San Ildefonso, The San Juan, The Santa Ana, The Santa Clara, The Santo Domingo, The Taos Pueblo, The Tesuque, The Zia, and The Zuni. All of the tribes have highly developed skills in art, pottery, weaving, jewelry, leather work and other crafts.

Nearly all Pueblo populations are divided into clans; the Corn Clan, the Turkey Clan, the Turquoise Clan and many others. Clan members may take turns in the conduct of the Pueblo government, in the administration of justice, and in the responsibility for traditional tribal ceremonies. Most Pueblo people speak a variation of two primary linguistic stocks, Keresan or Tanoan, as well as English and often Spanish. The Zuni Pueblo has its own language, unrelated to any of the others.

The Pueblo Revolt, 1680-1692

Spaniards began moving into what is now Arizona and New Mexico as early as 1540. They conquered more than 100 Indian pueblos, or villages. Spanish soldiers and priests set up a forced-labor system almost like slavery, and prevented the Pueblo Indians from worshiping their ancient gods. Finally the Indians struck back. Led by Pope, from San Juan pueblo, they attacked several Spanish settlements in August 1680. The Indians killed over 400 Spaniards, and besieged 1,000 more in Santa Fe. After several days without water, the Spaniards escaped to El Paso del Norte (now El Paso, Texas), and Pope became the master of New Mexico.

The Pueblo Indians ruled for 12 years, and destroyed almost every trace of the Roman Catholic Church but retained such things as horses thus becoming the first Plains Indians to acquire them. Spanish soldiers under Diego de Vargas easily re-conquered the territory in 1692, after Pope's death.

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