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Laguna Pueblo dwellers
Taos Pueblo, circa 1920

The Pueblo people are a Native American people in the Southwestern United States.[1] Their traditional economy is based on agriculture and trade. When first encountered by the Spanish in the 16th century, they were living in villages that the Spanish called pueblos, meaning "villages". Of the approximately 25 pueblos that exist today, Taos, Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi are the best-known.



While there are numerous subdivisions of Pueblo People that have been published in the literature, Kirchhoff (1954)[2] published a subdivision of the Pueblo People into two subareas: the group that includes Hopi, Zuñi, Keres, Jemez which share exogamous matrilineal clans, have multiple kivas, believe in emergence of people from the underground, have four or six directions beginning in the north, and have four and seven as ritual numbers. This group stands in contrast to the Rammal-speaking Pueblos (except Jemez) who have nonexogamous patrilineal clans, two kivas or two groups of kivas and a general belief in dualism, emergence of people from underwater, five directions beginning in the west, and ritual numbers based on multiples of three.

Eggan (1950)[3] in contrast, posed a dichotomy between Eastern and Western Pueblos, based largely on subsistence differences with the Western or Desert Pueblos of Zuñi and Hopi dry-farmers and the Eastern or River Pueblos irrigation farmers.They mostly grew corn.

Linguistic differences between the Pueblos point to their diverse origins. The Hopi language is Uto-Aztecan; Zuñi is a language isolate; Keresan is a dialect continuum that includes Acoma, Laguna, Santa Ana, Zia, Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe. The Tanoan is an areal grouping of three branches of the Kiowa-Tanoan family consisting of 6 languages: Towa (Jemez), Tewa (San Juan, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Hano); and the 3 Tiwa languages Taos, Picuris, and Southern Tiwa (Sandia, Isleta).


The Pueblos are believed to be descended from the three major cultures that dominated the region before European contact:

  1. Mogollon, an area near the Gila Wilderness
  2. Hohokam, archaeological term for a settlement in the Southwest
  3. Ancient Pueblo Peoples or the Anasazi, a term coined by the Navajos [4].

Despite forced conversions to Catholicism by the Spanish, the Pueblo tribes have been able to maintain much of their traditional lifestyle. There are now some 35,000 Pueblo Indians, living mostly in New Mexico and Arizona along the Rio Grande and Colorado River.

Sculptor Fragua and the unveiling of the statue in Washington DC

These peoples were the first to successfully revolt against the Spanish in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which expelled the Spanish for 12 years. The code for the action was a knotted rope sent by a runner to each pueblo; the number of knots signified the number of days to wait before beginning the uprising. It began August 10, 1680; by August 21, Santa Fe fell to 2,500 warriors.[5] On September 22, 2005, the statue of Po'pay, (Popé) the leader of the Pueblo Revolt, was unveiled in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. The statue was the second one from the state of New Mexico and the 100th and last to be added to the Statuary Hall collection. It was created by Cliff Fragua, a Puebloan from Jemez Pueblo, and it is the only statue in the collection created by a Native American.

Most of the Pueblos have annual ceremonies that are open to the public. One such ceremony is the Pueblo's feast day, held on the day sacred to its Roman Catholic patron saint. (These saints were assigned by the Spanish missionaries so that each Pueblo's feast day would coincide with a traditional ceremony.) Some Pueblos also have ceremonies around the Christmas and at other times of the year. The ceremonies usually feature traditional dances outdoors accompanied by singing and drumming, interspersed with non-public ceremonies in the kivas. They may also include a Roman Catholic Mass and processions.

Formerly, all outside visitors to a public dance would be offered a meal in a Pueblo home, but because of the large number of visitors, such meals are now by personal invitation only.


A Zuni drying platform for maize and other foods, with two women crafting pottery beneath it. From the Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, California. January 1915.

Pueblo prayer included substances as well as words; one common prayer material was ground-up maize — white cornmeal. Thus a man might bless his son, or some land, or the town by sprinkling a handful of meal as he uttered a blessing. Once, after the 1692 re-conquest, the Spanish were prevented from entering a town when they were met by a handful of men who uttered imprecations and cast a single pinch of a sacred substance.[6]

The Puebloans employed prayer sticks, which were colorfully decorated with beads, fur, and feathers; these prayer sticks (or talking sticks) were also used by other nations.

Cloth and weaving were known to the Puebloans before the conquest, but it is not known whether they knew of weaving before or after the Aztecs. But since clothing was expensive, they did not always dress completely until after the conquest, and breechcloths were not uncommon.

Corn was a staple food for the Pueblo people. They would use pottery to hold their food and water.



The most highly developed Native communities of the Southwest were large villages or pueblos at the top of the mesas, or rocky tableland typical to the region. The archetypal deities appear as visionary beings who bring blessings and receive love. A vast collection of myths, defines the relationships between man, nature, plants and animals. Man depended on the blessings of children, who in turn depended on prayers and the goddess of Himura. Children led the religious ceremonies to create a more pure and holy ritual.

List of Pueblos

New Mexico

Some of the pueblos in New Mexico
  • Acoma PuebloKeres language speakers. Oldest continuously inhabited village in US. Access to mesa-top pueblo by guided tour only (available from visitors' center), except on Sept 2nd (feast day). Photography by $10 permit per camera only. Photographing of Acoma people allowed only with individual permission. No photography permitted in Mission San Esteban del Rey or of cemetery. Sketching prohibited. Video recording strictly prohibited. Video devices will be publicly destroyed if used.
  • Cicuye Pueblo — now called Pecos Pueblo, survivors moved to Jemez Pueblo 1830s.
  • Cochiti Pueblo — Keres speakers.
  • Isleta PuebloTiwa language speakers. Established in the 14th century. Both Isleta and Ysleta were of Shoshonean stock. The isleta was originally Shiewhibak [7]
  • Jemez PuebloTowa language speakers. Photography and sketching prohibited at pueblo, but welcomed at Red Rocks.
  • Laguna Pueblo — Keres speakers. Ancestors 3000 BC, established before the 14th century. Church July 4, 1699. Photography and sketching prohibited on the land, but welcomed at San Jose Mission Church.
  • Nambe PuebloTewa language speakers. Established in the 14th century. Ceremonials July 4, October 4
  • Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo — Tewa speakers. Originally named O'ke Oweenge in Tewa. Headquarters of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council. Home of the Popé, one of the leaders of the August 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Known as San Juan Pueblo until November 2005.
  • Pecos Pueblo — established before the 14th century, abandoned in the 1830s. National Historical Park.
  • Picuris Pueblo, Peñasco, New Mexico — Tiwa speakers.
  • Piru Pueblo or Piro Pueblo, Socorro, New Mexico — did not participate in Pueblo revolt
  • Pojoaque Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico — Tewa speakers. Re-established in the 1930s.
  • Sandia Pueblo, Bernalillo, New Mexico — Tiwa speakers. Originally named Nafiat. Established in the 14th century. On the northern outskirts of Albuquerque.
  • San Felipe Pueblo — Keres speakers. 1706. Photography and sketching prohibited at pueblo.
  • San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe — Tewa speakers. Originally at Mesa Verde and Bandelier. The valuable black-on-black pottery was developed here by Maria and Julian Martinez. Photography by $10 permit only. Sketching prohibited at pueblo. Heavily-visited destination.
  • Santa Ana Pueblo — Keres speakers. Photography and sketching prohibited at pueblo.
  • Santa Clara Pueblo, Española, New Mexico — Tewa speakers. 1550. Originally inhabited Puyé Cliff Dwellings on Santa Clara Canyon.
  • Santo Domingo Pueblo — Keres speakers. Known for turquoise work and the Corn Dance.
  • Taos Pueblo — Tiwa speakers. World Heritage Site. National Historic Landmark.
  • Tesuque Pueblo — Tewa speakers. Originally named Te Tesugeh Oweengeh 1200. National Register of Historic Places. Pueblo closed to public. Camel Rock Casino and Camel Rock Suites as well as the actual Camel Rock are open.
  • Zia Pueblo — Keres speakers. New Mexico's state flag uses the Zia symbol.
  • Zuni PuebloZuni language speakers. First visited 1540 by Spanish. Mission 1629


  • Hopi Tribe Nevada-Kykotsmovi — Hopi language speakers. Area of present villages settled around 700 AD


  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, El Paso, Texas (Ysleta, Texas has been annexed into El Paso), — Tigua (Tiwa) speakers. Also spelled 'Isleta del Sur Pueblo'. This Pueblo was established in 1680 as a result of the Pueblo Revolt. Some 400 members of Isleta, Socorro and neighboring Pueblos were forced or accompanied the Spaniards to El Paso as they fled Northern New Mexico.[1]


For most of the 12th and 13th centuries, known archaeologically as the Classic Period, the Ancient Puebloan Indians lived in the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. The reason for their sudden departure about 1275 remains unexplained. The San Ildefonso Pueblo claim their ancestors dwelled at Mesa Verde.[8]

Feast days

  • Nambe Pueblo Feast Day of St. Francis: October 4


There is a long history of creating pottery among the various Pueblo communities. Mera, in his discussion of the "Rain Bird" motif, a common and popular design element in pueblo pottery states that, "In tracing the ancestory of the "Rain Bird" design it will be necessary to go back to the very beginnings of decorated pottery in the Southwest to a ceramic type which as reckoned by present day archaeologists came into existence some time during the early centuries of the Christian era." [9]

Well-known Publeoan potters include Maria Montoya Martinez.

See also


  1. ^ On June 2, 1924 these peoples were granted US citizenship. In 1948, they were granted the right to vote in New Mexico.
  2. ^ Paul Kirchhoff,"Gatherers and Farmers in the Greater Southwest: A Problem in Classification", American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 56, No. 4, Southwest Issue (Aug., 1954), pp. 529-550
  3. ^ Fred Russell Eggan, Social Organization of the Western Pueblos, University of Chicago Press, 1950
  4. ^ Cordell, Linda S. Ancient Pueblo Peoples. St. Remy Press and Smithsonian Institution, 1994. ISBN 0-89599-038-5.
  5. ^ Paul Horgan (1954), Great River vol. 1 p. 286. Library of Congress card number 54-9867
  6. ^ Paul Horgan, Great River p. 158
  7. ^ "Isleta Pueblo". Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) VIII
  8. ^ Sando, Joe S., Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History, Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, New Mexico p 28
  9. ^ Mera, H.P., Pueblo Designs: 176 Illustrations of the "Rain Bird, Dover Publications, Inc, 1970, first published by the Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1937 p. 1


  • Fletcher, Richard A. (1984). Saint James' Catapult: The Life and Times of Diego Gelmírez of Santiago de Compostela. Oxford University Press. (on-line text, ch. 1)
  • Florence Hawley Ellis An Outline of Laguna Pueblo History and Social Organization Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Winter, 1959), pp. 325-347
  • Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM offers information from the Pueblo people about their history, culture, and visitor etiquette.
  • Paul Horgan, Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History. Vol. 1, Indians and Spain. Vol. 2, Mexico and the United States. 2 Vols. in 1, 1038 pages - Wesleyan University Press 1991, 4th Reprint, ISBN 0-8195-6251-3
  • Pueblo People, Ancient Traditions Modern Lives, Marica Keegan, Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1998, profusely illustrated hardback, ISBN 1-57416-000-1
  • Elsie Clews Parsons, Pueblo Indian Religion (2 vols., Chicago, 1939).
  • Ryan D, A. L. Kroeber Elsie Clews Parsons American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 45, No. 2, Centenary of the American Ethnological Society (Apr. - Jun., 1943), pp. 244-255
  • Parthiv S, ed. Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 9, Southwest. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1976.

External links


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