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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 "towns". Of the 21 Pueblos that exist today, Taos, Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi are the best-known. The main Pueblos are located primarily in New Mexico and Arizona.


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 Tanoan-speaking Pueblos (other than 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 maize (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 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 (as evidenced by the establishment of a mission at each surviving pueblo) 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 Cliff Fragua. Unveiling and Dedication of the Popé statue in Washington DC, September 2005.

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 one day early, 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.

Josiah Gregg describes the Pueblo people in Commerce of the Prairies: or, The journal of a Santa Fé trader, 1831–1839 as follows:[6]

When these regions were first discovered it appears that the inhabitants lived in comfortable houses and cultivated the soil, as they have continued to do up to the present time. Indeed, they are now considered the best horticulturists in the country, furnishing most of the fruits and a large portion of the vegetable supplies that are to be found in the markets. They were until very lately the only people in New Mexico who cultivated the grape. They also maintain at the present time considerable herds of cattle, horses, etc. They are, in short, a remarkably sober and industrious race, conspicuous for morality and honesty, and very little given to quarrelling or dissipation...

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.[7]

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.

By the 13th century, Puebloans used turkey feather blankets for warmth.[8] 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 were what was called "dry farmers". Because there was not a lot of water in New Mexico, they farmed using as little water as possible, which restricted what they could grow. Because of this, they mainly would farm many types of corn, beans and squash. They would use pottery to hold their food and water. (See also: Agriculture in the prehistoric Southwest)


Further information: Hopi mythology

The most highly developed Native communities of the Southwest were large villages or pueblos at the top of the mesas, rocky tablelands 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[edit]

New Mexico[edit]

Some of the pueblos in New Mexico
Elk Foot of the Pueblo Tribe, painting by E. Irving Couse, 1909 [9]
  • Acoma PuebloKeres language speakers. One of the oldest continuously inhabited villages in the 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.
  • 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 [10]
  • Jemez PuebloTowa language speakers. Photography and sketching prohibited at pueblo, but welcomed at Red Rocks.
  • Kewa Pueblo( Formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo) — Keres speakers. Known for turquoise work and the Corn Dance.
  • 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. Was an important trading center for the Northern Pueblos. Nambe is the original Tewa name, and means "People of the Round Earth". Feast Day of St. Francis 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.
  • Picuris Pueblo, Peñasco, New Mexico — Tiwa speakers.
  • 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, between Pojoaque and Los Alamos— Tewa speakers. Originally at Mesa Verde and Bandelier. The valuable black-on-black pottery was made famous 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.The valuable black-on-black pottery was developed here
  • Taos Pueblo — Tiwa speakers. World Heritage Site. National Historic Landmark.
  • Tesuque Pueblo Santa Fe— 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 —originally 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.[11] Three missions (Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario) were established on the Camino Real to Santa Fe. The San Elizario mission was administrative (that is, non Puebloan).
  • Some of the Piru Puebloans settled in Senecu, and then in Socorro, Texas, adjacent to Ysleta, Texas (which is now within El Paso city limits). When the Rio Grande would flood the valley or change course, these missions would lie variously on the north or south sides of the river. Although Socorro and San Elizario are still separate communities, Ysleta has been annexed into El Paso.

Feast days[edit]

Dancers at Ohkay Owingeh


There is a short 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 ancestry 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." [12]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Gregg, J. 1844. Commerce of the Prairies. New York: Henry G. Langley, Chpt.14, The Pueblos, p.55
  7. ^ Paul Horgan, Great River p. 158
  8. ^ Turkeys domesticated not once, but twice
  9. ^ "Elk-Foot of the Taos Tribe by Eanger Irving Couse". Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  10. ^ "Isleta Pueblo". Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) VIII
  11. ^
  12. ^ 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.
  • Julia M. Keleher and Elsie Ruth Chant (2009). THE PADRE OF ISLETA The Story of Father Anton Docher. Sunstone press Publishing. 

External links[edit]

Category:Oasisamerica cultures Category:Southwest tribes Category:Native American tribes in Arizona Category:Native American tribes in New Mexico Category:Native American tribes in Texas Category:Native American history of New Mexico