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There are 23 Indian tribes located in New Mexico - nineteen Pueblos, three Apache tribes (the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Mescalero Apache Tribe), and the Navajo Nation.
The nineteen Pueblos are comprised of the Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zuni and Zia.
Each Tribe is a sovereign nation with its own government, life-ways, traditions, and culture. All welcome visitors, but please make sure to check ahead of your visit as some communities close unexpectedly for religious or other cultural observations.
There are several interpretations of origin of the name "Acoma". Some believe that the name Acoma comes from the Keresan words for the People of the White Rock, with aa'ku meaning white rock, and meh meaning people. Others believe that the word aa'ku actually comes from the word haaku meaning to prepare; a description that would accurately reflect the defensive position of the mesa's inhabitants.
Today, fewer than 50 tribal members live year-round in the earthen homes of Sky City. Those living in the community tend to the massive San Estévan del Rey Mission, completed in 1640. Both the mission and pueblo have been designated as a Registered National Historical Landmarks. Nearly 3,000 additional tribal members live in the nearby villages of Acomita, McCarty’s and Anzac.
Cochití Pueblo, northern-most of the Keres-speaking pueblos, is home to about 1,500 people. One of its renowned members is the late Helen Cordero, who revived the popular storyteller figurine in 1964. The pueblo is also well known for its deep-toned ceremonial drums, which can be heard on July 14, the pueblo’s San Buenaventura Feast Day.
Cochití's newest attraction is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, administered in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The national monument includes a national recreational trail. It is for foot travel only, and contains two segments that provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation and plant identification.
Originally established in the 1300s, Isleta Pueblo is home to more than 3,000 members today. The name Isleta is Spanish for "little island". The Spanish Mission of San Agustín de la Isleta was built in the pueblo in 1612 by Spanish Catholic Franciscans. It is one of the oldest mission churches in the United States. When the Spanish returned to New Mexico after the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680, they found the church destroyed, except for the nave. The church was rebuilt in 1716 on the foundation of the old church. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, many of the pueblo people had fled to Hopi settlements in Arizona, while others followed the Spanish retreat south to El Paso del Norte (present-day El Paso), Texas. After the rebellion, the Isleta people returned to the Pueblo, many with Hopi spouses. Later in the 1800s, friction with members of Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo, who had joined the Isleta community, led to the establishment of the satellite settlement of Oraibi. Today, as well as the main pueblo, Isleta includes the small communities of Oraibi and Chicale.
The Pueblo of Jémez is the only remaining Towa-speaking pueblo. It is surrounded by colorful red sandstone mesas and serves as the gateway to the Cañon de San Diego and the Jémez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. The pueblo itself is located 27 miles northwest of Bernalillo.
In the 1830s, survivors of Pecos (Cicúye) Pueblo, a once-mighty trading center now in ruins, joined Jémez. Many Pecos Pueblo warriors at first resisted the invading Spanish forces under Diego de Vargas 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 and later they allied with the conquerors.
As much as 70% of the 1,890 Jémez Indians were living on their reservation lands in the early 1970s. Though by then an increasing number were switching to wage-earning work rather than agriculture, the residents continued to raise chili peppers, corn, and wheat, to speak their native language, and to maintain customary practices.
The Jicarilla Apache Nation is located in the scenic mountains and rugged mesas of northern New Mexico near the Colorado border. There are approximately 2,755 tribal members, most of whom live in the town of Dulce. Nomadic in nature until just before European contact, the Jicarilla tribe established trade with Taos and Picurís pueblos. They wandered and traded as far east as Kansas until they settled deep in the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the mid-1720s.
With a population of about 7,700, Laguna Pueblo is the largest Keresan-speaking pueblo. Historians believe the ancestors of the pueblo have occupied the Laguna homelands since at least A.D. 1300. Pueblo history teaches the occupation since time immemorial.
The area around the villages produced evidence that archaic Indians lived there as far back as 3000 B.C. As was Acoma, Laguna seems to have been a boundary between the Ancestral Pueblo people to the north and Mogollón cultures to the south. When the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they found an agrarian lifestyle and sophisticated system of self-governance.
The Mescalero Apache Tribe was established by Executive Order of President Ulysses S. Grant on May 27, 1873. There are three sub-bands that comprise the Tribe: the Mescalero Apache, the Chiricahua Apache, and the Lipan Apache. Prior to the reservation period, the Mescalero people were nomadic hunters and gathers and roamed the Southwest. The Apachean tribes were historically very powerful, constantly at enmity with the Spaniards and Mexicans for centuries. The first Apache raids on Sonora appear to have taken place during the late 17th century. The U.S. Army, in their various confrontations, found them to be fierce warriors and skillful strategists. They were experts in guerilla warfare and highly skilled horsemen. The women were known for their ability to find and prepare food from many different plant sources.
Located 20 miles north of Santa Fe at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Nambé means "People of the Round Earth" in the Tewa language, and the pueblo people are from the Tewa ethnic group of Native Americans. The Pueblo of Nambé has existed since the 14th century and was a primary cultural and religious center at the time of the arrival of Spanish colonists in the very early 17th century.
Nambé is known for a distinctive style of pottery, known as Nambé Polychrome. The Feast Day for Nambé Pueblo is October 4. Nambé is a member of the Eight Northern Pueblos.
The largest U.S. Indian tribe, the Navajo Nation consists of more than 298,000 members, about 106,800 of whom live in New Mexico. The reservation includes approximately 27,000 square miles. Its boundaries extend from northwestern New Mexico into northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah, a combined area larger than many U.S. states.
Three smaller bands of Navajos are also located away from the main reservation boundaries at Alamo, To'hajiilee and Ramah. Key cities include Crownpoint, Shiprock, Alamo, To'hajiilee and Ramah. The capital of the Navajo Nation is Window Rock, AZ, located about 25 miles northwest of Gallup.
Juan de Oñate established the first Spanish capital city in New Mexico near Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (formerly San Juan Pueblo) in 1598. Traditionally, San Juan (O'ke in Tewa) was the center of an Indian meeting ground, its people so powerful that only an O'ke native could declare war for the Pueblo Indians. Although called a Taoseño, Pueblo Revolt leader Popé actually was a San Juan native.
It is one of the largest Tewa-speaking pueblos with a population of about 6,748. Today, the pueblo is the headquarters of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council and home to the Oke-Oweenge Crafts Cooperative, (505) 852-2372, which exhibits the art of the eight northern pueblos. The main art focus of this Tewa village is redware pottery, weaving and painting.
Picurís was once one of the largest Tiwa pueblos, but today it is one of the smallest with about 1,801 inhabitants . Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate originally named the pueblo Pikuria—those who paint. Like those at Taos Pueblo, the people of Picurís were influenced by Plains Indian culture, particularly the Apaches. Over the past eight years tribal members have restored by hand the 200-year-old adobe church, San Lorenzo de Picurís, located in the center of the pueblo.
The pueblo's annual San Lorenzo Feast Day on August 10 includes Indian dances, pole climbing and a morning footrace. The High Country Tri-Cultural Arts & Crafts Fair is usually held on the first weekend in June but call to verify (575) 587-2519. The fair features pottery, painting, beadwork, jewelry, weavings and more.
Pojoaque was almost destroyed by war and disease, but in the 1930s, survivors returned and fenced off their lands, evicting squatters. Today, about 2,712 people live on pueblo lands. Tribal enterprises include the Cities of Gold Casino, (505) 455-3313, www.citiesofgold.com which features restaurants, shopping, a sports bar and a hotel; for reservations, call (505) 455-0515 or (877) 455-0515.
The Poeh Cultural Center features Pueblo art and exhibits, hosts traditional Indian dances on weekends and preserves the traditional arts of the Tewa-speaking pueblos. It also houses an information center and the largest Indian arts and crafts shop in northern New Mexico. (505) 455-5044. www.poehcenter.com
Sandia Pueblo's boundaries span 22,877 acres and stretches from the foothills of the Sandía Mountains west to the banks of the Río Grande, just north of Albuquerque. Established in the 1300s, the pueblo's full Tiwa name is "Tuf Shur Tia," meaning "Green Reed Place." Sandia derived its modern name when the Spanish first visited in 1539. The mountains glow with a deep red color at sunset, which the Spanish likened to sandia, the Spanish word for watermelon. The pueblo was deserted in 1680, when the residents fled to Hopi Pueblo during the Pueblo Revolt. The people of Sandia did not return until the mid-1700s; their old village is evident in ruins near the church.
Keresan is the Pueblo of San Felipe's native language and the Keres language continues to be a living language, taught and spoken by San Felipe families and elders. The pueblo's today totals about 3,185. In 1591, San Felipe was named by Castano de Sosa after a Jesuit who was martyred in Japan. There are no services in the village except during ceremonials, when food and crafts booths spring up near San Felipe Church at the foot of Black Mesa.
Historians believe the original San Ildefonso people abandoned their original villages at Mesa Verde and Bandelier due to drastic changes in the environment. It was on top of nearby Black Mesa, across the Río Grande from San Ildefonso that the pueblo held off Spanish soldiers during their reconquest of New Mexico in 1694.
Today, the pueblo is a flourishing art community with about 1,500 residents. It was the home of the late Maria Martinez, who along with her husband, Julian, developed the world-renowned, black-on-black pottery with black matte designs. Artisans’ homes throughout the pueblo are open to the public for shopping. The San Ildefonso Pueblo Museum, (505) 455-3549, also displays traditional crafts. With an average of 20,000 visitors each year, San Ildefonso is one of the most visited pueblos in the state.
The Santa Ana Pueblo people, who have occupied their current site in central New Mexico since at least the late 1500s, believe their ancestors originated from a subterranean world to the north.
The first Spaniards to explore pueblo country arrived in the 1540s. Santa Ana, then called Tamaya, submitted to Spanish rule in 1598 and was assigned the patron saint by which it has since become known. After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the returning Spanish, anxious to reconquer the pueblos, forced the Santa Anans to flee their village to the nearby Black Mesa and Jemez Mountains. Tamaya, the Old Santa Ana Pueblo, was established after the reconquest of the territory in the late 1600s.
Santa Clara Pueblo offers visitors a number of highly diverse attractions, from tours of the pre-historic cliff dwellings of Puye to sightseeing, fishing and camping in the nearby canyon. Because Santa Clara Pueblo has such a large land base, with a wide variety of geographic features , it was possible to make good use of the natural resources for recreational purposes. There are few places in New Mexico that con compare with the majestic beauty of the landscape of the homelands of the Santa Clara people. The splendor of the scenery are justly famous in the Southwest. The Santa Clara Pueblo has emerged with a strong tribal government and a prosperous economy.
Santo Domingo Pueblo also known as Kewa Pueblo is located near the ancient Cerrillos turquoise mines and its people have an entrenched history of making fine jewelry and heishi out of the colorful stones. The Kewa people historically are great traders of their crafts, very much like their Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon ancestors.
Taos Pueblo, also known as the place of the red willows, sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The village, which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America, was designated a World Heritage Site and a National Historic Site in 1992. The adobe, multi-storied homes of Taos Pueblo have captivated painters and photographers since the 1920s, when an artist colony formed in nearby Taos and virtually established Southwest art. It helped inspire the Pueblo Revival style of architecture in contemporary New Mexico.
Situated in the soft red-brown foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Tesuque Pueblo has stood on its present location since 1200 A.D. As such, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The name Tesuque is a Spanish variation of the Tewa name, Te Tesugeh Oweengeh, meaning the “village of the narrow place of the cottonwood trees.” It is one of the state’s smallest pueblos, with a population of about 800, but the pueblo encompasses more than 17,000 acres, including Aspen Ranch and the Vigil Land Grant high in the Santa Fe National Forest near the Santa Fe ski area.
There are many fine artists at Tesuque who create pottery, paintings and sculpture. Silverwork and traditional clothing are also made at the pueblo.
To anyone traveling along the road eighteen miles northwest of Bernalillo, New Mexico, Zia Pueblo is almost invisible. It is situated on a rocky knoll, where it blends into the landscape like a natural feature of the terrain.
Although the Pueblo itself is inconspicuous, its Sun symbol is familiar to all New Mexicans, for it is the official New Mexico State insignia appearing on the state flag and adopted by the New Mexico Legislature in its salute, “I salute the flag of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.
The Zuni, like other Pueblo peoples, are believed to be the descendants of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples who lived in the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Colorado and Utah for centuries. Archaeological evidence shows they have lived in their present location for about 1,300 years.