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There is evidence that Native Americans have inhabited New Mexico for over 2,500 years. Early ancestral Indians lived for centuries as hunter-gatherers throughout the Southwest. About 1,500 years ago some of these groups, commonly referred to today as the Anasazi, began practicing agriculture and established permanent settlements, which are now known as pueblos.
Other groups, like the ancestors of the Navajo and Apache, continued their nomadic lifestyles. For some New Mexican tribes, this way of life continued until well into the 19th century. But that’s not the whole story. Explore the rich history of New Mexico's Native American culture by visiting these monuments, parks and sites.
Aztec Ruins National Monument
The Aztec Ruins National Monument in northwest New Mexico preserves structures and artifacts of Ancestral Pueblo people from the 1100s through 1200s.
Bandelier National Monument
Los Alamos, NM
Head into the extensive back country in north-central New Mexico to hike, camp, and explore at leisure the lands and dwellings once occupied by the ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
A major center of Ancestral Puebloan culture, Chaco Canyon was a hub of ceremony, trade and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area.
El Morro National Monument
A reliable waterhole hidden at its base made El Morro (or Inscription Rock) a popular campsite in western New Mexico. Beginning in the late 1500s, Spanish, and later, Americans passed by El Morro.
Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument
Silver City, NM
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in southwestern New Mexico offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollón culture who lived in the Gila Wilderness from the 1280s through the early 1300s.
Petroglyph National Monument
The Petroglyph National Monument west of Albuquerque in central New Mexico protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites and an estimated 25,000 images carved by Native Americans and early Spanish settlers.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is one of the few locations in the Southwest set aside solely because of its rock art. It is has over 20,000 petroglyphs, dating from 900 AD to 1400 AD, making it one of the largest and most interesting petroglyph sites in the Desert Southwest.
Village of the Great Kivas
Zuni Pueblo, NM
Village of the Great Kivas is one of the main archeological sites illustrating the development of Zuni culture, along with Yellow House, Kechipbowa and Hawihuh.
Village of the Great Kivas is prized for its impressive array of petroglyphs and pictographs.
The rich and vibrant Native American history is celebrated today in museums, ceremonial dances, arts and crafts, language, villages and the lifestyle of New Mexico’s tribes. New Mexico tribes have witnessed and experienced many changes in their long histories, but the development of modern casinos, resorts, hotels and golf courses for their visitors have greatly improved their economic status.
The tribes welcome visitors to experience their living culture: Come visit the nations that walk in two worlds. Remember that each tribe is a sovereign nation and must be treated with respect and honor.
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