Pueblo: Indian Villages - dummies

By Dorothy Lippert, Stephen J. Spignesi

There was no single tribe called the Pueblo. The word Pueblo, Spanish for “village,” is cultural and describes how some of the tribes in the Southwest lived. The Pueblos live mainly in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The two oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the United States are in this area. Oraibi, on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, and Acoma (Sky City) in New Mexico, date back to around 1150. St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest European-founded continuously inhabited city in the United States and was founded over 400 years later.

The western Pueblos tend toward matrilineal societies; the eastern Pueblos are more often patrilineal. Within each of these groups, traditional roles, customs, and religious practices vary. While some Pueblos have adopted various forms of Christianity, many also still follow traditional practices.

Almost all Pueblos share the creation story that says they entered this world through a hole in the roof of the world below. They were able to reach the hole by using a ladder. Kivas (usually underground ceremonial chambers) will sometimes have a ceremonial hole in the floor to symbolize this entrance place. There are often ladders in Pueblos that represent the ladder used to exit the underworld.

The first Spanish expedition into Pueblo areas was that of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540. When he did not find the fabled “Seven Cities of Gold,” he left the area. In 1598, Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate Salazar began a major expedition into the lands north of the Rio Grande. Oñate claimed most of modern New Mexico for Spain. He then established a capital city in Santa Fe.

Many of the domesticated animals (cattle, goats, horses, and sheep) introduced by the Spanish were adopted by the Pueblos. While cotton was used for textiles, wool from their sheep and goats soon became the predominant fiber.

Spanish efforts to dominate the daily life of the Pueblos, including religious conversions, led to considerable resistance by the Pueblos. In 1680, a Tewa Pueblo Indian named Popé led a revolution against the Spanish. Starting in the Taos pueblo, the revolt was successful. The Pueblos managed to rid much of New Mexico of Spanish forces.

Twelve years later, the Spanish, under Diego de Vargas, returned with a vengeance. They reconquered the area and destroyed many of the villages. Other than a few other incidents, the Pueblo remained at peace with their Spanish, Mexican, and American neighbors. During much of this time, the Hopi had little contact with the Spanish or the Mexican governments.

In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and ruled New Mexico and Arizona. In 1848, The United States took possession of New Mexico and Arizona and thereby had control over the Pueblos. Today, each of the major Pueblo villages is treated as a separate entity. According to the 2000 U.S. census, there are 60,000 Pueblo Indians.