Who are the Pueblo Indians?

Jessica Hobby

The Pueblo Indians are Native Americans who live in the Southwestern corner of the United States. They are named for the dwellings they are famous for constructing, called pueblos. Pueblos are multi-story, apartment type buildings that are constructed from natural material such as adobe mud and stone. The homes in the pueblo were built around a plaza, which had a central chamber used for religious purposes. Each pueblo was an independent community with its own chief.

The Pueblo Indians are known for their handmade jewelry; turquoise is a popular material.
The Pueblo Indians are known for their handmade jewelry; turquoise is a popular material.

The majority of modern day Pueblo Indian communities are located in New Mexico, but at one time they also occupied large portions of Arizona, Colorado and Utah. The Pueblo Indians are descendant from three major civilizations that include Mogollon, Hohokam and Puebloan peoples. These prehistoric indigenous civilizations first appeared in the year 1200 B.C., with the first permanent villages appearing in 500 A.D.

During the height of their civilization, Pueblo Indians not only hunted, but began to grow vegetables such as maize, squash and beans. They also raised turkeys and developed irrigation systems to aid in their agricultural pursuits. As the Pueblos continued to utilize their irrigation systems, they began to grow tobacco and cotton. Additionally, the Pueblo Indians are well known for their handmade arts, crafts, clothing and jewelry, which are adorned with turquoise, shells, feathers and animal furs.

By the year 1600 A.D., the Spanish had forced the Ancient Puebloans to abandon their communities and force their religion underground. The Spanish conquered and re-conquered the Puebloans during the 1600s, built missions near pueblos and forced Christianity on the Native Americans. In 1680, the Pueblos rose to take back their land from the Spanish; the returned and repossessed the area in 1692.

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Pueblo Indians began to revolt. In 1847, the Taos Pueblo Indians revolted against the new American government, who retaliated by storming their pueblo and killing more than 150 Indians. After the revolt, the United States government executed 16 Indians for their role in the uprising.

Currently, there are 19 pueblos still inhabited by Pueblo Indians in New Mexico. Most of the pueblos are open to the public, who may visit to attend meetings and ceremonies. Each community has its own laws and etiquette for people to familiarize themselves with prior to visiting.

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