The Pueblo people of the southwestern United States have an ancient history stretching back roughly 7,000 years. For many years, the ancient Puebloans lived in what is known as the Four Corners area. This is a part of the United States where the corners of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, touch. At some point in the 1300s, their culture declined. They then settled into what is now New Mexico and Arizona.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Pueblo culture is their homes. They built adobe homes that were multistoried. Adobe is a mixture of earth, water, and straw. It is extremely strong and adobe structures have lasted for centuries. They may be touched up from time to time, but they are remarkably durable.
The walls of adobe structures were very thick and made of sun-dried bricks. Many adobe homes were accessible by climbing a ladder and entering through an opening in the roof. The villages themselves are also referred to as “pueblos.”
In New Mexico and Arizona, the Pueblo people continued to live as they had for centuries. Each pueblo had its own chief, although the most important decisions were made by priesthoods.
One of the things that made Pueblo culture was unique was the role of women. Pueblo people were matrilineal, which means that power and status passed through the women in a family, rather than through the men. Women owned the homes and gardens, and were generally more respected than women of other native tribes. Many Pueblo women also did much of the farming, which also gave them more respect, because they were producing the community’s food supply.
Far from being one people, there are actually twenty-one pueblos. The most well-known of these are the Hopi, Zuni, and Taos. The Taos Pueblo still live much as they have for centuries. There are numerous Native American sites that are UNESCO World Heritage sites, but only the Taos Pueblo is still a living community. It is one of the most remarkable examples of the Puebloan adobe structures. According to tradition, Pueblo people have lived at Taos for a thousand years. Roughly 150 people still live in the pueblo. As is their tradition, there is no running water or electricity inside the residences.
The Pueblo people are known for their artwork, particularly their pottery. Many people collect pottery painted by the Pueblo and it can be found in many museums. Much of this pottery is adorned with symbols that tell the history of the Pueblo people. Some of these pieces are so detailed that archaeologists can now use them as a way of piecing together the history of the Pueblo people!
Things you should know about the Pueblo:
• The Pueblo sometimes used turquoise stone both for jewelry and for trading
• When the Spanish arrived at Taos Pueblo, they believed that they had found their cities of gold. This was because one of micca, a mineral found in the adobe clay, glimmers in the sun like gold.
• The Blue Lake of the Taos Pueblo is sacred and only residents of the pueblo are allowed access to it.