HistoryNew Mexico's 19 Native American pueblos are the oldest tribal communities in the country. Each pueblo is a unique community, where contemporary residents continue to observe the time-honored traditions, beliefs and practices of their ancestors.
Contemporary Pueblo people are descendants of ancient Native Americans who once inhabited Bandelier National Monument and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Mesa Verde in Colorado and other parts of the Southwest. The first American Indians who lived in the Southwest arrived between 12,000 to 30,000 years ago, traveling to this region from Siberia across the Bering Sea, according to archaeologists. As nomadic people, they hunted and gathered food for thousands of years until, some 1,500 years ago, they developed agricultural techniques and put down permanent roots, establishing settlements of multi-storied dwellings made of adobe--earth mixed with water and straw.
When Spanish explorers first arrived in New Mexico in the16th century, they encountered these Native American settlements in the fertile Rio Grande Valley region and called them pueblos, the Spanish word for "towns." The Pueblo people subsequently lost land to Spanish, Mexican and U.S. governments, but many of their villages remain in their original locations.
Of New Mexico's 19 pueblos, the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos lie between Santa Fe and Colorado, located in majestic mountain landscape. The 11 other pueblos are located around the state. Each is a sovereign nation, a self-governing community with distinctive traditions, ceremonies and beliefs as well as languages, which primarily are Tewa, Tiwa, Towa and Keresan. The pueblos are all open to visitors seeking a meaningful experience of Pueblo culture and traditions.
Attending a ceremonial dance or a feast day celebration presents an inspirational opportunity to experience the many ways that contemporary pueblos retain close connections to their rich past and to the cyclical rhythms and patterns of nature. It's a good idea know about Etiquette before you attend dances and feast days or visit the pueblos.
Visiting the pueblo also offers opportunities to meet skilled artists carrying on the traditions and techniques of their ancestors and developing new methods to create their beautiful and prized pottery, jewelry, weaving, sculpture and other art forms. You can also buy directly from the artists at most of the pueblos.
New Mexico also is home to the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Mescalero Apache Reservation and parts of the vast Navajo Nation, three distinct groups of Native Americans who welcome visitors interested in their past and contemporary cultures.