If history is the thing that floats your boat when it comes to travel, you should definitely visit Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Located just two miles northeast of the town of Taos, Taos Pueblo is the oldest of the communities in the area. It’s situated at the foot of Taos Mountain, and its two main buildings are the oldest continuously occupied structures in the United States.
Over 1,000 years old, and almost unchanged in the 400 years since the white man first saw them, these buildings are the sensitive attempt of a reverent people to build in harmony with the natural beauty around them.
Keep in mind to respect the people’s privacy when visiting Taos Pueblo. They are letting you into their community and lives, so be respectful. They are not actors which you can bother; they are real people with real lives.
The People And Their Lives
Approximately 150 members of the Tribe live within the Pueblo full time, while other families owning homes in the North or South buildings live in summer homes near their fields, and in more modern homes outside the old walls but still within Pueblo land.
There are over 1900 Taos Indians living on Taos Pueblo lands. Surrounded by fertile pastures and farmlands, Taos Pueblo is home to the Red Willow People and it has survived the invasion of the Spanish in the 1540s, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the Taos Rebellion against the United States government in 1847.
The residents live very similarly to the earlier generations of ancestors who came before them and they work tirelessly to instill in the younger generation a respect for the language, customs and traditional ceremonies of the tribe.
Thus, there is a strict etiquette that must be adhered to when visiting the Pueblo.
The Pueblo residents use the stream called Rio Pueblo which runs through the village plaza area, for their water supply and those who live in the central buildings have no electricity.
Today, as in the past, the Tewa people are skilled leather workers, producing moccasins, drums and leather clothing that are sold in local shops in Taos.
They also own and operate the Taos Mountain Casino just south of the Pueblo. Probably the most-visited pueblo in New Mexico, a journey to this sacred ground offers the most authentic look at the lifestyle of the ancient pueblo people.
Religion, Language And Happenings
The Pueblo Indians are about 90% Catholic. Catholicism is practiced along with the ancient Indian religious rites which are an important part of Taos Pueblo life. The Pueblo religion is very complex; however, there is no conflict with the Catholic Church, as evidenced by the prominent presence of both church and kiva in the village.
Tiwa is the native language, but English and Spanish are also spoken.
A highlight of summer in Taos is the annual Taos Pueblo Powwow. “Powwow” means a gathering of spiritual leaders, and today that refers to Indian celebrations where members of different tribes meet to sing, dance, tell stories and rekindle old friendships. Taos Pueblo’s Powwow attracts visitors from across North America.
One of the most popular Powwow events is the Grand Entry, where a tribal elder leads the multitude of ornately costumed dancers into the arena. The Powwow also provides a marketplace, with a wide array of vendors and artists. Booths offer jewelry, pottery, beadwork, and weaving.
And food concessions supply the hungry crowd with green chili cheeseburgers, Navajo tacos, roasted corn on the cob, and fry bread.