The term “Indian” used in the context of the Native American population has to be seen in the right perspective rather than to make connections to each other. Some of the so-called Indian community does have ties and links to each other but what puts the Pueblo Indians is that there is really little to connect the group to the other indigenous groups but the fact that they were once co-habitants to what became the present-day United States and Canada.
Quite unlike the more well known early American settlers, the Pueblos were predominantly involved in the cultivation of the land. They were rarely nomadic and built settlements which were the pre-cursors to many present-day towns and cities. The Pueblo culture was much more developed in a sense, they kept records of incidents which later on became focus points to base studies on early American cultures and civilizations.
Origin of the Term Pueblo
In Spanish, Pueblo means a village. Thus the native pueblo was basically a village dweller and set up settlements that were done predominantly in the mud. This construction method ensured minimal expense and at the same time provided an enduring homestead to the inhabitant. The pueblos were more or less heat resistant and kept the insides warm during the cold situations.
What is interesting in the construction of the huts is the tendency to use multiple storied structures which in essence made optimum use of the spaces around the settlements. The Pueblo Indians have a strong civic sense that helped maintain strict order in the villages of the times, and it was evident that there was a command structure that ensured everyone was mindful of the other inhabitants.
Equally significant to the development of the Pueblo settlements were the use of cotton and the natural fibers like wool. There were enduring weaving practices which ensured not just colorfully rendered pieces of clothing but equally hard-wearing material that lasted a good bit too.
Development of the Pueblo Language
Language has played an influential role in the better understanding of Pueblo Indian history. Most of the community groups had storytelling sessions which acted as official means of preserving history. There was not much effort to have written versions as there was not much of a credible script to use at that time.
Another exciting aspect of the storytelling sessions is that it taught a strong sense of belonging among the community members. Even today, there are narrations among the Pueblo folks that speak of events s few hundred years in the past and all in the most exquisite details too.
Language experts point to the incident of two or three dialects among the Pueblo Indians. There are minor deviations from these main versions, and this has to do with the location of the settlement and not as a set pattern as such. The very existence of separate colonies of the Pueblos meant that there is bound to be variations in habits and practices among them.
Religious Practices Among the Pueblo People
There was never an attempt to follow monotheism among the Pueblos. Nature worship was very predominant with the worship of the Sun god taking predominance over other forces. There were the different War gods that brought various destructive activities to the living spaces, and the Sky Serpent brought the copious rains during the seasons.
So it was a worship system that went to great lengths to glorify the bounteous gifts of Mother Nature. There were the usual summer festivals and the harvest commemorations that sought to keep the relevant gods in good humor. Animal sacrifices too were practiced but sparingly and in some somewhat awkward situations at best.
An interesting feature of the Pueblo belief system was the worship of the Kachinas. These are spirits that controlled various aspects of the Pueblo life. If a count were done to the number of Kachinas present in the system, it would easily surpass a good three hundred in number. Each aspect of the villager’s life was put to the good favor of the relevant spirit. Naturally, there is bound to be the appeasement rituals to keep the spirits happy and content too.
Quite like the temples of worship of the present cultures, the Pueblo Indians had similar structures called the Kivas. These were more or less underground chambers used to carry out secretive rituals to keep the Kachinas in good happy moods. The standard Kivas design had a fire pit at the center of the structure with a timbered roof covering. There would be a symbolic floor entrance that more or less signified the opening to the lower world.
Most of the temple rituals were presided over by duly appointed priests who would double as headman to the village settlements at times. There were more or less strict guidelines to follow in how the rituals of worship were conducted as well as prayers and sacrifices held.
What Did the Pueblo People Eat?
It would be wrong to attribute the worship of nature to mean that the Pueblo did not eat meat at all. As has been discussed before, the Pueblo People were predominantly into agriculture, and as such there would not have been any shortage of edible grains and pulses. Along the farms were livestock like the turkey and other poultry that served as food items.
One of the additional activities that the Pueblo women performed is to gather common nuts and herbs that grew in vegetation nearby. Not only did they fortify the diet of the ordinary folks, but it also proved to be a variation in the daily diets. The Pueblos are rather sturdy built people but not the tallest of groups though.
Hunting game was practiced both as a means of being supplied with meat and as a sport. Ancient sites are littered with different arrowheads that pointed to the use of bow and arrows to hunt animals. There is evidence to indicate to the prevalence of tobacco cultivation, but there is little to point to the sustained use of the tobacco leaves anywhere.
Pueblo Tribal Bands
Like the typical Native American tribes, the Pueblo people are made of nineteen bands (sub-tribes). What would differentiate the different tribes is possibly the location where they are based.
Thus there came about characteristics and habits which were in effect due to the places of the location which in turn defined the tribes culturally most of the time. This can be attributed to the easy assimilation of these native tribes to the local conditions which made the adoption of newer practices easy and a natural thing to do.
The nineteen bands are as laid out below.
- Acoma Pueblos
- Cochiti Pueblos
- Isleta Pueblos
- Jemez Pueblos
- Laguna Pueblos
- Nambe Pueblos
- Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos
- Pojoaque Pueblos
- Sandia Pueblos
- San Felipe Pueblos
- San Ildefonso Pueblos
- Santa Ana Pueblos
- Santa Clara Pueblos
- Santa Domingo Pueblos
- Taos Pueblos
- Tesuque Pueblos
- Zuni Pueblos
- Zia Pueblos
It would be observed that a number of the tribes are in effect defined by the location where they have been based. The tribes are separated out as a matter of academic interest and at times to understand the political settings of the Pueblo People. What is to be noted is the full range of common activities that more or less run through the whole group and this, in essence, defines the very identity of the Pueblo Lands.
Spanish Influence on the Pueblo Culture
That the start of the 1700s brought the European powers to the shores of the Americas. This was one of the most disruptive moments in history, all for some rather robust set of transformations that came about to the indigenous people. Of the various European influences, the one that made the most impact on the Pueblo tribes were the Spanish. This has to do with the concentration of the Pueblos in areas that came under the Spanish control later on. One of the most significant features of the Spanish influence is the very term Pueblo which is mainly Spanish.
Credit must go towards the Pueblo tribes that there was not an attempt at taking on the Spanish forces militarily. There were the occasional skirmishes but never a full-blown attack on each other. Of particular significance is the Pueblo Revolt which took place in the 1680s and more or less established the control of the indigenous pueblos under the Spanish control
True to practice, the Spaniards did try to replace the beliefs and religious practices of the Pueblos with Catholicism. It would be pertinent to make a note of the various localized churches that came about during these trying times, and they do present a culture that is intertwined with the ancient belief systems of the ancient Pueblos.
Despite the years of overpowering Spanish influence in the Pueblo lands, the tribesmen did succeed in retaining an identity of their own. They were able to balance out the need to be correct in the eyes of the colonizers and at the same time maintain a cultural mooring that did manage to define the wholesomeness of the ancient cultures.
The most significant contribution of the Pueblo People to modern America could well be what is termed as Pueblo Art. This is a distinctly separate and identifiable art presentation which in its start was purely functional. But it would be pertinent to point out the originality of the actual Pueblo works have been diluted to offer more great aesthetics features to the pieces. Thus it would be correct to term the Pueblo Artworks as Indian origin art forms than as the real craftsmanship.
What is so distinct of the pottery and clay pieces of the Pueblo is the use of colors. Not only are the contrasts strong but there is attention paid to creating the right textures as well. It speaks highly of the skill sets of the Pueblo to have paintwork and colors on clay pieces intact after years of resting in river sediments and the likes. One of the strongest uses Pueblo Art makes use of is the different types of pottery items. The exciting aspect of these items is that it is not worked upon a potter’s wheel. But long sausage-shaped dowels are strung one atop the other to form the basic structure of the vessels.
It was common to find fired pieces of clay which demonstrate the high level of development that the pottery works had attained during those early times. It is quite common to find archaeological findings that point to the use of the Pueblo Pottery pieces in ritualistic worship practices.
The modern-day commerce has produced extensions of the Pueblo Art in that the patterns set by the early Pueblo artists have been adapted and used in more products, like the cotton bed sheets, crockery, and the likes.