Jemez Pueblo (Native Americans of the Southwest)

Jemez tmp6C-29_thumb from the Spanish Jemez, taken from the Jemez self-designation. The Jemez name for their pueblo is Walatowa, "at the pueblo in the canada" or "this is the place." The word "pueblo" comes from the Spanish for "village." It refers both to a certain style of Southwest Indian architecture, characterized by multistory, apartmentlike buildings made of adobe, and to the people themselves. Rio Grande pueblos are known as eastern Pueblos; Zuni, Hopi, and sometimes Acoma and Laguna are known as western Pueblos.

Location Jemez Pueblo is located along the east bank of the Jemez River, 25 miles north of Bernalillo, New Mexico.

Population In 1990, almost 1,750 Indians were resident, virtually the entire pueblo population. Perhaps 30,000 people lived there in 1530, and 100 in 1744.

Language The people spoke Towa, a Kiowa-Tanoan language.

Historical Information

History All Pueblo people are thought to be descended from Anasazi and perhaps Mogollon and several other ancient peoples. From them they learned architecture, farming, pottery, and basketry. Larger population groups became possible with effective agriculture and ways to store food surpluses. Within the context of a relatively stable existence, the people devoted increasing amounts of time and attention to religion, arts, and crafts.

The Jemez people lived near Stone Canyon, south of Dulce, New Mexico, around 2,000 years ago. They moved to near their present location after the arrival of the Athapaskans, around the fourteenth century. However, some of them moved to the San Diego Canyon-Guadalupe Canyon area, south of Santa Fe, where they established numerous large fortresses and hundreds of small houses.

The Spaniards found them in 1540 and built a mission there (at Giusewa Pueblo) in the late sixteenth century. In 1621, they began another mission at the Pueblo de la Congregation, the present Jemez Pueblo. In 1628, Fray Martin de Arvide arrived at the Mission of San Diego de la Congregation with orders to unite the scattered Jemez communities, after which Jemez Pueblo became an important center for missionary activity.

Despite the pueblo’s position as a missionary center, the Jemez people actively resisted Spanish efforts to undermine their religion. They joined in rebellion with the Navajo in about 1645, a crime for which 29 Jemez leaders were hanged. They also took a leading part in the Pueblo rebellion of 1680. For years, the Spaniards had routinely tortured Indians for practicing traditional religion. They also forced the Indians to labor for them, sold Indians into slavery, and let their cattle overgraze Indian land, a situation that eventually led to drought, erosion, and famine. Pope of San Juan Pueblo and other Pueblo religious leaders planned the great revolt, sending runners carrying cords of maguey fibers to mark the day of rebellion. On August 10, 1680, a virtually united stand on the part of the Pueblos drove the Spanish from the region. The Indians killed many Spaniards but refrained from mass slaughter, allowing most of them to leave Santa Fe for El Paso.

The Jemez people withdrew to sites on the top of the San Diego Mesa in 1681. When the Spanish left they descended, only to reascend in 1689 when they sighted a new Spanish force. Some returned again to the pueblo in 1692, when they, along with Keresans from Zia Pueblo, arrived at an understanding with the Spanish. Most Jemez, however, still resisted the Spanish, a situation that resulted in fighting between the Jemez and the Keresan pueblos of Zia and Santa Ana. This in turn resulted in a punitive Spanish-Keresan expedition in 1694, ending in the death or capture of over 400 Jemez people. All prisoners were pardoned after they helped the Spanish defeat the Tewas at Black Mesa.

By 1696, Jemez Pueblo had been rebuilt and reoccupied at or near the original site. The following year, however, after joining again with the Navajo in an anti-Spanish revolt, the Jemez returned to their ancestral homeland near Stone Canyon. Others went west to the Navajo country; of these, some eventually returned to Jemez but many remained with the Navajo. Some Jemez also fled to Hopi but were returned several years later by missionaries. The Jemez exile did not end until the early eighteenth century, when members of the tribe returned and settled at Walatowa, 12 miles south of their former mesa homes. At that time they built a new church, San Diego de los Jemez.

The Pueblos experienced many changes during following decades: Refugees established communities at Hopi, guerrilla fighting continued against the Spanish, and certain areas were abandoned. By the 1700s, excluding Hopi and Zuni, only Taos, Picuris, Isleta and Acoma Pueblos had not changed locations since the arrival of the Spanish. Although Pueblo unity did not last, and Santa Fe was officially reconquered in 1692, Spanish rule was notably less severe from then on. Harsh forced labor all but ceased, and the Indians reached an understanding with the Church that enabled them to continue practicing their traditional religion.

In general, the Pueblo eighteenth century was marked by smallpox epidemics, and increased raiding by the Apache, Comanche, and Ute. Occasionally Pueblo Indians fought with the Spanish against the nomadic tribes. The people practiced their religion but more or less in secret. During this time, intermarriage and regular exchange between Hispanic villages and Pueblo Indians created a new New Mexican culture, neither strictly Spanish nor Indian, but rather somewhat of a blend between the two.

Mexican "rule" in 1821 brought little immediate change to the Pueblos. The Mexicans stepped up what had been a gradual process of appropriating Indian land and water, and they allowed the nomadic tribes even greater latitude to raid. In 1837, a political rebellion by Indians and Hispanics over the issue of taxes led to the assassination of the governor of New Mexico and the brief installation of a Taos Indian as governor. At about the same time, the last 20 or so Towa-speaking Pecos people joined the Jemez after abandoning their own pueblo due to Athapaskan raids, smallpox, factionalism, farming decreases, and land pressures from Hispanics. As the presence of the United States in the area grew, it attempted to enable the Pueblo Indians to continue their generally peaceful and self-sufficient ways; in 1858, Congress approved the old Spanish land grant of over 17,000 acres to Jemez Pueblo.

During the nineteenth century the process of acculturation among Pueblo Indians quickened markedly. In an attempt to retain their identity, Pueblo Indians clung even more tenaciously to their heritage, which by now included elements of the once-hated Spanish culture and religion. By the 1880s, railroads had largely put an end to the traditional geographical isolation of the pueblos. Paradoxically, the U.S. decision to recognize Spanish land grants to the Pueblos denied Pueblo Indians certain rights granted under official treaties and left them particularly open to exploitation by squatters and thieves.

After a gap of more than 300 years, the All Indian Pueblo Council began to meet again in the 1920s, specifically in response to a congressional threat to appropriate Pueblo lands. Partly as a result of the Council’s activities, Congress confirmed Pueblo title to their lands in 1924 by passing the Pueblo Lands Act. The United States also acknowledged its trust responsibilities in a series of legal decisions and other acts of Congress. Still, especially after 1900, Pueblo culture was increasingly threatened by highly intolerant Protestant evangelical missions and schools. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also weighed in on the subject of acculturation, forcing Indian children to leave their homes and attend culture-killing boarding schools.

Following World War II, the issue of water rights took center stage on most pueblos. Also, the All Indian Pueblo Council succeeded in slowing the threat against Pueblo lands as well as religious persecution. Making crafts for the tourist trade became an important economic activity during this period. Since the late nineteenth century, but especially after the 1960s, Pueblos have had to cope with onslaughts by (mostly white) anthropologists and seekers of Indian spirituality. The region is also known for its major art colonies at Taos and Santa Fe.

Religion In traditional Pueblo culture, religion and life are inseparable. To be in harmony with all of nature is the Pueblo ideal and way of life. The sun is seen as the representative of the Creator. Sacred mountains in each direction, plus the sun above and the earth below, define and balance the Pueblo world. Many Pueblo religious ceremonies revolve around the weather and are devoted to ensuring adequate rainfall. To this end, Pueblo Indians evoke the power of katsinas, sacred beings who live in mountains and other holy places, in ritual and masked dance. There is no katsina organization per se at Jemez, but men and women do perform masked dances personifying supernaturals to bring rain.

In addition to the natural boundaries, Pueblo Indians have created a society that defines their world by providing balanced, reciprocal relationships within which people connect and harmonize with each other, the natural world, and time itself. According to tradition, the head of each pueblo is the religious leader, or cacique, who serves for life and whose primary responsibility it is to watch the sun and thereby determine the dates of ceremonies. Much ceremonialism is also based on medicine societies: About 20 men’s and women’s religious societies, such as curing, hunter, warrior, and clown, form the social and religious basis of Jemez society. Shamans, who derive powers from animal spirits, use their supernatural powers for curing, weather control, and ensuring the general welfare. Each person also belongs to two patrilineal kiva groups, Squash and Turquoise.

Government Pueblo governments derived from two traditions. Offices that are probably indigenous include the cacique and the war captains. These officials are intimately related to the religious structures of the pueblo and reflected the essentially theocratic nature of Pueblo government. At Jemez, the leaders of the various religious societies appointed the cacique for a lifetime term.

A parallel but in most cases distinctly less powerful group of officials was imposed by the Spanish authorities. Appointed by the traditional leadership, they generally dealt with external and church matters and included, at Jemez, a governor, lieutenant governor, and fiscales. The authority of their offices was symbolized by canes. In addition, the All Indian Pueblo Council, dating from 1598, began meeting again in the twentieth century.

Customs One mechanism that works to keep Pueblo societies coherent is a pervasive aversion to individualistic behavior. Children were raised with gentle guidance and a minimum of discipline. Pueblo Indians were generally monogamous and divorce was relatively rare. Intertribal marriage was also rare before World War II. Afterward, and especially after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)-sponsored relocation program in 1952, the population became more heterogenous. The dead were buried after being sprinkled with water, cornmeal, and pollen. Two days after death, a prayer feather ceremony was held to send the spirit to the land of the katsinas.

The Jemez tribe recognized two divisions, or kiva groups: Squash and Turquoise. The people were further arranged into matrilineal clans with specific ceremonial functions. In modern times photography by outsiders has been discouraged.

Dwellings More than any other pueblo, Jemez was built on the heights of mesas. It featured apartment-style dwellings of up to four stories, containing as many as 2,000 rooms, as well as one- and two-room houses. The buildings were constructed of adobe (earth and straw) bricks, with pine beams across the roof that were covered with poles, brush, and plaster. Floors were of wood plank or packed earth. The roof of one level served as the floor of another. The levels were interconnected by ladders. As an aid to defense, the traditional design included no doors or windows; entry was through the roof. Two rectangular pit houses, or kivas, served as ceremonial chambers and clubhouses. The village plaza, around which all dwellings were clustered, is the spiritual center of the village where all the balanced forces of the world come together. Jemez people also built cliff dwellings to guard access to important places and monitor trails.

Diet Before the Spanish arrived, Jemez people ate primarily corn, beans, and squash. They also grew cotton and tobacco. They hunted deer, mountain lion, bear, antelope, and rabbits. Twice a year, after planting and again after the harvest, men would travel east to hunt buffalo. The women also gathered a variety of wild foods including pinon seeds, yucca fruit, berries, and wild potatoes. The Spanish introduced wheat, alfalfa, chilies, fruit trees, grapes, sheep, cattle, and garden vegetables, which soon became part of the regular diet.

Key Technology Precontact farming implements were wooden. Traditional irrigation systems used ditches to ferry water from the Rio Grande as well as floodwater collection at arroyo mouths (ak chin). Tools were made of bone and wood. Men hunted with bows and arrows. Pottery and yucca baskets were used for a number of purposes. The Spanish introduced metal tools and equipment.

Trade All Pueblos were part of extensive Native American trading networks. With the arrival of other cultures, Pueblo Indians also traded with the Hispanic American villages and then U.S. traders. At fixed times during summer or fall, enemies declared truces so that trading fairs might be held. The largest and best known was at Taos with the Comanche. Nomads exchanged slaves, buffalo hides, buckskins, jerked meat, and horses for agricultural and manufactured pueblo products. Pueblo Indians traded for shell and copper ornaments, turquoise, and macaw feathers. During journeys east for buffalo the Jemez traded with Apaches, Comanches, and Kiowas. They also traded buffalo hides and fur blankets to the Spanish and Mexicans as well as pottery for Keresan ollas. Trade along the Santa Fe Trail began in 1821. By the 1880s and the arrival of railroads, the Pueblos were dependent on many American-made goods, and the native manufacture of weaving and pottery declined and nearly died out.

Notable Arts In the Pueblo way, art and life are inseparable. Jemez arts included pottery and woven cotton items. Songs, dances, and dramas also qualify as traditional arts. Many Pueblos experienced a renaissance of traditional arts in the twentieth century, beginning in 1919 with San Ildefonso pottery.

Transportation Spanish horses, mules, and cattle arrived at Jemez Pueblo in the seventeenth century.

Dress Men wore shirts made of tanned deer hides as well as cotton kilts. Women wore black cotton dresses belted with brightly colored yarn. Both wore moccasins with buckskin leggings. Rabbit skin was also used for clothing and robes.

War and Weapons Though often depicted as passive and docile, most Pueblo groups regularly engaged in warfare. Every Jemez man belonged to two societies, Eagle and Arrow, related to defense and war. The great revolt of 1680 stands out as the major military action, but they also skirmished at other times with the Spanish and defended themselves against attackers such as Apaches, Comanches, and Utes. They also contributed auxiliary soldiers to provincial forces under Spain and Mexico, which were used mainly against raiding Indians and to protect merchant caravans on the Santa Fe Trail. After the raiding tribes began to pose less of a threat in the late nineteenth century, Pueblo military societies began to wither away, with the office of war captain changing to civil and religious functions.

Contemporary Information

Government/Reservations Jemez Pueblo consists of over 90,000 acres. Walatowa is the main village. The traditional government is intact. The cacique is the head of the pueblo, followed by a war chief and his assistants. These are lifetime positions. The positions of war captain, lieutenant war captain, and assistant war captain are filled annually by the cacique and war chief and their staffs and are responsible for policing the pueblo and supervising the social activities of the two divisions.

The Spanish-style civil government is also in place. A governor and his staff (two lieutenants, a sheriff, aides, and fiscales) are selected annually by the cacique and his staff; all serve without salary. Spanish, Mexican, and Lincoln canes remain symbols of authority.

Economy Many Jemez people work for wages in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. Especially since World War II and the Indian arts revival, Jemez artists have been making excellent pottery, yucca baskets, weaving, embroidery, and painting. Many people keep gardens and grow chilies, some corn and wheat, and alfalfa for animals. The Pueblo owns hydroelectric, natural gas, oil, and uranium resources. There are also jobs with the government and the tribe.

Legal Status The Pueblo of Jemez is a federally recognized tribal entity. In the 1980s, the tribe successfully fought a geothermal development in the Jemez Mountains that threatened their religious practice. Jemez and Pecos Pueblos were formally consolidated in 1936 and maintain a special connection to the land around abandoned Pecos village, now Pecos National Historic Park.

Daily Life Although the project of retaining a strong Indian identity is a difficult one in the late twentieth century, Pueblo people have strong roots, and in many ways the ancient rhythms and patterns continue. At Jemez, most of the religious societies are still extant and active. Their ceremonialism is largely intact, as is their language. The two divisions, Squash and Turquoise, still race and dance. These ceremonies are generally closed to outsiders, but other dances, with strong Catholic elements, tend to be open to tourists. The people of Jemez still recognize an honorable governor of Pecos Pueblo.

Farming, including grape growing, has dwindled, mainly because of drought, government programs to discourage farming, the people’s increasing skills in other areas, welfare, and water usurpation. Children generally attend the BIA day school, mission school, or public school. The Jemez people have been particularly successful in voting tribal members onto the local school board. English has replaced Spanish as a second language. There is a recent tradition of producing first-rate long-distance runners, and the tribe has also produced some notable artists.

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