Sandia Pueblo (Native Americans of the Southwest)

Sandia (San "de a) from the Spanish for "watermelon," referring to the size, shape, and color of the nearby Sandia Mountains. 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. The Tiwa name for Sandia Pueblo is Napeya or Nafiat, "at the dusty place."

Location Sandia Pueblo is located 15 miles north of Albuquerque, on the east bank of the Rio Grande. The altitude ranges from 5,000 to 10,670 feet, and the land contains good farmland, game, and wild foods.

Population There were roughly 3,000 people living on Sandia Pueblo in 1680 and 350 people in 1748. The 1993 tribal enrollment was 481; 266 people lived on the pueblo.

Language Southern Tiwa is 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.

In the 1200s, the Anasazi abandoned their traditional canyon homelands in response to climatic and social upheavals. A century or two of migrations ensued, followed in general by the slow reemergence of their culture in the historic pueblos. The Tiwas were probably the first of the Tanoan Pueblo people to enter the northern Rio Grande region. Sandia Pueblo was founded around 1300.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado probably visited Sandia Pueblo in 1540. In 1598, Juan de Onate arrived in the area with settlers, founding the colony of New Mexico. Onate carried on the process, already underway in nearby areas, of subjugating the local Indians; forcing them to pay taxes in crops, cotton, and work; and opening the door for Catholic missionaries to attack their religion. The Spanish renamed the Pueblos with saints’ names and began a program of church construction, constructing the Mission of San Francisco Sandia in 1617. At the same time, the Spanish introduced such new crops as peaches, wheat, and peppers into the region. In 1620, a royal decree created civil offices at each pueblo; silver-headed canes, many of which remain in use today, symbolized the governor’s authority.

Sandia joined 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 Spanish burned Sandia Pueblo after the revolt. It was then reoccupied but later burned or abandoned several times in the 1680s and 1690s; the pueblo was in ruins in 1692. The Sandias first fled to the nearby mountains and then lived for a time at Hopi. Sandia Pueblo was permanently reoccupied in 1748 by a mixed group of refugees from various pueblos. Meanwhile, Santa Fe was officially reconquered in 1692, although 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. 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.

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 and recognized Spanish land grants to the Pueblos. However, Sandia lost thousands of acres during this process as a result of filing, surveying, and other errors. 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. Still, Sandia Pueblo avoided much Anglo-American influence until after World War II. 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.

Sandia and other pueblos had suffered significant population decline by 1900 as a result of wars, disease, and resource loss. After a gap of over 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 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. 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.

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.

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. At Sandia, people were divided into two patrilineal ceremonial groups, Squash (summer) and Turquoise (winter). Each had a rectangular kiva, or prayer chamber. There were also a number of ceremonial organizations.

According to tradition, the head of each pueblo is the religious leader, or cacique, whose primary responsibility it is to watch the sun and thereby determine the dates of ceremonies. At Sandia the cacique served for life. Much ceremonialism is also based on medicine societies, and shamans who derive powers from animal spirits use their supernatural powers for curing, weather control, and ensuring the general welfare. Especially in the eastern pueblos, most ceremonies are kept secret.

Government Pueblo governments derived from two traditions. Offices that are probably indigenous include the cacique, or head of the Pueblo, 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.

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 the governor and four assistant governors. The authority of their offices was symbolized by canes. During the 1950s and 1960s, the All Indian Pueblo Council (of eastern villages) became increasingly active in asserting rights and solving problems.

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. At Sandia the dead were ceremonially prepared and then buried quickly. Burial was followed by a four-day vigil. In modern times photography by outsiders is discouraged.

Dwellings Sandia Pueblo featured multistoried apartment-style dwellings constructed of adobe (earth and straw) bricks, with 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. 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.

Diet Before the Spanish arrived, Sandia people ate primarily corn, beans, and squash. They also grew cotton and tobacco. They hunted deer, mountain lion, bear, antelope, and rabbits. The people also gathered a variety of wild seeds, nuts, berries, and other foods but ate little or no fish. 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 included ditches as well as floodwater collection at arroyo mouths (ak chin). Tanning tools were made of bone and wood. The Spanish introduced metal tools and equipment.

Trade All Pueblos were part of extensive aboriginal 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. The Sandias enjoyed particularly close ties with Zia, Santa Ana, San Felipe, and Laguna Pueblos. They also had frequent contact with Isleta Pueblo, especially at ceremony times.

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 American manufacture of weaving and pottery declined and nearly died out.

Notable Arts In the Pueblo way, art and life are inseparable. Sandia arts included pottery and willow baskets. 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 Sandia Pueblo in the seventeenth century.

Dress Men wore shirts, leggings, and moccasins made of deer hides tanned and colored red-brown with plant dye. Womens’ wrapped leggings and moccasins were of white buckskin. Clothing was also made of spun cotton. 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. 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 Sandia Pueblo contains roughly 23,000 acres. The cacique is considered the village’s true leader—the "mother of his people." He has several assistants, one of which will succeed him. The cacique and the assistants annually choose officials such as the governor, who has control over aspects that relate to the outside world, and the war captain, who has authority at ceremonial functions. There is also a council, or advisory body, made up of former governors and war chiefs, as well as several other appointed administrative positions.

Economy Important sources of income include sand and gravel leases, a trading post, a bingo parlor, and several small businesses. Many people work for wages in Albuquerque and Bernalillo and for the tribe itself. They also make jewelry on the pueblo. The Pueblo is also purchasing the local Coronado Airport. Aspects of the traditional economy that remain include gathering pinon nuts and hunting deer and rabbits. Unemployment is quite low, owing in part to the community’s highly educated work force.

Legal Status The Pueblo of Sandia is a federally recognized tribal entity. The Pueblo is also seeking title for traditional forest lands that contain a number of sacred sites. They are opposed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Daily Life Traditional religion and culture remain vital at Sandia. Many of the old ceremonies are still performed, and there is a palpable and intentional continuity with the past. The major feast day, the Feast of Saint Anthony (June 13), is celebrated with a corn dance. The people hold many other dances as well during the year. Sandias guard their traditional religious practices carefully. Catholicism exists, too, but with little or no conflict with traditional religion. The two ceremonial groups, Turquoise and Pumpkin (Squash), have permanent leaders and are responsible for dances. There are also kiva organizations, Corn groups, and curing groups. Once enemies, the Navajo are now welcomed visitors at fiesta time.

Pueblo facilities include a community center, a swimming pool, and tribal offices. Most people live in modern, single-family houses, complete with modern amenities and utilities. Only a few people remain in the old village, although many maintain a home there that they use on feast days. In order to help assure that the people have clean water for religious and health purposes, the Pueblo has both sued the government to make it enforce the Clean Water Act and developed its own EPA-approved water quality standards. Health problems, including diabetes, alcoholism, and drug use, continue to plague the Pueblo, which is planning to build both a clinic and a wellness center.

Since the 1970s, control of schools has been a key in maintaining their culture. Sandia’s students are supported by tribal scholarship funds and achieve relatively high education levels. However, well over 50 percent of the people speak no Sandia, and there is much marriage out of the Pueblo. A number of language preservation programs are in place. The traditional clans have largely disappeared. Few people wear traditional dress. There is a large Sandia community in California.

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