Santa Clara Pueblo (Native Americans of the Southwest)

The Tewa name for Santa Clara Pueblo is Capo, variously translated. 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 Santa Clara Pueblo is located on the west bank of the Rio Grande, about 25 miles north of Santa Fe.

Population The Pueblo population was roughly 650 in 1780 and perhaps several thousand in 1500. In 1990, 1,245 Indians lived on the Pueblo out of a total population of over 10,000. Total tribal enrollment was over 2,000.

Language The people spoke a dialect of Tewa.

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 prehistoric times, the Tewa were generally north and west of their present locations and have inhabited numerous prehistoric villages on both sides (though mostly the west side) of the Rio Grande and the Rio Chama.

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. According to tradition, Santa Claras lived previously in two sites north of the present pueblo. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado found them in the pueblo’s present location 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. 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.

In 1680 Pueblo Indians organized and carried out a major revolt against the Spanish. 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 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 them to leave Santa Fe for El Paso.

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. 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. Paradoxically, however, 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.

Especially after 1821, the Pueblos underwent a steady acculturation. Toward the late nineteenth century, the United States reintroduced religious repression. The government and Protestant missionaries branded Indian religious practices as obscene and immoral, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs forcibly removed Indian children to culture-killing boarding schools.

Partly because of lobbying from the All Indian Pueblo Council, 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. 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 significant 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.

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, whose primary responsibility it is to watch the sun and thereby determine the dates of ceremonies. 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. Since at least the seventeenth century, Catholicism has strongly influenced traditional religion and ceremonialism.

Winter (Turquoise) and summer (Squash) groups divided the pueblo. Each had a cacique and a kiva. Ceremonial societies included curing, clowning, hunting, and defense. The caciques and the heads of societies, or priests, ran the religious and the political life of the pueblo. All rituals were performed within the winter-summer context.

Government Pueblo governments derived from two traditions. Offices that are probably indigenous include the cacique, or head of the Pueblo, and the war captains. At Santa Clara, both summer and winter caciques "ruled" by consensus among the pueblo leaders, meeting in the kiva and having the final say in all matters. Each traded village control every six months. These officials were 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, two lieutenant governors, sheriffs, and fiscales. The authority of their offices was symbolized by canes. Nontraditional positions also often included a ditch boss, who was in charge of the irrigation ditches, as well as a town crier and sacristan. Also, a council of principales (present and former officers) had justice-related responsibilities. The Spanish canes, plus canes given them by President Lincoln, were a symbol of authority. In addition, the All Indian Pueblo Council, dating from 1598, began meeting again in the twentieth century.

Santa Clara Pueblo experienced a major political schism in the 1890s. The winter division, the more "progressive" for much of the nineteenth century, had resisted the rigid dictates of pueblo life and advocated a separation of religious from secular life. In 1894, the summer division and some winter people applied for and received recognition from the Indian agency in Santa Fe as the legitimate governing authority at the Pueblo. For the next 30 years, the summer division elected all secular officials except the lieutenant governor and tried to enforce the traditionally rigid sacred-secular connection. The winter group resisted and openly defied them.

In the 1930s, each division split along progressive and conservative lines; now there were four factions, each allied with a like-minded group. Their government in shambles, the Pueblo requested arbitration by the Indian Service in Santa Fe, with the result that the Pueblo incorporated under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) and turned to a constitution and an elected government. Thus religious and secular affairs were finally split, and participation in ceremonies was made voluntary.

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. The dead were prepared ceremonially and quickly buried. Their possessions were broken and placed on the grave, along with food, to help them journey to the spirit land. A vigil of four days and nights was generally observed.

At Santa Clara, a summer and a winter cacique, appointed for life, oversaw the pueblo. Society was divided into two groups, summer (associated with the Squash kiva) and winter (associated with the Turquoise kiva); membership in a group was patrilineal. These groups were further divided into clans. A number of secret societies also existed. For instance, the warrior society was concerned with hunting, war, crops, fertility, and curing. Each society had its own dances and ritual paraphernalia. Numerous life-cycle rites, as well as songs, crafts, communal activities such as maintenance of irrigation canals, prayer retreats, and performing dances, also ensured that one spent one’s life "becoming" a Tewa.

People of Santa Clara further classified themselves into three categories: ordinary earth people, youths, and made people (priests of eight separate priesthoods, half of which admit women as full members). Similarly, their physical world was divided into three corresponding categories. Village, farmlands, and other nearby lowlands, accessible to all and particularly the woman’s domain, were delineated by four shrines to ancestors. Hills, mesas, and washes, defined by four sacred mesas and in the spiritual charge of the "youths," were a mediating environment in spatial, social, sexual, spiritual, and even subsistence terms. Mountains, a male realm of hunting and male religious pilgrimages, were in the charge of the made people.

Dwellings Santa Clara Pueblo originally featured apartment-style dwellings of up to five stories 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. Pit houses, or kivas, served as ceremonial chambers and clubhouses. The village plaza, around which the church and all dwellings were clustered, was the spiritual center of the village, a place where all the balanced forces of the world came together.

Diet Before the Spanish arrived, people from Santa Clara Pueblo ate primarily corn, beans, and squash. They also grew cotton and tobacco. They hunted deer, buffalo, mountain lion, antelope, and rabbits, and they also fished. They also gathered a variety of wild seeds, nuts, berries, and other foods. The Spanish introduced wheat, alfalfa, chilies, fruit trees, grapes, sheep, cattle, and garden vegetables, which soon became part of the regular diet.

Key Technology Santa Clara people traditionally diverted water from the Rio Grande via irrigation ditches. They used wood shovels and hoes, stone axes, and woven fiber baskets. They fished with pointed sticks and yucca-fiber nets.

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. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Santa Clara Pueblo traded primarily with other Pueblos, Comanches, Kiowas, Jicarillas, and Utes. They traded cornmeal, wheat flour, bread, and woven goods for jerked meat, buffalo robes, pipe pouches, tortoise shells, buckskins, and horses. They also traded for baskets, Navajo blankets, shell and copper ornaments, turquoise, and macaw feathers. Santa Claras sometimes acted as middlemen between Plains tribes and more southern pueblos. 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. Traditional arts at Santa Clara included pottery, weaving, masks, songs, dances, and dramas. The great Pueblo arts revival, begun at San Ildefonso in 1919, came to Santa Clara in the 1930s and 1940s.

Transportation Spanish horses, mules, and cattle arrived at Santa Clara in the sixteenth century.

Dress Men wore cotton and buckskin shirts and kilts. Womens’ traditional dress featured spun cotton dresses and sandals or high moccasin boots. Rabbit skin was also used for clothing and robes.

War and Weapons Though often depicted as passive and docile, most Pueblo peoples 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. Tewas occasionally raided Navajos for goods. After the nomadic 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 Santa Clara Pueblo consists of almost 46,000 acres. The Pueblo adopted a constitution in 1935. They elect six officials annually, nominated by the kiva groups, plus a tribal council. The cacique still runs sacred matters.

Economy Many Santa Clara Indians work in Santa Fe, Espanola, and Los Alamos or for federal and tribal programs. Arts and crafts, including textiles, embroidery, and especially pottery, also bring in money. Tourism is an important economic activity. The cliff dwellings at Puye (an ancestral home) and Santa Clara Canyon are well-developed tourist sites, and dances for tourists are held in July. The tribe leases pumice and timber resources.

Legal Status Santa Clara Pueblo is a federally recognized tribal entity.

Daily Life Although the project of holding on to their identity is a strong challenge, Pueblo people have strong roots, and in many ways the ancient rhythms and patterns continue. Many of the old ceremonies are still performed; the religion is largely intact, and there is a palpable and intentional continuity with the past. Traditional religion has also merged to some degree with Catholicism.

Change has come to Santa Clara Pueblo, but thanks in part to effective political leadership, disruption has been minimal. Control of local schools since the 1970s has been another key in maintaining Pueblo culture. Santa Clara maintains a relatively high regard for Western education. Many people still speak Tewa, and English has served as a common second language since the 1960s. Health problems, including alcoholism and drug abuse, continue to plague the Pueblos. There is a small hospital at Santa Clara. The nuclear family is the basic social and economic unit. A new senior citizens community center helps elders remain vital and purposeful.

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