Santo Domingo Pueblo (Native Americans of the Southwest)

The Santo Domingo people call their pueblo Kiuw. The word "pueblo" comes from the Spanish for "village." It refers both to a certain style of Southwest Indian architecture, characterized by multistory, apartment like 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 Santo Domingo Pueblo is situated on the east bank of the Rio Grande, 30-35 miles southwest of Santa Fe, near the Camino Real and modern highways.

Population About 3,000 Indians lived in this largest of the eastern Keresan pueblos in 1990. Roughly 150 people lived there in 1680.

Language The people spoke a Keresan dialect.

Historical Information

History All Pueblo people are thought to be descended from Anasazi and perhaps Mogollon and several other ancient peoples, although the precise origin of the Keresan peoples is unknown. 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.

Keresans have been traced to an area around Chaco Canyon north to Mesa Verde. In the 1200s, the Keresans 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 original Santo Domingo people lived in at least two villages called Gipuy, several miles north of the present location. These sites were eventually destroyed by flooding, and the people established a village called Kiwa, about a mile west of the present pueblo.

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. Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic) replaced the Pueblo’s original name, Gipuy, in 1691. 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.

The Santo Domingos took an active part in the 1680 Pueblo 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 as well as Alonzo Catiti from Santo Domingo Pueblo and other Pueblo 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. The Santo Domingos were forced to retreat north with other Keresan peoples to the fortified town of Potrero Viejo. They returned in 1683, although sporadic rebellion continued until 1696.

The Pueblos experienced many changes during the 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. Several floods destroyed the original site of Santo Domingo Pueblo; the present pueblo was established in the early eighteenth century. 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. A political rebellion by Indians and Hispanic poor in 1837 over the issue of taxes led to the assassination of the New Mexican governor and the brief installation of a Plains/Taos Indian as governor. 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 (in 1858, the United States recognized a 1689 Spanish land grant to Santo Domingo Pueblo of roughly 70,000 acres).

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. In 1886, Kiwa was destroyed by floods, and the people moved to their present location.

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.

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 dance. All Santo

Domingo men belonged to katsina societies. Santo Domingo Pueblo contained two circular kivas, religious chambers that symbolize the place of original emergence into this world, and their associated societies, Squash and Turquoise.

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 used supernatural powers for curing, weather control, and ensuring the general welfare. As at other pueblos, much doctrine and ritual of the Catholic Church has been integrated into the native religion at Santo Domingo. Important ceremonies include church days such as Easter, Christmas, and saints’ days as well as corn and harvest dances and other ceremonies related to agriculture and legend. Especially in the eastern pueblos, most ceremonies are kept secret.

Government Pueblo governments derived from two traditions. Elements that are probably indigenous include the cacique, or head of the Pueblo, and the war chiefs. These officials were intimately related to the religious structures of the pueblo and reflected the essentially theocratic nature of Pueblo government. At Santo Domingo the cacique was the head medicine man; he represented the Corn Mother and was sometimes referred to as yaya, or mother. He authorized all rituals and made yearly appointments, including two war chiefs (one from each kiva group) who exercised his power. In turn, the first war chief chose new caciques. Other traditional offices included the war chiefs’ assistants and a ditch boss who, by means of ritual and duties, presided over the Pueblo irrigation system. Pueblo Indians did not typically seek to hold office.

A parallel but in most cases distinctly less powerful group of officials was imposed by the Spanish authorities. Appointed annually by the traditional leadership, they generally dealt with external and church matters and included the governor, lieutenant governor, captains, and fiscales (church officials). Young men were groomed for certain positions. There was also an advisory council of principales, comprised of former office holders. In addition, the All Indian Pueblo Council, dating from 1598, began meeting again in the twentieth century to assert rights and help solve 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. The dead were prepared ceremonially and quickly buried with clothes, beads, food, and other items; their possessions were destroyed, and they were said to become katsinas in the land of the dead. A vigil of four days and nights was generally observed.

Matrilineal clans also existed at Santo Domingo, although their functions remain unclear. Various other more or less secret societies including medicine, hunters, clown, warriors, and katsina (associated with the two patrilineal kiva groups, Squash and Turquoise) acted to hold the pueblo together. The societies are said to have gained power from supernatural animals, through fetishes and figurines. Santo Domingo societies were traditionally so strong that other pueblos came to them if theirs needed revitalization. Most traditional customs remained relatively intact at Santo Domingo well into the 1940s. In modern times photography by outsiders is discouraged.

Dwellings In the seventeenth century, Santo Domingo Pueblo probably contained multistory 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. Two pit houses, or kivas, served as ceremonial chambers and clubhouses. The village plaza, around which all dwellings were clustered, was the spiritual center of the village where all the balanced forces of the world came together.

Floods destroyed previous settlements; the present village dates from 1886.

Diet Before the Spanish arrived, Santo Domingo people ate primarily corn, beans, and pumpkins. They also grew sunflowers and tobacco. They hunted deer, mountain lion, bear, antelope, and rabbits. They also gathered a variety of wild seeds, nuts, berries, and other foods. The Spanish introduced wheat, alfalfa, 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). Textiles were woven of cotton. Other items included baskets, pottery, and leather goods. 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. 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. Santo Domingo arts included pottery, baskets, and turquoise necklaces. They also excelled at making pump-drilled heishi beads. Songs, dances, and dramas are other traditional arts. Santo Domingos may have taught turquoise work to the Navajos in the 1880s.

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

Dress Men wore cotton kilts and leather sandals. Women wore cotton dresses and sandals or high moccasin boots. Deer and rabbit skin were also used for clothing and robes, and sandals were made of yucca.

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 Santo Domingo Pueblo contains roughly 70,000 acres. It is governed in the traditional manner, and there is no written constitution.

Economy The Pueblo hosts an annual arts fair; it also contains a service station and a small museum/visitor center. Many Santo Domingos work in nearby cities. Many are also active artists, specializing in traditional turquoise and shell necklace, pottery, other jewelry, woven belts, and leather moccasins and leggings. Santo Domingo people trade widely throughout the Southwest. In keeping with their conservative values, much of their work is unsigned. Farming and grazing are also important economic activities.

Legal Status Santo Domingo Pueblo is a federally recognized tribal entity.

Daily Life Santo Domingo remains one of the most conservative pueblos. The religion, ceremonialism, and social structure of the Pueblo are largely intact, and the society remains proud and vital. Most Santo Domingo people still speak Keresan, along with English and some Spanish. Many people marry within the pueblo. Changes since World War II include a greater reliance on hospitals, improved sanitation, and fewer school disruptions for religious or ceremonial reasons. Although their appreciation for Western education has increased, high school drop-out rates remain very high, in part because of continued opposition from pueblo leaders. They fear that non-Indian education opens up the potential for undesirable, far-reaching change; an example would be to have women sitting on the tribal council. Santo Domingos are well represented in the leadership of pan-Pueblo political organizations.

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