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The First Americans of New Mexico
Transcribed By C. W. Barnum
From Public Records
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The First Americans

"We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this that they made war.  Could anyone expect less?" William T. Sherman, Commanding General, United States Army, 1878.

Long before the first Spaniards ever arrived in what they eventually called New Mexico, other people had made this region an ancient homeland, attracted, perhaps, by New Mexico's unique environment that contains six of the world's seven life zones.  In fact, human presence here dates at least as far back as 25,000 BC, according to a 1936 discovery by Dr. Frank C. Hibben in a cave in the Sandia Mountains.  Clovis Man, which dates back to 9,500 BC, is believed to have emigrated across the Bering Strait from Siberia thousands of years ago to follow the migrations of now extinct mammoth, bison, and early forms of camel and horses, his principal source of food.  Other prehistoric sites, such as those found at Folsom and Burnett Cave, west of Carlsbad, all document the precarious character of early man's nomadic life.  As the most recent ice age retreated north, these prehistoric peoples began to adapt to a greater dependence on plant foods to supplement their hunting.

During the first few centuries AD, growing populations and increased competition for plant and animal resources led to increased development of societies and economies designed to cultivate and nurture plants, corn in particular, which had only recently been introduced from Mexico, but which soon became well established as the basis for subsistence in the Southwest.  By 400 AD, most of the population in western New Mexico had begun to settle into semi-permanent or permanent villages located along cultivated river drainage.  The people who settled in the southwestern part of the state are known as Mogollon; those in the northwestern part of the state are known as the Anasazi.  Despite their increasing agricultural skills, most of these settlements depended heavily on hunting and gathering of wild food stuffs to supplement their diets.  Many of these communities also began to develop distinctive styles of baskets and pottery, crafts continued today by Pueblo artisans.

Dramatic changes in New Mexico began to occur around 500 AD.  In the western two thirds of the state, settlements became increasingly restricted to smaller, more densely populated areas.  Housing became more complex, characterized by the construction of above-ground pueblos, consisting of hundreds of rooms with specialized ceremonial structures known as kivas.  Regional differences in architecture and ceramics developed, the size of settlements increased, and reliance on agriculture intensified.  In addition, elaborate trade networks developed throughout the Southwest.  Between about 1050 and 1300 AD, the Anasazi had developed so thoroughly and spread so far that this period is known today as the Golden Age of Classic Pueblo Period.

This progress notwithstanding, between 1200 and 1400 AD, vast areas of New Mexico, like other parts of the Southwest, were inexplicably abandoned.  Not even Chaco Canyon, once a prosperous pueblo and the hub of an elaborate civilization, was spared from this enigmatic decline.   Each pueblo was probably abandoned for a particular reason, but it is generally believed that subtle but prolonged climatic changes (especially a severe drought in the late 1200s), increasing demographic pressures on the environment, and attacks by nomadic tribes contributed substantially to this calamity.

Indications are that these peoples relocated among the populations of the Rio Grande, Acoma and Zuni regions, leaving descendants who may be found there even today.  The people of the eastern one third of New Mexico maintained their nomadic ways on the plains, as they had for the past several centuries.  It was these consolidated agricultural pueblos and nomadic tribes that the Spanish explorers encountered during their expeditions into the northern frontier of New Spain.

New Mexico Pueblo Indians 
Pueblo people still reside where the Europeans first saw them.  In spite of the changes brought by the time and foreign intrusion, the Pueblos have retained a great part of their culture.  In most Pueblos, the language religion and philosophy of the people remain intact.

The nineteen pueblos of New Mexico are also referred to as the Rio Grande pueblos.  They are located in seven counties of present day New Mexico and they share a common traditional native religion.  Although rituals and observances may vary, they share a similar lifestyle and philosophy, and a common economy based on the same geographical region occupied by them for hundreds of years.  But the pueblos have a governmental independence similar to that of nations; although they are in close proximity to one another, and subject to the same natural forces, each maintains a unique identity.  Thus, the pueblos have common elements, but are distinctive entities in their own right.  The languages spoken vary greatly, even within dialects related to a single stock.

There are three distinct and different language families with diverse origins.  They are Keresan, Tanoan, and Zuńian.  The Tanoan language is further divided into three dialects: Tewa, Tiwa and Towa.  The distribution of these languages as they pertain to the pueblos and the counties are as follows:


PUEBLO LANGUAGE COUNTY
Taos Tiwa Taos
Picuris Tiwa Taos
San Juan Tewa Rio Arriba
Santa Clara Tewa Rio Arriba
Nambé Tewa Santa Fé
Pojoaque Tewa Santa Fé
San Ildefonso Tewa Santa Fé
Tesuque Tewa Santa Fé
Cochiti Keresan Sandoval
Santo Domingo Keresan Sandoval
San Filipé Keresan Sandoval
Santa Ana Keresan Sandoval
Zia Keresan Sandoval
Jémez Towa Sandoval
Sandia Tiwa Sandoval
Isleta Tiwa Bernalillo
Laguna Keresan Cibola
Ácoma Keresan Cibola
Zuńi Zuńi McKinley


Pueblo life has made accommodations, developing a unique "mix" of European governing structure, Christian formalities and beliefs, and legal forms imposed upon the people by the Spanish, Mexican and United States governments who have dominated them for the past 400 years.  Underlying these influences is the enduring foundation of Pueblo traditional leadership and government.

The Pueblos today operate under a form of government that is both native and European, the European form of government having been introduced by the Spaniards in colonial times.  There are two forms of this Spanish government structure.  One was introduced by Ońate in 1598.  The other occurred by royal decree in 1620.  While governed according to ancient tribal systems, they also participate in a coalition system of government under the All Indian Pueblo Council.  This arrangements permits mutual counsel, and allows for the development of a degree of political power in pueblo relations with the state and federal governments.

A tribal council guides the affairs of the whole community.  Most of these councils are composed of former governors who, upon completion of their terms in office, become lifetime members of the tribal council.  However, in six pueblos, governors and councilors are elected through the balloting system.

The Pueblo Indians did not enter into treaties with any of these foreign governments -- Spanish, Mexican, or American.  The relationship with the United States has its origins, and its continuing principles, in laws by which nations are guided internationally, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  This treaty ceded a total of 334,443,520 acres of Indian land (552,658 square miles) to the United States.  Today the combined land base of the pueblos is approximately 1.97 million acres.  The terrain encompassed by their lands ranges from semi-desert lowlands through pińon foothills to high mountain forests.

A unique relationship exists, and has existed historically, between the United States Government and the Pueblo tribes.  Welded into this relationship are the legal and international ramifications of the Pueblo relationships with the Spanish and Mexican governments, and these have weight even today because of the various international treaties, land grants and court decisions.

According to the 1990 census, there were approximately 55,776 people in all the pueblos.  These people have traditionally been a very reserved people and wary of non Indian lifestyles and economies.  The Pueblo people have relied on their considerable skills in farming, pottery-making, jewelry, and other crafts for income in the past.  Today, however, most work off reservation.  In order to employ more of their people at home, and offset dependency on the federal government, many pueblos are now beginning to develop considerable economic resources within their own reservations.
 

Jicarilla Apache Tribe
Located in North Central New Mexico, the Jacarilla Apache Reservation encompasses 750,000 acres of splendid mountain ranges, sage brush flats and deep mesa canyons.  traveling north from Albuquerque on NM 44, one may reach the reservation -- and its capital, Dulce -- by way of NM 537.

The name Jicarilla means "little basket" and denotes an art form for which they have become famous.  Beadwork, leatherwork and jewelry are among their other skilled handicrafts, examples of which may be purchased at the Tribal Arts and Crafts Shop, located on the reservation.

A region of ancient history, the reservation houses the La Jara Archeological Site, where cliff dwellings and ruins may be visited.  Pictographs and various other artifacts are on display at the tribal museum.  Ranking high among energy producing tribes, the Jicarilla Apache Tribe was the first in the nation to own 100 percent of the oil and gas-producing wells located on its reservation.

Two annual events are among the highlights of the Jcarilla Apache Reservation.  The Little Beaver Roundup is held the second week in July and the Stone Lake Fiesta takes place September 15.  Visitors are welcome at all their numerous activities, which include rodeos, carnivals, colorful traditional dances, and foot races.  According to tradition, the winning clan will prosper in the coming year.

A diversified land, the reservation offers a multitude of outdoor recreation for all ages.  Considered one of the last unspoiled hunting lands, the reservation offers triophy mule deer, elk, bear, turkey, and water fowl.  A fisherman's paradise lies within the numerous lakes located on the reservation.  Stocked periodically with rainbow trout, the lakes have yielded trout upto 29 inches long.  Nature lovers can explore all of the beautiful 750,000 tribal acres.  Untouched remote areas are accessible by the earliest means of transportation in the Southwest -- a well-trained horse, or a more conventional four-wheel drive vehicle.  The reservation also houses a variety of ancient ruins, cliff dwellings and pictographs.

Owned and operatred by the tribe, the beautiful Jicarilla Inn in Dulce offers full hotel accomodations.

Mescalero Apache Tribe 
The Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation is located in the south central part of the State of New Mexico, in Otero County.  The Reservation was established by presidential order in 1873 and currently consists of 460,661 acres, covering 720 square miles of land, running 27 miles from north to south and 36 miles from east to west at its widest point.

Three thousand tribal members live on the reservation, which, for the most past, is lushly timbered and is the site  of several significant Tribal business ventures.  These include Ski Apache, one of the largest and best equipped ski areas in the Southwest.  This internationally known area accommodates 300,000 visitors a year and is valued at $30 million.

The reservation is also home of the Inn of the Mountain Gods, a $20 million luxury resort complex, which has been operating since 1975 and is a major factor in Southeastern New Mexico's tourist economy.  The Inn seasonally employs up to 300 people, one third of whom are tribal members, as well as others coming from Ruidoso, Capitan and Tularosa.

Modern life and traditional values are reconciled by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, whose members are very active workers, take advantage of housing and shopping facilities, are involved in various commercial activities, and the majority of whom are registered voters.

The Tribal Government consists of an eight member Tribal Council, which is a self-governing organization.  The Council has an elected president and vice president.  Officials serve a two year term.  Four Council members are elected each year by secret ballot.  The Council approves fiscal matters and policies for operations, law and order, and business enterprises.  The Secretary of the US Department of the Interior may review legal or budget decisions.

The Navajo Nation
The Navajo Nation is recognized as the largest Indian tribe in the United States.  According to the 1990 Census, almost 80,000 Navajo people live in New Mexico (the Navajo Nation contests the number, believing that the Navajo people were undercounted).  The Navajo Reservation is also the largest Indian reservation in the United States, covering a total of 17.5 million acres and stretches across northwest New Mexico, northeast Arizona, and southeast Utah.  From low, dry desert elevations to mountainous regions, Navajo land is larger than some states.

Modern theory describes the Navajo people as semi-nomadic, having ventured throughout the Southwest before settling in their present location.  Navajo belief is that The People emerged into the world , the fourth world, to escape a flood in the lower world.  The Place of Emergence is located in northwest New Mexico, in an area known as Dinetah.  This area still carries religious, traditional and cultural significance for the Navajo people.  The boundary of the Navajo Nation today roughly follows the traditional boundary set by the Four Sacred Mountains.

The early Navajo people subsisted on herds of sheep and planted large fields of corn.  They quickly adapted to the use of horses and other livestock introduced into the region by the Spanish.

In the years around 1860, tensions between the Navajo people and non-Indian ranchers and the US  Army increased.  In 1864, after a series of skirmishes and battles, a large portion of the Navajo population was forced away from their beloved homelands to the Bosque Redondo, an experimental reservation about 400 miles away on the plains of eastern New Mexico.  The people, under the eye of US Army guards, were forced to march the entire distance.  Thousands died along the way, during the four years the people spent at the Bosque Redondo, and during the walk home in 1868.  This episode of tragedy and human survival is known as "The Long Walk."

The leaders of the different clans of the Navajo people signed the Treaty of 1868 at the Bosque Redondo with the United States.  The treaty set aside a reservation -- a fraction of the Navajo's original homeland -- and in exchange for peace, the US Government promised to provide basic services to the Navajo people.

In 1921, oil was discovered in northwest New Mexico and the US Government created the first form of the Navajo Tribal Council, a six-man business council, for the sole purpose of giving consent to mineral leases.  In 1936, the US Government issued the "Rules of the Navajo Tribal Council," which formed the basis for the Navajo Nation's government that remains in effect today.

The capital of the Navajo Nation is Window Rock, Arizona.  The Navajo Nation Council meets four times a year to enact legislation and discuss other issues of importance to the Navajo people.  The 88 members of the Council are elected, based on the population o f the 110 chapters.  The Council is the governing body of the Navajo Nation and its meetings are presided over by the Speaker who is elected by the membership of the Council.  The speaker serves as CEO of the Legislative Branch.

The Executive Branch is headed by a president and vice president, who are elected every four years by the Navajo people.  The bulk of tribal employees and service delivery programs are located within the Executive Branch.  The annual budget for the Navajo Nation's government is about $96 million and 80 percent is appropriated to the Executive Branch.

The 110 chapters are the local form of government and each chapter also elects a chairman, vice chairman, secretary/treasurer, and other officials.  Community meetings are held in the chapter houses and the members vote on issues such as home site leases and land use plans.  The Navajo people easily adapted to the chapter system because it was simply a formalization of the traditional form of community meetings.  Over 50 chapters are located in New Mexico or straddle the Arizona-New Mexico state line.

Three bands, or satellite communities, of the Navajo Nation are located in New Mexico.  These are the Alamo Band, located about 30 miles west of Magdalena, the Canoncito Band, located about 25 miles west of Albuquerque, and the Ramah Band, which is located about 40 miles south of Gallup.

The Navajo Nation is engaged in major development, which affects health, education, economic development, and employment.  Plans are under way to establish an infrastructure that can support job-creating enterprises, while increasing services and benefits to the Navajo people.  For decades, the Navajo government has been supported by Revenue from a wealth of natural resources, such as coal, oil and gas, and uranium.  However, realizing that natural resources will not last forever, other alternatives to pay for services to the people are being explored.  In addition, in 1984 the Navajo Nation Council established a Permanent Trust Fund, into which 12 percent of all revenues received each year are deposited.  Under Navajo law, the trust fund cannot be used until the year 2004.

A major area of development is tourism.  The Navajo Nation is rich with scenic beauty and the Navajo people are world renown for their silver and turquoise jewelry, and hand-woven rugs.  Recreational attractions exist at locations throughout Navajo lands in three states.  Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Canyon, Hubbell's Trading Post, and Shiprock are but a few of the beautiful and interesting sites for visitors to Navajo land.

The Ute Mountain Tribe
A portion of the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation (107,520 acres) is located in northern San Juan County.  The remainder of the reservation is in Montezuma County, Colorado.  Towaoc, the seat of tribal government, is located approximately 30 miles north of Shiprick on US 666.

The Utes, a nomadic hunting tribe, once roamed the mountains of northern New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

The present Ute Mountain homeland lies in a region rich in archeological sites, some of which may be visited by the public.  A tribal-managed business produces distinctive Indian pottery, which is sold in Towaoc and other shops in the Four Corners region.

©2005