Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pueblos of New Mexico

On Saturday we visited Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This museum depicts the history and culture of New Mexico's 19 Pueblos. While there we were able to observe an traditional American Indian dance. It is a dance honoring deer. Winter is coming soon and prayers go up that the deer may survive the winter.The dancer in the middle, with antlers on his head and holding two sticks which gives him four legs, represents the deer. The other dancers hold in their hands corn and turkey feathers. It is also a harvest dance.
We toured the Acoma Pueblo on Sunday. The following information on the dwellers of the pueblos I obtained from the Pueblo Museum as well as from our tour guide in the pueblo village of Acoma. The Native American village is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in our country. Evidence dates it from 1150. Until the Spanish arrived in 1540 all the Native Indian villages had their own religion which permeated every aspect of their life. The Spanish with their Catholic faith did not try to understand what the natives believed and persecuted their religious leaders.  The ceremonial buildings were destroyed and churches were built over those sites by native slave labor.  Below is a picture of Acoma's Catholic church, San. Esteban.  It has massive walls and a very high timbered ceiling. Native Indian symbols of creation can be found on the walls and on a buffalo skin on the ceiling.  Figures of saints adorn the altar. The church can be seen in the background of the picture below.We were allowed inside of the church, but no picture taking is allowed.
During the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680 the Catholic priests were placed on donkeys and crowns of thorns were placed on their heads. They were subsequently killed. On priest escaped and later was able to report what had happened. In the ensuing years elements of the Catholic faith were incorporated in pueblo life. Catholic services are held three times a year; in Acoma it is on Christmas, Easter and San Esteban's feast day (September 2). I will have more on our tour of Acoma in the next posting. Below is picture of a sculpture found in the Indian Pueblo museum which is entitled "Unfolding Blessings".  The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico look on their  land and everything springing from it, plant and animal, as sacred and something to be cherished. They are very proud of the fact that, despite the invasion of Spain, Mexico, and the United States, they have at least been able to hold onto some of their tribal land and villages.

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