Pueblo: Taos

Pueblo: Taos, San Ildefonso, Zuni, Hopi

Recorded and Edited by Willard Rhodes
Music of the American Indian from the Archive of Folk Culture L43
The Pueblos comprise a number of groups of Indians who live in New Mexico and Arizona. Despite their differences of language and tradition, they share many traits, for they are the descendents of an earlier culture, the Anasazi (Navajo for "the Ancient Ones"), that flourished between 900 and 1300 in the area where the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet, commonly known as the Four Corners. The Anasazi have become known as the Basket Makers, since the baskets found in the archeological sites antedate later stages of their culture in which pottery was introduced. It was during this period that the remarkable houses of skilled architecture were built in cliffs and canyons, remains of which can be visited today in Mesa Verde National Park and other sites. The abandonment of these dwellings has been attributed to a prolonged drought cycle, and it is possible that internal dissension and attacks from nomad also contributed to the move to present sites.

The Pueblo people are agriculturalists and plant corn, beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco. In the arid desert country of the Southwest, rain was and is a matter of primary concern to the people, for it is essential to the germination and growth of the plants. The bringing of rain and the maintenance of a happy relationship with the supernatural being who control the forces of nature have been central motives in their religion. Common to all the Pueblos, with the exception of Taos, is the kachina cult which has been described by Dr. Ruth Bunzel as "a religious form of worship through the impersonation of a group of supernaturals associated with clouds and rain."

The kachinas are the supernatural friends of the people, and on invitation come to dance for the entertainment of their host. The men of the kachina society impersonate the supernaturals by assuming their masked headgear and colorful costumes. According to Zuni ideology, the dance is compulsive magic.

The ceremonial life of the two western Pueblos, Hopi and Zuni, has been least influenced by contact with non-Indians. It is there that one can witness kachina dances that constitute a living celebration of their traditional religion. There are about thirty primary kachinas, but there are countless others of lesser status.

The ceremonial life of the people is vested in the priesthood of the several societies, each of which has its well-defined responsibility in maintaining the schedule of calendric dances so essential to the health and well-being of the Pueblo. Each society has its own kiva, an underground chamber that serves as a ceremonial home for the society. It is there that ceremonial songs and dances are rehearsed in preparation for their public presentation in the plaza of the Pueblo, The kiva also serves as a storeroom for the Costumes and paraphernalia of the dances.

The traditional religion of the Pueblos is firmly rooted, and its continuation is assured by the initiation of boys. Dr. Underhill writes, "At Hopi and Zuni when they are eight years old the boys, and now and then a girl, meet the masked rain spirits and are soundly whipped as a form of exorcism. Later, for the boys, comes the initiation into one group or another which involves the duties of dance, song, and prayer for the benefit of the village."

During the Spanish colonial period, the padres of the Catholic Church worked with missionary zeal to convert the Indians to Christianity. The churches that stand in the plazas of the Pueblos still function for those who have accepted membership and there appears to be no conflict with the native beliefs and practices of the Indians. Name days of the patron saints of the Pueblos are celebrated with dances.

The most publicized ceremony of the Hopis is the Snake Rite, which is performed jointly with the Antelope Society in alternate years with the joint ceremony of the Blue Flute and Gray Flute societies. Members of the Snake Society go out in the four directions and bring back their clan brothers, the snakes. On a day named by the priest, they "dance" these relatives, one priest holding a snake in his mouth, while another diverts the snake by brushing his head with a feather to keep it from biting. It is said that the dance has never failed to bring the rain. I can only speak for the one snake dance I have witnessed, on that occasion a flash flood followed the ceremony, delaying Sante Fe by sixteen hours.

The Hopis live in autonomous villages on three mesas where they settled subsequent to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Since the turn of the century, several villages have been established in the valley near the fields and where water is more available, for the mesas are mostly exposed bedrock of Mesa Verde sandstone.

Unlike the Zuni, where the social, political, and religious life is concentrated in the Pueblo of Zuni, the Hopi have tended to become divisive, with overt friction between conservative traditionalists and progressive activists. This dichotomy was made acute when, prompted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to act on the Indian Reorganization Act, the Hopi adopted a constitution and bylaws in 1936. This "democracy by fiat" was completely contrary to the traditions of the Hopi, who regarded each village as autonomous and never thought of themselves as a tribe.

The Hopi are skilled craftsmen and artists. Women make beautiful wicker baskets and plaques in which colors-reds, greens, yellows, black, brown, tan, and others-are important in defining the design, from static bands to dynamic whirls. Hopi pottery jars and bowls are beautifully decorated with curved motifs. The weaving of textiles, still carried on today, is the traditional work of men.

The contemporary silver work of the Hopi men has been stimulated by the designs of Fred Kabotic, the Hopi artist. A Hopi Tribal Arts and Crafts Guild, with a large sales shop located next to the new Tribal Museum and Cultural Center on Second Mesa, is effective in maintaining the highest quality of workmanship and providing a sales outlet for the craftsmen.

Since 1879 the making of pottery in Zuni has declined until today it is almost extinct. The Zuni silversmith's interest centers on turquoise and has developed a late technique name "channel." The refinement of technique in the setting of tiny turquoise stones distinguishes much of the work of the Zuni.

The large Zuni Pueblo was combined from six or seven ancient ones following the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680. It is a tightly knit society with religious and civil responsibilities distributed among priesthoods. Dr. Ruth Benedict in her study Patterns of Culture described the ethos of Zuni society as Apollonian in contrast to societies she designated as Dionysian.

One of the most enjoyable of the Zuni rites is the Shalako, which is celebrated at the time of the winter solstice. It is a house blessing ceremony in which the giant gods visit the houses that have been built or enlarged during the past year.

Other groups known as the River (Rio Grande) Pueblos came under Spanish influence when Don Juan de Onate arrived in 1598 with a cortege of goats, horses, and 129 colonists, many with families. He established his capital in Sante Fe about 1610, and today it is the Indians of the River Pueblos that the visitor sees displaying their arts and crafts for sale on the arcade of the governor's palace. These Pueblos may be grouped by language with Acoma, the ancient "sky city," and Laguna, intermediate between the western Pueblos and the River Pueblos. The latter number sixteen, divided among the following languages: Keresan, Towa, Tewa, and Tiwa.

The making of pottery is a revived art that has been inspired by the archeological finds of scraps of ancient pottery. Among the Pueblo potters, Maria Marinez and her husband, Julian, of San Ildefonso are known for the blackware and its designs. Their work is exhibited in museums throughout the world.

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Native Words



Taos Horse Stealing Song Taos is the most eastern of the Pueblos, and its songs as well as other aspects of its culture reflect the influence of its contact with Plains tribes. The "Horse Stealing Song" and the Taos War Dance follow the pattern that characterizes much Plains music, starting on the highest tone of the song, descending through cascading phrases, and cadencing on the basic root tone of the song. Taos Pueblo
Taos War Dance Taos Pueblo
Forty-nine Song Forty-nine songs are of a later vintage, intertribal, provenance unknown, sung with English words, and typical of a changing culture that has been described as Pan-Indian. Regarding the name of the song, John I. Gamble in his article "Changing Patterns in Kiowa Indian Dances" states: "The old name was said to have been changed around 1911 when a 'men only' sideshow, called in most versions of the story, The Girls of '49,' appeared at the Caddo County Fair in Anadarko. A group of young Indians were standing in front of the sideshow when one boy, drunk, cried out, 'Let's go have our own '49!' The group went to a dark spot and began to dance to the beat of an old tub."

The song opens with an introduction of vocables that is followed by the following English text:
She says she don't like me anymore
Because I drink my whiskey.
I don't care. I got another one.
She can do whatever she can do.
I can do what I want to.
I don't care. I got a pretty one.
Taos Pueblo