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What is a Pueblo?

Photo of Street in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, taken by Charles Frances Saunders, c1910

Street in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, c1910. Source: Saunders

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Photo of Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, taken by Charles Frances Saunders, c1910

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, c1910. Source: Saunders

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The word "Pueblo" has several meanings. It is the Spanish word meaning a group of houses or a village. The word also refers to the adobe structures of Southwestern U.S. Indians. The word has come to mean a village of the Pueblo Indians, this people or their culture.

The picture above shows a street in one pueblo, Acoma, in about 1910. Before the Spanish presence, roughly 1540-41, there were over 70 pueblos in the Southwestern United States. Today, there are only 19. Of these, only four still make pottery for their own general use.

 

Pueblo Life

During the Post Spanish period (roughly after 1600), Pueblo life began to change. The introduction of railroads in the early 1880s accelerated the rate of change. However some Pueblos, such as San Ildefonso, remained isolated until 1924, when a highway bridge over the Rio Grande was built in the vicinity of the Pueblo (Chapman ). The pictures below show that some aspects of Pueblo life remained unchanged around 1910. The photographer, Charles Francis Saunders , noted at that time:

…the native arts and customs of the Pueblos and their individuality as a people have suffered more in the last decade or two of Washington than during the whole three centuries of Spanish domination…Pueblo deterioration hastens with each returning year.

Today there is tremendous interest in preserving and reviving traditional culture. The pottery of the Puebloan people provides a link with the traditions and people of the past. Many modern pueblo potters incorporate traditional designs.

Photo of Baking Bread (Pueblo not identified) taken by Charles Frances Saunders, c1910

Baking Bread (Pueblo not identified) c1910. Source: Saunders

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Photo of Corn Husking, Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, taken by Charles Frances Saunders, c1910

Corn Husking, Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, c1910. Source: Saunders

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Photo of A Hopi potter preparing to fire pottery bowls, New Mexico, taken by Charles Frances Saunders, c1910

A Hopi potter preparing to fire pottery bowls, New Mexico, c1910. Source: Saunders

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