ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico's Pueblos have a history with the federal government unlike any other American Indian tribe.
They never signed treaties, and with that came decades of a dual existence. On one hand, they didn't fit the mold the government had established for native people. Still, they were Indian enough to be subjected to policies that called for them to trade in their native languages and send their children to boarding school.
For the first time, the Pueblos have come together to offer their own historical perspective on the effects of 100 years of state and federal policy as part of an exhibit at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
Simple black and white designs meant to represent turkey feathers form the basis of a timeline that runs through the museum. Photographs, letters, pottery and other crafts fill the space, while touch screens and QR codes link to more videos, audio interviews and documents.
"The timeline and the points along the timeline are really elements of challenges our Pueblo people have faced and how Pueblo people through education and through perseverance have risen through these challenges. It's important to teach a younger generation the foundation of why certain things are the way they are," said Travis Suazo, exhibition project manager.
Scattered along the Rio Grande Valley and parts of west-central New Mexico, the Pueblos have a storied history that stretches from the conquest of the Spanish to Mexican rule and eventually the westward expansion of the United States. Each decade has brought with it challenges to tribal sovereignty, Pueblo leaders say.
The idea of telling the story from the Pueblo perspective came from a series of leadership institutes at the Santa Fe Indian School that were established partly by Regis Pecos, a former tribal governor and past director of the state's Indian Affairs agency. One goal was to start a conversation about public policy issues facing tribal communities. Another was to prepare the next generation so it could effect change.
Aside from pulling together the exhibition, the leadership founders and other experts have been building a curriculum that better tells the Pueblo story, said Ron Solimon, executive director of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
"We're aiming at concentric circles of youth, native people and others," he said. "A lot of us - and I include myself - suffer from ignorance on the rich history that our Pueblo people have been involved in, especially since the U.S. claimed this area as a territory."
The exhibit starts with the Treaty of Guadalupe …