Working the Range: Essays on the History of Western Land Management and the Environment

By John R. Wunder | Go to book overview

WILLIARD H. ROLLINGS


1
The Pueblos of New Mexico and the Protection of Their Land and Water Rights

When the Spanish arrived in New Mexico in the sixteenth century, they found two groups of Native Americans already in residence. One group consisted of several nomadic nations-- the Apache, Navajo, Ute--and the other consisted of sedentary agricultural tribes living in communal villages, or pueblos. Ancestors of the Pueblo Indians had lived in the area for thousands of years. While early Pueblo population centers were located north and west of the upper Rio Grande valley, Pueblo peoples had lived in villages along the river since 600 A.D. Beginning about 1300 A.D., there was a dramatic shift in population. 1 The Pueblo people began abandoning their villages along the San Juan drainage system (the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) and moved to the south and east. Some settled in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico (Zuni and Acoma), but most joined those already living near or along the northern Rio Grande. These people lived communally in independent pueblos governed by secular and religious leaders.

The pueblos were small, compact villages, none larger than 2,000 inhabitants, where people lived together in adobe or stone-terraced houses usually constructed around ceremonial plazas. The people farmed by using stream irrigation and grew corn, squash, beans, and cotton. Although similar in many

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