Northern New Mexico's Community Network

A History of Taos

Taos Valley is an ancient land. Anasazi Indians - the "Ancient Ones," first inhabited Taos Valley around 1000 A.D. Little is known of their civilization or why it fell, except for what may be learned at such sites as Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. Many of the ridges which ring Taos valley are the location of pit houses dug into the ground which served as shelter in the period which preceded the construction of the Pueblo buildings. The Puebloan Indians built countless pueblos (villages), both large and small, around Taos Valley. Present-day Taos Pueblo was built around 1350 A.D.

The history of Taos is important to the entire southwestern United States because Taos has been, and continues to be, a crossroads. Indian trails led to Taos from all four directions. Spanish explorers entered Taos in 1540. They were followed by Spanish colonists in the seventeenth century who travelled by ox-cart from what is now Mexico. French and American fur trappers and explorers came in the late 1700s, and American merchants and settlers arrived on the Santa Fe Trail in the 1800s.

Today, as in the past, Taos is a mecca for a wide range of people who are attracted by its mystique, unique heritage, historical significance, and beauty.

The name "Taos" is thought to be derived from an Indian word meaning "Red willow:' The term is, in some cases, inclusive of the entire county of Taos. It usually refers to the residents of the Taos valley, and sometimes includes outlying communities such as Ranchos de Taos, Arroyo Hondo, Arroyo Seco, Talpa, etc. Blanche Grant, a Taoseña who wrote about Taos Pueblo in 1925, attributes the name "Taos" to the Chinese term "tao." She is among those who have observed and commented on the similarities between the Taos Indian language and that of the Chinese and Tibetan language, and other similarities between the Far East and the Taos tribe.

In general, the history of Taos constitutes cycles of recurring "invasions;' or influxes of different peoples with running undercurrents of resistance to domination by the most recent newcomers.

Continue to next section of A History of Taos.

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