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Taos Pueblo is the northernmost Indian Pueblo. It is located approximately two miles north of the present day town of Taos. The existing Pueblo was probably built around 1350, although the tribe probably settled in the valley around 1000 years ago. The Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States.
The tribe traces its origins to the sacred Blue Lake, high in the mountains above the Pueblo, which in a landmark decision, was returned by the U.S. government to the ownership of the Taos Pueblo in 1970. Because of its religious significance Blue Lake is closed to the public. Taos Pueblo ceremonialism is ancient, but still very current. Much of it revolves around the sacred Blue Lake ceremony which takes place in the seclusion of Blue Lake in late August of each year. The ceremony is an initiation rite to gain membership in the Taos Pueblo Kiva societies. This ritual is essential to full participation in Taos Pueblo religious life, and in secular political office. The ceremony symbolizes the integrity and unity of the tribe and is very important to the maintenance of traditional Taos Pueblo culture.
San Geronimo Day, September 30th, is another event of great importance to the Pueblo. Named after St. Jerome, the patron saint of the Pueblo, it was originally a fall trading festival at which neighboring tribes would gather. After Spanish colonization San Geronimo Day was institutionalized. It incorporated the original rituals with those of the church. Among the ceremonies that have always been a part of San Geronimo Day are the morning races along the race course in front of the north building, and the afternoon pole climb. Running has always carried great religious significance at Taos Pueblo. The ceremonial life of the tribe also includes the deer dance, the buffalo dance and the turtle dance, as well as the dramatic Christmas Eve procession and the Christmas Day Matachines Dance.
For the Indians of Taos Pueblo, life has been a continuing struggle against external forces which have come into Taos. As with all Pueblo tribes, Taos Pueblo was agrarian, and was raided by nomadic Indians such as the Navajos and Apaches. Later, Spanish Conquistadores and settlers, French traders and trappers, and finally, American settlers exerted their influence on the tribe.
Although the interaction between the Spanish colonists and the Indian pueblos was often one of conflict, the early Spanish settlers and Pueblo Indians were also allies against attack by marauding plains Indians. The people of Taos Pueblo have miraculously survived all outside influences and have still retained their essence. Taos Pueblo maintains its tribal sovereignty through the Tribal Governor's office, which consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor Secretary and Tribal Council. The tribal war Chief and his council are responsible for all of the tribe's lands outside of the walls of the main village, while the Central Management System
is the liaison with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and answers to the tribal governor and council. Some members of the tribe work in Taos, others work for tribal programs, and others are employed through the considerable tourism economy of the tribe. Taos Pueblo is famous for its drums and micaceous pottery. In addition, modern art forms have evolved from the traditional ones, including sculpture in clay and alabaster, and painting.
The Indians of Taos Pueblo remain fiercely independent of spirit and mind. They continue to speak Tiwa, which is still an unwritten language, and strive to maintain a balance between their traditional way of life and the modern world.
Continue to next section of A History of Taos.
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