Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santa Fe: Indians of New Mexico

When you think of Native Americans (Indians) what picture do you see in your mind? Too often, Americans assume that all Indians are alike, living in teepees and wearing headdresses. Long ago, there were some Indians who did those things. Today, however, natives to our great country live and dress the way modern Americans do while preserving their traditions. If you visit Santa Fe, you will see natives but you will not see them dressed as they did more than 100 years ago. You will see people who look and dress a lot like you.

Like Texas, New Mexico was once part of Mexico. Before the coming of the Europeans, the area was populated by native tribes. Archaeologists believe that American Indians first arrived in New Mexico between 12,000 to 30,000 years ago. The Indians hunted and gathered food moving from place to place throughout the Southwest. Life changed for the native more than a thousand years ago when some Indians—the Anasazi--began to grow their own food and establish permanent homes. These settlements were called pueblos. Not all tribes gave up their nomadic ways, however, and eventually these Indians became nomadic herders, tending to animals. Even today, in New Mexico, there are natives who raise animals as an economic venture.

Indian weaver
Today New Mexico’s American Indian cultures influence the art and architecture of Santa Fe. Many modern buildings are styled after the pueblo villages of long ago. Throughout Santa Fe and New Mexico you can find beautifully crafted items for sale. Particularly popular are hand woven baskets and cloth, pottery in a distinctive style, and jewelry. Both silver and turquoise are favored by many, though other natural materials are also used to create necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, and earrings.

Woven Indian key fobs
Silver and turquoise pin

Hand weaving a basket

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