Taos Pueblo: 1,000 Years of History
Located just two miles northeast of the town of Taos, Taos Pueblo is the oldest of the communities in the area. Situated at the foot of Taos Mountain, the Pueblo's two main buildings are the oldest continuously occupied structures in the United States. Over 1,000 years old, and virtually unchanged in the 400 years since the white man first saw them, these buildings are the sensitive attempt of a reverent people to build in harmony with the natural beauty around them.
Surrounded by fertile pastures and farmlands, Taos Pueblo is home to the Red Willow People and it has survived the invasion of the Spanish in the 1540s, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the Taos Rebellion against the United States government in 1847.
The Taos Pueblo tribe holds its culture very close to its heart. It is perhaps the most traditional of all the Northern New Mexico pueblos. The residents live very similarly to the earlier generations of ancestors who came before them. Many members of the Taos Pueblo community work tirelessly to instill in the younger generation a respect for the language, customs and traditional ceremonies of the tribe. Because of this, there is a strict etiquette that must be adhered to when visiting the Pueblo.
The Pueblo residents use the Rio Pueblo, the stream which runs through the village plaza area, for their water supply and those who live in the central buildings have no electricity. It is important to remember when visiting the Pueblo that these people are allowing you close proximity to their homes, and respecting their privacy is essential.
Today, as in the past, the Tewa people are skilled leather workers, producing moccasins, drums and leather clothing that are sold in local shops in Taos. They also own and operate the Taos Mountain Casino just south of the Pueblo. Probably the most-visited pueblo in New Mexico, a journey to this sacred ground offers the most authentic look at the lifestyle of the ancient pueblo peoples.
The Taos Pueblo Powwow
A highlight of summer in Taos is the annual Taos Pueblo Powwow. “Powwow” means a gathering of spiritual leaders, and today that refers to Indian celebrations where members of different tribes meet to sing, dance, tell stories and rekindle old friendships. Taos Pueblo’s Powwow attracts visitors from across North America. One of the most popular Powwow events is the Grand Entry, where a tribal elder leads the multitude of ornately costumed dancers into the arena. The Powwow also provides a marketplace, with a wide array of vendors and artists. Booths offer jewelry, pottery, beadwork, and weaving. And food concessions supply the hungry crowd with green chile cheeseburgers, Navajo tacos, roasted corn on the cob, and fry bread.
Taos Pueblo in Literature and Film
The historic Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been the scene for several literary works that have defined their genre, including Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.Written in 1932, the story is set on a New Mexico Pueblo, and Huxley got his inspiration from his experiences in Taos. Frank Waters, author of many books on the Southwest, wrote A Man Who Killed a Deer,which takes place in Taos Pueblo. The list of Taos Pueblo-related literature spans literally hundreds of books and articles related to this colorful, historic place.
The Pueblo has also served as the location for many films. The most well-known may be the anti-establishment movie, Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Much of the 1960s cult classic was conceived at the New Buffalo Commune in Arroyo Hondo. The famous scene of the two bikers riding through Taos Pueblo is unforgettable. Lucille Ball spent time at the Pueblo village in 1942, during the making of Valley of the Sun. Other films shot in part at Taos Pueblo include the 1956 Martin and Lewis comedy, Hollywood or Bust, and the 1992 documentary by Pueblo native, Diane Reyna, Surviving Columbus.
When Visiting Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo is open to the public year round. There are times, however that the Pueblo may be closed for observance of traditional quiet times, special ceremonies or tribal funerals.
For the best touring experience, please observe the following rules:
• Respect the privacy of Taos Pueblo residents.
• Pay the appropriate fee for each camera.
• Do not photograph tribal members or their homes without asking permission.
• No photography is allowed in the San Geronimo Chapel.
• Do not enter the old church ruins or cemetery.
• Do not wade in or in any way pollute the river stream. It provides drinking water for the village.