It's backwards because what I have been calling the abandoned land, the Colorado Plateau, was deserted by the Ancestral Pueblo people in the 1200s. The pueblos we are visiting, like Acoma, Cochiti, and Taos, are the places to which the Ancestral Pueblans migrated, and still live today. So we're telling the end of the story before the beginning and the middle. But we will be back on the Colorado Plateau soon enough, and sometimes it helps to know how the story ends before we deal with the beginning. It helps us to understand why things are the way they are today.
Taos Pueblo is one of the single most photographed buildings in North America. Along with Acoma and Old Oraibi, it is among the oldest continuously inhabited villages in the country. It has a spectacular setting, tucked on a high plain between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande River. It's not on the Rio Grande River, like most of the other New Mexican pueblos. It's not hard to see why...
One of the most emblematic battles that ever took place at Taos Pueblo involved the federal government, but didn't involve guns and bows. Instead, it involved lawyers and senators. The creation story of the Taos people points to Blue Lake as their place of origin. It was part of their history and spiritual journey. But in 1906 the federal government took over administration of the lake, adding it to Carson National Forest. The people of Taos expected to have access to their sacred lands, but the forest service had different ideas, opening the region to "multiple-use": ranching, mining and recreation. The pueblo began a campaign to get their lands back. It took a shamefully long time, but in 1970 President Nixon signed legislation returning Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo.
Pecos Pueblo, the subject of our last post, was at a geographical choke-point, and as such was directly involved in wars and battles for much of their existence. The ongoing conflicts took their toll and in 1838 Pecos was abandoned. Taos was farther to the north and could pick and choose their battles. They were major players in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, and resisted the return of the Spaniards twelve years later. Things were apparently mostly peaceful for the next century or so, but things changed with the Mexican-American War in 1846. The United States laid claim to New Mexico, and the Taos Pueblo resisted the new government, along with Mexican nationals living in nearby Taos.
The Taos Pueblo is among the most conservative of the New Mexico pueblos, and around 150 people follow the traditional ways, living in the old village with no running water or electricity. It is a fascinating place to visit