Monday, September 21, 2009


acoma indian reservation, brief history

church of st. stephen (re-constructed)
church of san sebastian
mesa top
acoma seed pot. Seeds are saved in pot; pot is broken when seeds are needed for planting.
acoma water girls

mesa top

pueblo reflection in pool of water
enchanted mesa

Acoma Indian Reservation

The Acoma Indian Reservation is located in parts of Cibola, Socorro, and Catron counties, New Mexico, USA, and covers 1,541.033 km² (594.996 sq mi). The number of tribal members is about 6000. The reservation borders the Laguna Indian Reservation to the east and is near El Malpais National Monument due west. A total of 2,802 people were living on the reservation's lands, as reported in the 2000 census.

The Acoma Pueblo is the heart of the reservation and is held as the oldest continuously inhabited place in the United States.[1]


Acoma Houses on mesa top

The Pueblo (village) of Acoma was built on top of a 300 foot mesa in the state of New Mexico. The pueblo was built on top of the mesa for defensive purposes, keeping neighboring tribes from raiding food and other supplies. Archeologists have found evidence that the tribe had been in the area since 1200 A.D. Tribal legends and stories have placed its occupation to a time before Christ. The village continues to be occupied to the present day. The Acoma People came from the north and are believed to be related to the inhabitants of Mesa Verde (Colorado). The first recorded contact between Acoma and Europeans occurred on August 29, 1540. Capitan Hernando de Alvarado and Fry Juan Padilla along with an escort of soldiers arrived at the foot of the Acoma village. Capitan Hernando described Acoma as�The strongest ever seen, because the city was built on a high rock. The ascent was so difficult that we repented climbing to the top. The houses are three and four stories high. The people have of the same type as those in the province of Cibola (Zuni Pueblo), and they have abundant supplies of maize, beans, and turkeys, like those of New Spain�. Initial contact between both parties was peaceful, uneventful and remained this way for several years. Along with the arrival of the Spaniards came change for the pueblos of New Mexico. Spanish explorers had brought different beliefs and traditions with them. The Acoma people were introduced to Catholicism and were slowly forced to take the religion on as their only religion. The Acoma people were defiant to the beliefs and customs of the church. Incidents of fights and other skirmishes have been recorded by both the Acoma and Spanish people.

Mesa Top

The biggest confrontation between the Acoma people and the Spaniards started on December 4, 1598. Juan de Onate had started to move settlers into New Mexico. He was being followed by his brother Captain Juan de Zaldivar. Along with 30 men Zaldivar had camped near the Acoma village. An incident occurred in the Acoma village which led to a battle between the Acoma and Spaniards. Zaldivar and 12 of his men had been killed in the fighting.

Zaldivars brother Vicente de Zaldivar assembled a company of 70 men to punish the Acoma people for what they did. On January 21, 1599 Zaldivar attacked the village from the valley floor. The battle lasted for 3 days until the Spanish soldiers finally ascended the mesa and took control of the village.

Acoma men and women were taken prisoner and tried in court at the Pueblo of Santo Domingo. The Spanish court ruled that the Acoma people had been guilty of murdering Juan de Zaldivar and his men. The Acoma were dealt a sever sentence, men over 25 years of age were sentenced to have one foot amputated and were sentenced to serve 20 years of slavery. The women (12 to 25 years old) were also sentenced to serve 20 years of slavery. Children and elder tribal members were released, but had to live under the guidance of Spanish officials and Spanish priests.

The tribe remained under Spanish control for several years until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. This was led by a medicine man named Pope of the San Juan Pueblo. 22 pueblos in the state of New Mexico organized a secret plan to take back the lands in which the Spaniards had settled on. The revolt began on August 11, 1680 and lasted for several days, tribes attacked settlements through out the southwest (state of New Mexico), most of the fighting took place in the city of Santa Fe. The Acoma and surrounding tribes from the county of Cibola forced settlers to move back into Mexico. The Pueblo People (of New Mexico) held the Spaniards off for 12 more years. The alliance of the tribes began to break up because of infighting. Slowly the Spanish government reclaimed the land (New Mexico) establishing permanent settlements in the early 1690�s.

Acoma Today

The Pueblo of Acoma and the people have gone through many adversities and continue to preserver. Today the Acoma Indian Reservation has grown to 365,000 archers. There are currently 6,104 tribal members in and out of the reservation. The Estaban del Ray Mission was designated a historical landmark by the U.S. Government. The pueblo is occupied by 13 families year round. The rest of the tribal members live in surrounding communities (Acomita, McCartys, Anzac and the Sky Line subdivision). The entire pueblo (old Acoma) is reoccupied several times out of the year annually to celebrate religious and feast day ceremonies. Acoma now has several businesses that provide income for the people. The Sky City Casino (the biggest business), Flower Mountain Travel Plaza (gas station), Acomita lake (closed), Bar 15 cattle co., Big Game Hunting, and the Acoma Tourist Visitors Center (the oldest business). The Tourist Center is changing it's name to the Sky City Cultural Center once a new building is constructed (the last building burned down in May of 2000). The Acoma tribe continues to adjust to the times and will endure whatever the future holds. Our heritage and traditions will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

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