Who Are the Pueblo Indians? A Primer

From A to Z, there is interesting history and a wealth of contemporary culture.


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Nineteen Indian pueblos (Spanish word meaning villages) survive in New Mexico. In 1539, before the arrival of the Spanish, more than one hundred pueblos existed in the valley of the Rio Grande and its tributaries. The Pueblo inhabitants are the descendants of the Mogollon and the Anasazi, prehistoric cultures of the Southwestern United States.

Each Pueblo is an independent political and social entity. The Puebloan linguistic heritage continues in the living languages of Tewa, Tiwa, Towa, Keres and Zuni.

Click on the Pueblo name to view its location on a map (Adobe Reader required)

Acoma (Keres, “To prepare or plan”) Called “Sky City” because of its unsurpassed setting high atop a 376-foot sandstone butte. Acoma potters are famed for fine-line black and white pottery.

Cochiti (Keres, “Stone Kiva”) On the west bank of the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Cochiti artist Helen Cordero created the first storyteller in clay which is in the collection of the Museum of International Folk Art. Also noted drummakers.

Isleta (Tiwa, “Knife Laid on the Ground to Play With”) South of Albuquerque, near the Rio Grande. Distinctive pastel style of pottery .

Jemez (Towa, “The People”) Set in a dramatic red-rock canyon of the Jemez River. Jemez potters are known for black-on-red and black/red-on-tan pieces plus engraved (sgraffito) redware.

Laguna (Keres, “Lake People”) Forty miles west of Albuquerque, multiple villages which are nestled in canyons stretching to Mount Taylor (elevation 11,300 feet).

Nambe (Tewa, “Place of Bowl-Shaped Earth) Northwest of Santa Fe, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Known for potters and sculptors, the Nambe Falls, its lake stocked with rainbow trout and a buffalo herd maintained for spiritual reasons.

Picuris (Tiwa, “Those Who Paint”) The mountain pueblo. Known for golden-hued micaceous pottery.

Pojoaque (Tewa, “Water Drinking Place”) North of Santa Fe. Home of the Poeh Cultural Center & Museum.

Sandia (Tiwa, “Green Reed Place”) Borders Albuquerque on the north in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. Bien Mur Market Center, Buffalo Preserve.

San Felipe (Keres. Indian name uncertain) 30 miles north of Albuquerque. Conservative, low-profile pueblo. Nativities and heishi jewelry.

San Ildefonso (Tewa, “Where the Water Cuts Through”) North of Santa Fe on the way to Los Alamos. Known for the black-on-black pottery developed by Maria Martinez. Also redware and polychrome vessels and experimental contemporary pottery.

San Juan (Tewa, “Village of the Strong People”) Located in the shadow of Black Mesa. Known for redware pottery incised with thin, geometric patterns.

Santa Ana (Keres, “Tamaya”) Located 16 miles north of Albuquerque. Home of the elegant Hotel Tamaya with views of the Rio Grande Valley and west face of the Sandia Mountains.

Santa Clara (Tewa, “Valley of Wild Roses”) Site of the Puye Cliff Dwellings; known for many artistic dynasties of potters; origin of artists Pablita Velarde and the late Helen Hardin.

Santo Domingo (Keres. Indian name uncertain) Very traditional, conservative pueblo. Known for fine heishi jewelry as well as pottery painted with bold geometric patterns.

Taos (Tiwa, “Our Village” or “At Red Willow Canyon Mouth”) Historic multistoried village, a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage Site. Arts include leather craft, drums, micaceous pottery, stone sculpture.

Tesuque (Tewa, “Narrow Place of Cottonwood Trees”) Located 5 minutes north of Santa Fe on the banks of Tesuque River. Known for brightly painted figurines called Rain Gods; jewelry, paintings, weavings and beadworking.

Zia (Keres, “Tsia”) Northwest of Bernalillo on a rocky ledge. Source of the sun symbol used on the NM state flag. Known for red and white pottery, especially the design of a big-eyed bird with a split tail.

Zuni (Zuni, Keres “The Middle Place”) Famed for jewelry including mosaic overlay and inlay, petit point; traditional and contemporary animal fetishes carved from stone, shell, wood and antler. Home of the Shalako ceremonial dances.

Related Pages

Collecting Indian Pottery article

How Pueblo Pottery Is Made article

A Sacred Place: Meditations on Corn article

Pottery: Enduring Styles of the Pueblos article

Glossary of Pueblo Pottery Terms article

Indian Fetishes article

Glossary of Indian Arts Terms article

Poetry of the Pueblo Dances article

Collector’s Resources


Cowboys & Indians Antiques | 505-255-4054
House of the Shalako rem By Appointment in Peralta | 505-242-4579
Wright's Indian Art | 505-266-0120

Santa Fe

Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery | 505.986.1234
Chimayo Trading & Mercantile | 505-351-4566
Steve Elmore Indian Art | 505-995-9677
GrimmerRoche rem 422 West San Francisco | 982-8669
Morning Star Gallery | 505.982.8187
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture | 505-476-1250
The Rainbow Man | 505-982-8706
Sherwoods Spirit of America | 505-988-1776


Bryans Gallery 121 Kit Carson Road | 575-758-9407

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