High Desert Sun

Places of Interest
  |  Gorp.com

Within a 35-mile radius of the plaza in Santa Fe are a half dozen pueblos, including Tesuque, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Pojoaque and San Ildefonso, where visitors can get a sense of contemporary pueblo Indian life. The contrasts are fascinating traditional feast day dances on the one hand, gambling casinos on the other.

The ancient people who once populated the Four Corners region left behind intriguing village ruins at sites such as Bandelier and Chaco Canyon. Indeed, Chaco is perhaps the most important Anasazi site in the entire Southwest. It is a National Historic Park located about 128 miles (a four hour drive) from Bandelier. The Puye Cliffs ruins are less-visited but extremely interesting remains of an Anasazi village located within Santa Clara Pueblo land.

Bandelier is a lovely, though sometimes busy, park that protects remarkable late-period Anasazi ruins. For $1, buy the tour brochure that leads you through the maze of little adobe rooms, kivas and caves in this pinon and ponderosa-studded canyon, called Frijoles, or beans. The entire walk, including scrambles up wooden ladders to peer into eerie abandoned homes, takes about 1 1/2 hours. Bandelier is also a favorite backpacking area, with moderate strenuous trails that lead deep into the surrounding Jemez mountains for primitive camping.

The descendants of those village and cliff dwellers eventually settled in clusters of adobe towns, or pueblos, along the Rio Grande. They are still occupied by tribal members. The best map to southwest Indian attractions is published by the California branch of the AAA. Called The Guide to Indian Country, the map is available in many bookstores as well as directly from AAA.

Basic Courtesy

Take time to learn about the New Mexico pueblos, which include Taos, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambe San Juan, Tesuque, Picuris, Santo Domingo and Cochiti. Their beautiful crafts, including pottery and jewelry, is on display at local galleries in Santa Fe, Taos and the pueblos themselves. Each summer there are two sensational outdoor exhibitions the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Fair, held in July at one of the pueblos, and Indian Market in Santa Fe in late August. Also, almost every pueblo celebrates a feast day and/or saints day, when tribal members welcome visitors to see their traditional dances. They are usually held outdoors in the plazas of the individual pueblos.When visiting either modern pueblos or ancient ruins, be aware that there is proper behavior expected of you, just as you would be expected to observe low-impact regulations while enjoying a visit in a designated wilderness area.

At archeological sites, federal law prohibits moving, collecting or otherwise disturbing any structures, rock art or artifacts even a shard of pottery. At the modern pueblos, keep in mind that you are wandering among people's homes. Do not enter interiors unless invited. Remember that dances are religious observances; keep children quiet and don't be intrusive. Some pueblos either do not allow any photography, or charge fees for using still or movie cameras. Don't photograph anyone without permission. Be respectful of privacy and property and tribal members will show you equal courtesy and warmth.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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