Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Taos Pueblo


We are traveling in northern New Mexico, and today we visited the Taos Pueblo. It is a beautiful and inspiring place. Its history is quite tragic, and I hope that its people continue to persevere.

Among other things that I've learned about the native Americans of New Mexico, I now understand that there are 21 federally recognized Pueblo groups. We have driven near lands of several of these groups in the past week, beginning with the Cochiti Pueblo and including the Tesuque and Pojoaque.

The Taos are the northernmost of the Pueblo people, and the area we visited today contains the largest surviving Pueblo structures. They are made of adobe (earth mixed with water and straw), and they include ladders leading to the roofs, which I believe are similar in style and purpose to the ancient Mesopotamian ladders about which I teach my students.

Our tour guide taught us about a particular injustice perpetrated by the US government against the Taos Pueblo.  The Rio Pueblo, which we stood next to and which I found incredibly calming, has its headwaters at Blue Lake, further up in the mountains. The Taos people consider both the river and the lake to be sacred (more information is here). 

After initial confrontation with Spanish settlers, it sounds as though the Taos and Spanish eventually reached an accommodation and indeed lived in relative harmony. Not so much, once the United States became involved.

In 1906, Blue Lake was placed under the control of the Forest Service (a decision made by President Roosevelt), and the Taos people were stripped of their title and rights related to the lake. They protested for 64 years, and Congress (along with President Nixon) finally restored their rights in 1970.

I've been studying the aerials on Google Maps, and it appears that Blue Lake is not within the Taos Pueblo boundaries. However, I gather that the people have the exclusive right to use the lake.

Learning about the history of the Taos and Blue Lake reminds me that there are multiple perspectives to every historical story. Several days ago we were lauding Teddy Roosevelt for his foresight in creating the National Park system. I think he's still deserving of considerable praise, and yet today I learned that Roosevelt -- even in the context of land conservation and preservation -- treated some people with considerable unfairness and disregard.



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