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People of the Acoma Pueblo

The Acoma Pueblo sits atop a 365-foot mesa, about 60 miles (96 km) west of present-day Albuquerque, New Mexico the people lived in a sheltered, isolated community for over 1,200 years. Archaeologists believe that the Anasazi abandoned their homelands, in the canyons because of changes in the climate and other problems. Two centuries later, in the thirteenth century, the Acoma Pueblo rose and still stands today, and it’s one of the United States’ earliest continuously inhabited communities.N12

The word, “Acoma,” according to American linguist and ethnologist, John Peabody Harrington, refers to “the people.” However, a number of sources suggest that it may have come from the word, “Acú,” and either refers to “the place that always was,” or “People of the Rock.” “Pueblo,” of course, comes from the Spanish word for “village,” “town,” or “populated place.” The Acoma peoples speak Western Keresan, a language unique to the Acoma and Laguna pueblos and related to the languages of only a few, isolated pueblos in the Southwestern United States.N13

The People that Always Were, traditionally, lived as subsistence farmers, using tools of wood and stone. The Acoma ground corn, a staple food for many Indians of the region, by hand, with mortars. They made a thin corn bread, known as “Mut-tze-nee.” They also gathered seeds, berries, and nuts, and hunted game, like antelope, deer, and rabbit. Some food, like corn, beans, and squash, they raised. They eventually managed water with irrigation, dams, and terraces. Their economy, communal by nature, meant equal distribution of labor and produce.

The Acoma interacted regularly with the Laguna Indians, and they traded extensively with Native American nomads and neighboring tribes. After the arrival of the white men to the region, they adapted to the new market, sometimes modifying their wares to the tastes and demands of the new European culture, as did many Native American tribes who traded effectively.

The Acoma, likewise, participated in trading fairs of the region, and materials and goods passed from their hands as far as the coasts of North America and Mexico and back. They traded peacefully with the Spanish when they arrived, and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado described the Acoma Pueblo as “one of the strongest places we have seen.”N14

Contributing Author – Jeffery Bacon