American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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Laguna Pueblo

"Laguna," Spanish for "lake," refers to a large pond near the pueblo. The word "pueblo" comes from the Spanish for "village." It refers both to a certain style of Southwest Indian architecture, characterized by multistory, apartment-like buildings made of adobe (pueblo), and to the people themselves (Pueblo). The Pueblos along the Rio Grande are known as eastern Pueblos; Zunis, Hopis, and sometimes Acomas and Lagunas are known as western Pueblos. The Lagunas call their pueblo Kawaika, "Lake." The people spoke a Keresan dialect similar to that of the Acoma Pueblo. The Laguna Pueblo is made up of six major villages in central New Mexico, forty-two miles west of Albuquerque.

All Pueblo people are thought to be descended from Ancestral Puebloan, perhaps Mogollon, and several other ancient peoples, although the precise origin of the Keresan peoples is unknown. From them they learned architecture, farming, pottery, and basketry. Larger population groups became possible with effective agriculture and ways to store food surpluses. In the context of a relatively stable existence, the people devoted increasing amounts of time and attention to religion, arts, and crafts.

The Laguna Pueblo featured multistory, apartment-style dwellings. The lower levels were reserved mainly for storage. The buildings were constructed of adobe (earth-and-straw) bricks, with beams across the roof that were covered with poles, brush, and plaster. The roof of one level served as the floor of another. The levels were interconnected by ladders. As an aid to defense, the traditional design included no doors or windows; entry was through the roof. Baking ovens stood outside the buildings. Water was primarily obtained from two natural cisterns. Laguna also features two rectangular pithouses, or kivas, for ceremonial chambers and clubhouses. Herders stayed in caves, small rectangular houses, logs in a horseshoe shape covered with brush, or dugouts. The village plaza is the spiritual center of the village where all the balanced forces of the world come together.

Before the Spanish arrived, people living at the Laguna Pueblo ate primarily corn, beans, and squash. They also grew sunflowers and tobacco and kept turkeys. They hunted deer, antelope, and rabbits and gathered a variety of wild seeds, nuts, berries, and other foods. Favorite foods as of about 1700 included a blue corn drink, corn mush, pudding, wheat cake, corn balls, paper bread, peach-bark drink, flour bread, wild berries, and prickly pear fruit. The Lagunas also raised herds of sheep, goats, horses, and donkeys after the Spanish introduced these animals into the region.

Lagunas practiced dry farming and ditch irrigation technology. They used mica for window lights. Fine white clay yielded excellent pottery, and wicker baskets were fashioned of red willow shoots.


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