American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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Nambé Pueblo

"Nambé" is a Spanish rendition of a similar sounding Tewa name, loosely interpreted as "rounded earth." 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 Nambé Pueblo is located about fifteen miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Nambé people spoke a dialect of Tewa, a Kiowa-Tanoan language.

The Nambé people built small, irregular dwellings clustered around a central plaza. The buildings were constructed of adobe (earth-and-straw) bricks, with beams across the roof that were covered with poles, brush, and plaster. Floors were of wood plank or packed earth. Pithouses, or kivas, served as ceremonial chambers and clubhouses. The village plaza, around which all dwellings were clustered, is the spiritual center of the village where all the balanced forces of the world come together.

Before the Spanish arrived, people from the Nambé Pueblo ate primarily corn, beans, and squash. They also grew cotton and tobacco. They hunted deer, mountain lion, antelope, and rabbit, and gathered a variety of wild seeds, nuts, berries, and other foods. The Spanish introduced wheat, alfalfa, chilies, fruit trees, grapes, sheep, cattle, and garden vegetables, which soon became part of the regular diet.

In the Pueblo Way, art and life are inseparable. Nambé artists specialized in making embroidered dresses. Songs, dances, and dramas also qualify as traditional arts. Many Pueblos experienced a renaissance of traditional arts in the twentieth century, beginning in 1919 with San Ildefonso pottery.


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