American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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Sandia Pueblo

"Sandia" comes from the Spanish for "watermelon," referring to the size, shape, and color of the nearby Sandia Mountains. 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). Rio Grande Pueblos are known as eastern Pueblos; Zunis, Hopis, and sometimes Acomas and Lagunas are known as western Pueblos. The Tiwa name for Sandia Pueblo is Napeya or Nafiat, "at the dusty place." Southern Tiwa is a Kiowa-Tanoan language.

Sandia Pueblo is located fifteen miles north of Albuquerque, on the east bank of the Rio Grande. The altitude ranges from 5,000 to 10,670 feet, and the land contains good farmland, game, and wild foods.

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado probably visited Sandia Pueblo in 1540. In 1598, Juan de Oñate arrived in the area with settlers, founding the colony of New Mexico. Oñate carried on the process, already underway in nearby areas, of subjugating the local Indians; forcing them to pay taxes in crops, cotton, and work and opening the door for Catholic missionaries to attack their religion. The Spanish renamed the pueblos with saints' names and began a program of church construction, constructing the Mission of San Francisco Sandia in 1617. At the same time, the Spanish introduced such new crops as peaches, wheat, and peppers into the region. In 1620, a royal decree created civil offices at each pueblo; silver-headed canes, many of which remain in use today, symbolized the governor's authority.

Sandia joined the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. For years, the Spaniards had routinely tortured Indians for practicing traditional religion. They also forced the Indians to labor for them, sold them into slavery, and let Spaniard-owned cattle overgraze Indian land, a situation that eventually led to drought, erosion, and famine. Popé of San Juan Pueblo and other Pueblo religious leaders planned the great revolt, sending runners carrying cords of maguey fibers to mark the day of rebellion. On August 10, 1680, a virtually united stand on the part of the Pueblos drove the Spanish from the region. The Indians killed many Spaniards but refrained from mass slaughter, allowing most of them to leave Santa Fe for El Paso.

The Spanish burned the Sandia Pueblo after the revolt. It was then reoccupied but later burned or abandoned several times in the 1680s and 1690s; the pueblo was in ruins in 1692. The Sandias first fled to the nearby mountains and then lived for a time at the Hopi Pueblo. The Sandia Pueblo was permanently reoccupied in 1748 by a mixed group of refugees from various pueblos. Meanwhile, Santa Fe was officially reconquered in 1692, although Spanish rule was notably less severe from then on. Harsh forced labor all but ceased, and the Indians reached an understanding with the Church that enabled them to continue practicing their traditional religion.

Sandia Pueblo featured multistoried apartment-style dwellings 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. 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. 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.


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