Monday, June 04, 2007

Oldest Occupied Community in America

We are having an awesome time on the trip. We are currently just outside of Albuquerque. Today we went to Acoma, the longest continuously occupied town in North America (since at least 650 A.D.). The town is still inhabited by the Acoma Pueblo people and is located on their reservation. They control the tourism there and they give great tours. Our tour guide was an older guy named Gary, a Vietnam Vet who lives on the mesa. He told us about the history of the place and in particular, of the abuses the Acoma people suffered at the hands of the Spanish. Particularly egregious is the history of the church there, which was built on top of the Great Kiva and ceremonial grounds by the forced labor of the Acoma. Those who died building it were interred in the walls of the church. Then when it was completed, the priest said they had to have a bell, and forced them to pay for the bell with four boys and four girls. There is a cemetery just outside the church, and there is a hole in the base of the wall to allow the spirits of the children, and 60 women who were seized after the Pueblo revolt, to return to the mesa. Many of the Acoma are accomlished potters, and so we bought a really nice seed pot with lizards on it. I saw another pot with bear paws on it, but it cost more money than I had on me in cash, and there are no ATMs or credit card machines on the Mesa! I did get the artists card, so I may send him a check and have him mail the pot to me. We also got a beautiful Pendleton blanket with a picture of Acoma on it, which M got me as as an early birthday present.

Acoma Pueblo with the church in the distance

After Acoma, we headed to the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque and hiked up some hills covered with volcanic rock and petroglyphs. The mesa here was created by six volcanic eruptions about 130,000 years ago. The volcanoes are extinct, but as you drive toward the area, the fields along the interstate look like plowed up asphault from the eruptions. The petoglyphs at this site date to as old as 3000 years ago, though most are in the Rio Grande style, which developed around 1300 AD and continued until the end of the 1600s.

Petroglyph National Park

We finished up the day at the Pueblo Indian Culture Center and Museum. That museum is exactly what I wish the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian had been, the tribes' history told their way. It was very much about "this is who we are," whereas the Museum of the American Indian seems more like, "see, we are really still here in spite of colonization."

Tomorrow we are heading to Chaco Canyon, though it seems as though we may have to use some of the original, unpaved Indian roads to get there!

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