New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos are generous in opening their doors to nontribal members and sharing glimpses of their ancient and rich cultures. However, visitors are expected to act appropriately. Tribal members are not actors, and their homes are not theme parks. Because in the past outsiders have tried to change Pueblo culture and heritage, pueblos have become guarded with their traditional ways and beliefs. Here’s a general list of etiquette tips that can be applied at all pueblos.
• The best way to enjoy and learn about pueblos is to take a guided tour. Guides help explain much of the history and traditions of the pueblos and can answer many of the questions you will have. Acoma and Taos pueblos are known for their excellent tours.
• The most common breach of etiquette at pueblos is photography and other forms of documentation. Photography restrictions vary at each pueblo. Often, a permit must be purchased. Ask first, then shoot.
• Ask permission before photographing residents, even if you have purchased a camera permit. It is good manners to purchase items before photographing vendors.
• Often, only portions of pueblos are open to the public. These areas are not always clearly marked as being off limits. Ask before entering an area you are not sure about. Typically, cemeteries should never be photographed or entered.
• Never remove anything from the pueblos. Leave pottery shards, rocks and other items where you find them.
• Don’t bother residents by asking them general questions. Ask your tour guide, tribal officials, or at the visitor center. Reading books or touring a museum before your visit is very helpful. A visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque (505-843-7270, www.indianpueblo.org) is a great place to start.
• Do not touch or talk to dancers unless they initiate a conversation.
• Do not applaud after dances or talk during them. Ceremonial dances are religious services, and visitors should act accordingly.
• Never attempt to enter or climb on kiva ladders.
• Pueblos may suddenly close for whatever reason, even if they are listed as being open. Respect the pueblo’s decision, and do not insist or try to enter the pueblo anyway. Call before traveling to visit a pueblo to make sure it is open that day.
• Understand that each pueblo is different. While there are many similarities, each pueblo is a sovereign nation with its own history, language and culture.
Here’s a list of the 19 Pueblos and their main tribal administration phone numbers. Always call pueblos before visiting to make sure they are open to the public that day, and to clarify any questions concerning photography and other potentially sensitive issues. Feast days have been listed depending on the pueblo’s wishes. Per the pueblos’ wishes, we have omitted Spanish punctuation from their names. More information may be found at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Web site, www.indianpueblo.org.
Acoma – The Old Village, “Sky City,” is built upon a 357-foot mesa for effective defense. Acoma artists are known for their intricate fine black-line rain pots. The tribe operates its Sky City Casino and Haak’u museum and cultural center. Feast day is Sept. 2. (505) 552-6604. www.skycity.com.
Cochiti Puelbo – Located 45 miles north of Albuquerque, Cochiti maintains a nationally ranked golf course. The pueblo is known for its cottonwood drums and its Storyteller pottery, first created by Helen Cordero in 1964. Feast day is July 4. (505) 465-2244. www.pueblodecochiti.org.
Isleta – Fifteen miles south of Albuquerque, Isleta offers the 27-hole Isleta Eagle golf course, Isleta Gaming Palace Casino and year-round fishing and camping/RV areas. Governor’s Feast Day is June 17. (505) 869-3111. www.isletapueblo.com.
Jemez – Jemez Pueblo is tucked away in the beautiful Jeméz Mountains on N.M. 4, 30 miles northwest of Bernalillo. Photography is not permitted at the pueblo but is allowed as its Red Rocks Recreation Area. A visit to the pueblo’s Walatowa Visitor Center and gift shop is worthwhile. Feast days on Aug. 2 and Nov. 12. (505) 834-7238. www.jemezpueblo.org.
Laguna – Forty-six miles west of Albuquerque, Laguna’s colorful pottery is sought after by collectors. Feast day is Sept. 19. (505) 552-6654.
Nambe – Nambe Pueblo, 22-miles northeast of Santa Fe off N.M. 503, offers a cottonwood-shaded picnic and camping area near its famous Nambé Falls. Feast day is Oct. 4, and the impressive Nambé Falls Ceremonial every July 4 is open to the public. (505) 455-2036.
Ohkay Owingeh – Five miles north of Española, Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan) offers its intricate animal-design pottery, Ohkay Casino and Ohkay Owingeh Co-op. Feast day is June 24. (505) 852-4400.
Picuris – Picuris Pueblo, 24 miles southeast of Taos, offers self-guided tours to archaeological ruins on its land. Feast day is Aug. 10. (575) 587-2519. www.picurispueblo.net.
Pojoaque – Pojoaque Pueblo, 16 miles north of Santa Fe, has its impressive Poeh Center and Museum, Cities of Gold Casino and Buffalo Thunder Resort and golf course. Feast day is Dec. 12. (505) 455-2278. www.poehcenter.com.
Sandia – Sandia Pueblo, 12 miles north of Albuquerque, operates several successful businesses, including its Sandia Resort and Casino, Bien Muir Indian Market and Sandia Lakes. Feast day is June 13. (505) 867-3317. www.sandiapueblo.nsn.us.
San Felipe – San Felipe Pueblo, 10 miles north of Bernalillo, operates its popular Casino Hollywood and Speedway off of I-25. Visitors are invited to attend its May 1 feast day. (505) 867-3381. www.sanfelipecasino.com.
San Ildefonso – Twenty-two miles northwest of Santa Fe, San Ildefonso is perhaps best known as the home of famed late-potter Maria Martinez, whose highly polished black-on-black pottery is highly valued worldwide. Feast day is Jan. 23. (575) 455-3549.
Santa Ana – With its Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, 27-hole Twin Warriors golf course, fine-dining at Prairie Star Restaurant and other tribally owned business, Santa Ana is one of the most successful tribes in the country. Its main center is just north of Bernalillo at U.S. 550 near I-25, but its traditional Old Village is eight miles northwest other. Its feast day is July 26 (505) 867-3301. www.santaana.org.
Santa Clara – Santa Clara, two miles south of Española, is know for its red pottery, black-on-black pottery and other high-quality arts. It operates Big Rock Casino in Española, and its fascinating Puyé Cliff Dwellings and Harvey House are open to public tours. Feast day is Aug. 12. (505) 747-2455, 753-7326. www.puyecliffs.com, www.santaclaradevcorp.com.
Santo Domingo – Twenty-five miles south of Santa Fe, Santo Domingo is one of the largest and most traditional pueblos. The pueblo is known for its exceptionally beautiful ceremonies. Feast day is Aug. 4. (505) 465-2214.
Taos – Taos Pueblo’s ancient, multistoried buildings, fine pottery, jewelry and intertribal ceremonies make it a must-see for visitors to New Mexico. It is closed from mid-March through mid-April. The pueblo, named a World Heritage Site in 1992, operates its Taos Mountain Casino. Feast day is Sept. 30. (575) 758-1028. www.taospueblo.com.
Tesuque – This small village, 10 miles north of Santa Fe, is listed on the national Register of Historic Places. The tribe maintains a camping area and a store that sells traditional artwork, as well as its Camel Rock Casino, named for a camel-shaped rock formation on its land visible from U.S. 285. It also manages the popular and eclectic Tesuque Flea Market. Feast day is June 3. (505) 983-2667. www.tesuquepueblofleamarket.com.
Zia – This small pueblo is known for its geometric pottery designs, including the sun symbol that graces the New Mexico state flag. Zia operates a small cultural center and fishing areas. Feast day is Aug. 15. (505) 867-3304.
Zuni – Thirty-four miles south of Gallup, Zuni was originally thought to be one of the Seven Cites of Gold by the Spanish. While visitors may not find gold, they will find exquisite silver and turquoise jewelry and unique stone-carved fetishes. The most populous pueblo, Zuni operates its Ashiwa Awan Museum and Heritage Center. (505) 782-7238. www.ashiwi.org.
New Mexico's 19 Pueblos are generous in opening their doors to nontribal members and sharing glimpses of their ancient and rich cultures. However, visitors are expected to act appropriately. Tribal members are not actors, and their homes are not theme parks. Because in the past outsiders have tried to change Pueblo culture and heritage, pueblos have become guarded with their traditional ways and beliefs. Here's a general list of etiquette tips that can be...read more
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