Report on the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico

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Map Showing Location of Pueblos in New Mexico
Map Showing Location of Pueblos in New Mexico

The report on the 19 pueblos of New Mexico to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, June 30, 1864, by United States Indian Agent John Ward, after taking the census, is as follows:

Much has been written and a great deal more said about the Pueblo Indians, their origin, enigmas, religion, eta., a great portion of which is mere speculation. The Indians have few memorials, if any, to which they can refer for information, while their traditions, from all that can be learned, are rather limited; besides, they have a very imperfect, knowledge of time, distance, or numbers, which readers them incapable of giving correct information in regard to important particulars relative to their history. Notwithstanding all this, however, the Pueblos (or village Indians) are certainly an interesting people. The different dialects spoken by them and the many ruins of ancient pueblos found scattered through the various parts of the country are evidences that the present race is the fragment of once numerous and powerful tribes and confederations. Another interesting fact is, that although speaking different dialects and often located many miles from each other, their habits and customs are so similar as to be hardly distinguishable. Even their governments and mode of conducting local affairs are nearly the same throughout.

These and many other peculiarities offer all ample field for research, but as I consider a task of this kind more adapted to the researches of the antiquary than to those of au Indian agent, I will simply present such facts as have come under my personal observation, together with the information I have been able to obtain from the Indians themselves. These you will find set forth under respective heads, so as to better explain the tabular return.

Number of Families

The numbers given in the table are generally correct, as the information by the Indians was given with much apparent care, The only thing about which any doubt can be felt is in regard to the number of males and females under 18 and 16 years, for very few among them know anything of their age. These remarks are applicable also to persons of 70 years and over, who compute time by the recollection of some great event to them, such as an eclipse of the sun, or a long and bloody war between 2 wild tribes, or when the stars fell; the last having reference to the meteoric shower of 1838, One of the most singular modes of describing age was that of an old resident, who stated that at the time of los virulos bravos (malignant smallpox) ya habia, dormiedo con unit muchacha muy boneta. The time of the smallpox alluded to by this old chronologist was 1800, and that of the eclipse of the sun, referred to by many, in 1806. Thus you will perceive the impossibility of getting correct information on subjects relating to times and dates: all of which your own experience confirms.


It will be perceived by reference to the returns that the number of blind is rather large, particularly in Santa Domingo and Santa Ana. Several cases resulted from smallpox. This disease, as you are aware, is one of the peculiar enemies of the Indian, and his mode of treatment (if treatment it can be called) leads generally to fatal results.


Several of the, pueblos have not a solitary person capable of reading or writing; while, among the few to be found in others, the greater number can only read printed matter. Those who can decipher manuscript and form letters are very limited indeed, and most of them far advanced in years. It could not be otherwise. Not a single place properly entitled to the name of school is to be found among the Pueblos, nor a teacher of any capacity whatever. This matter seems to be entirely overlooked, and the Indians are left to do the best in their power toward the education of their children. The subject has been brought to the notice of the government more than once by officers of the department without eliciting the attention it so much demands. It is therefore respectfully suggested that the propriety of presenting the case fully and forcibly before the department is a matter of the greatest interest and importance. No Indians within the jurisdiction of the United States are better entitled to a favor of the kind than the Pueblos. While thousands dollars are annually expended in other superintendencies for educational purposes, it can he safely said that not one single dollar has been expended in this since our government took possession of the country, now a period, of 18 years. This evidently shows either a great neglect on the part of officials or that the Indians are not worthy of the favor. With proper and judicious management a few schools might easily be established among the Pueblos at comparatively very little or no trouble or expense. This would not only prove it great blessing but show the Indians that government actually has an interest in their welfare. Thus far in regard to education all has been mere promise. No promise of any kind should he made unless the performance quickly follows, for the reason that every failure serves to weaken confidence in the officers and lessen faith in the ability and power of the government.

Increase Or Decrease

You will perceive by reference to the return that the greater number of the Pueblos are evidently on the increase, or at least that the year 1863 has proved, very prolific. Notwithstanding this, however, from all that can be learned, and from many years of almost daily intercourse with these people, I am fully convinced that in the aggregate the pueblo population of New Mexico is gradually but surely decreasing. I regret very much my inability to give any particular reason or satisfactory cause for this decrease, but the past 15 years sustain this statement beyond the possibility of a doubt. (a)

Chiefs or Officers

The tabular statement shows that the number of headmen in one pueblo bears no proportion to the inhabitants of another. For instance, Taos, with a population of 361, returns 16 officers, while James, with 346, returns only 7. This discrepancy arises in this way: some of the towns include all minor officers, of which there are more or less, and others only such as can properly be denominated principal officers. The latter in reality transact all business of importance; and consist of the cacique, governor, and lieutenant governor, war captain and his lieutenant, fiscal major, and aguacil, and these have their subordinates or assistants. To the principal headmen is confided the management of the internal affairs of the pueblo. Each pueblo has a separate organized government of its own, but all are nearly the same, as most of them adhere to ancient customs and laws. The war captain has generally the management of all campaigns made against the enemy, and everything also pertaining thereto. He has also the charge of the haballada (horse herd), sees to the selection of the herders and the changing of the same when necessary. This duty in most pueblos is performed in common, and whether a person has 1 animal or 10 it is the same; he has to serve or furnish a substitute. The herd is usually brought in once a week, at which time the herders are relieved, the number being in proportion to the size of the herd. The war captain and his assistants take their turn, each having charge of his respective party. During the severe months of winter, when the grazing is not good, each individual takes charge of his own animals and keeps them the best way he can. The fiscal major and his subordinates have charge of church matters. They see to all repairs of the edifice and attend to the various other duties pertaining thereto. These officers, in most of the pueblos, are elected annually by the cacique and headmen. This is the general rule indeed, the principal men, generally old and experienced, are the lawmakers. The cacique is elected by this class, and holds his office during lifetime. He is usually selected for his capacity and good qualities. Nothing of importance is done without his knowledge and consent. He presides over the councils, and his decisions are almost invariably adhered to. He is usually much respected, and his influence is great among his people. Many persons are of the opinion that this office is not hereditary, but I have been otherwise informed. Neither wealth nor age seems to be particularly requisite in this election, but, as a general rule, men well advanced in years are chosen from the family next in rank.

The cacique evidently has more to do with the administration of ancient rites than with any other business. The high regard, mingled with respect and affection, which is invariably shown him places him more in tho position of an elder than any other we can think of.


Of this class we include those who are able to undergo the fatigue of a campaign and who can make aggressive or defensive movements against an enemy. Some pueblos include lads of 16 and 17 years and men of 50 and over, provided they are healthy, active, good walkers, fast runners, and can handle the bow and arrow well, These are the main requisites. Boys not over 16 frequently accompany expeditions for the recovery of property stolen by the enemy. This fact accounts for the number of warriors sometimes being about equal to the adults, as shown in the tabular abstract.

The Pueblos are not well supplied with firearms. They place their main reliance on the bow and arrow. This weapon is always ready and handy, far loss expensive than any other, and is easily made and repaired. It will be proper hero to remark that some of the Pueblos were less willing to impart information about the number of their warriors than others, which I traced to the many rumors afloat in regard to drafting. These simple people understood from some source or other that the object in taking the enumeration was to ascertain how many the government could obtain for the army. This was the case with the Pueblos of San Domingo and Isletabuh. Before leaving these towns several persons who placed less credit in such rumors furnished the desired statement. In connection with this I may observe that the same mistrust or want of confidence seems to exist in regard to the amount of property. This was so evident in the 2 pueblos named that it was thought advisable not to trouble them to any extent in the matter hence no return is made under this head. The lack of confidence thus exhibited among a few of the Indians is not to be wondered at. It is entirely attributable to various reports afloat relative to our difficulties at home, the French invasion of Mexico, the number of men to who raised in the territory, los pensiones (taxation), and the like, about which they know little or nothing, but, go where you may, these seem to be the only topics of the day. The 2 pueblos in question are decidedly the most prosperous on the banks of the Rio Grande, and in respect to property they are better off than any other within the superintendency.


There are 5 dialects spoken by the 19 pueblos properly belonging to this department, namely: (1) Taos, Picuris, Sandia, and Isleta; (2) San Juan, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Nambe, Pozuaque, and Tesuque; (3) Cochity, Santa Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Zia, Laguna, and Aconia; (4 and 5) James and Zuñi.

These dialects are so distinct that the Spanish language, which most of the Pueblos speak and understand sufficiently well for the purpose, has to be resorted, to as a common medium of communication. Some of the Indians state that although Taos, Pieuria, Sandia, and Isleta, speak the same language, there is a good deal of difference in many of the words between the first and the last 2 pueblos, and that this results from their location, the former being the most northern in the territory and the latter the most southern, at a distance of about 140 miles from each other; but this has evidently little or nothing to do with the difference of idiom, particularly when we take into consideration the fact that 1 of the 7 Mogul pueblos use the dialect common to those included in the same class with San Juan, which is located due west at a distance of at least 300 miles and seldom visit each other more than once a year, and therefore have but little communication.

The same might be said of Pecos and Jemes. The first, the most eastern, spoke while in existence the same tongue as Jemes, a western town, distant about 80 miles. The few families of Pecos still remaining are now residing at Jemes, and they consider themselves one and the same people.

These dialects have their proper names, but so much confusion is observed in pronunciation and construction that it is impossible to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. The only reliable, genuine name ascertained is that of the dialect spoken by San Juan, Santa Clara, and others included in that class, which is the Tegua, pronounced Té-we.


The Pueblos are all nominally Roman Catholics, and, as o far as can be discerned, appear to be sincere and earnestly devoted to the rites of that church. Each town has its church edifice, which is held in high respect. The people esteem and obey their priests. They generally marry, baptize, and bury according to the rules of that sect. The holy days are generally attended to. Each has its patron saint; whose name the pueblo bears (with few exceptions) and whose anniversary is never neglected. On that day a great feast takes place, and after the ceremonies pertaining to the church are over, which occupy the first part of the day, amusements of all kinds are universally resorted to, such as foot racing, horse racing, cock fighting, gambling, dancing, eating, and drinking, with the usual, accompaniments. On such occasions liberality is an especial virtue, and no pains are spared to make everybody welcome. Some of the pueblos are noted for these feasts, and great numbers from distant parts of the country flock hither to enjoy the amusements and share their hospitality.

The Catholic missionaries have done good service in civilizing these Indians. They appear to possess the necessary patience and industry for such a work. The imposing rites and ceremonies of the church, in our opinion, have also something to do in the matter, as they are more apt to attract the curiosity of the Indian, fix his attention, and produce impressions than mere appeals to his reason.

Independent of the foregoing, however, there is every reason to believe that the Pueblos still adhere to their native belief and ancient, rites. That most of them have faith in Montezuma is beyond a doubt, but in what light it is difficult to say, as they seldom or never speak of him, and avoid conversations on the subject. Like other people, they do not like to be questioned on subjects which they believe to concern no one but themselves. It is stated by some that the Montezuma of the Pueblo Indians is not the Montezuma of the conquest, but an agent of the Spanish government, chosen to protect the rights and interests of the Pueblos. Be this as it may, one thing is certain, that this view of the subject differs entirely from that of the Indians. They believe to this day that Montezuma originated in, New Mexico, and some go so far as to designate his birthplace. In this they differ, however, some affirming that he was born at the old pueblo of Pecos, and others that his birthplace was an old pueblo located near Ojo Caliente, the ruins of which are still to be seen. It is supposed, too, that Montezuma was not the original name of this demigod, but one bestowed on him after he had proved the divinity of his mission. A document is now extant, purporting to be copied from one of the legends at the capitol of Mexico, in which it is stated that Montezuma was born in Tognayo, one of the ancient pueblos of New Mexico, in the year 1538. This account makes him out more of a prophet than anything else. He foretold events that actually came to pass, and performed many wonderful things. He is also expected to come again, but when or where we are not informed. It is rather an amusing narrative, but the Indians esteem it highly. If a translation can be obtained in time, I will annex it to this report.

As the estufas of the pueblos are not altogether without a share of interest, being blended with the native belief, it is proper to make a few remarks respecting them. From the best information, it appears that previous to the establishment of churches among the people, the estufas were their churches or places in which most, if not all, ceremonials were performed. It is probable that to this clay the edifices may be used for such purposes. The mystery which many persons seem to attach to these estufas can easily be solved by comparing them with the various uses to which, in this territory, and, indeed, in other portions of the country, a courthouse may be applied. On one day, in any one of these buildings, a criminal trial involving life occupies the public attention. The ensuing night a political meeting is held, followed successively, during the term of court, by concerts and other performances. The estufa has always been, and still is, respected by Indians. Grave and serious councils are generally held in them, while at other tines hilarity resounds through the sacred walls. Beyond this, there is nothing of mystery that we are aware of. At the old pueblo of Pecos, without a doubt, a fire was kept constantly burning, attended by a person annually selected for this purpose. This fire, as far as can be ascertained, was not worshiped by the Pecos or any other Indians. Some say that Montezuma ordered expressly that the fire should not be extinguished, but the general reason given for preserving the flame is simply this: “It was one of the customs”. The story of the “big serpent” kept at Pecos for the object of human sacrifices is all a myth, with many other marvelous and ludicrous matters to be heard among the lower classes.


The principal and most important crops raised by the Pueblos are corn and wheat; It is almost impossible to arrive at anything like a correct estimate of the quantity. The utmost these farmers can do is to tell the number of carrita (cart) loads which they have gathered from the field, and carritas being, as you are aware, of different dimensions and quite a variety of shapes. No one ever thinks about measuring his crops; but taking one year with another, the Pueblos, besides raising enough for their subsistence, usually, have sufficient surplus with which to procure other necessary articles. Of course, allowance must be made for favorable and unfavorable seasons and locations. The towns on the banks of the Rio Grande are the most prosperous, evidently on account of the great advantage they possess of good supplies of water for irrigation. They possess, too, the best land in the territory.

The communities which seem to fare the worst are those located on the banks of small streams, the waters of which are apt to diminish before the crops are sufficiently advanced, and who, being surrounded, as they mostly are, by other people who appropriate an undue proportion of water, a scanty supply is only left to the Indians when irrigation is most needed.. Besides, of late years, encroachments have been made on these grants by outsiders, so that not more perhaps than a moiety is now tilled by the original proprietors. In many instances individuals are to be found who do not possess land enough to support themselves, much less their families. This subject demands the special attention of the department.

The Pueblos also raise frijoles and habos (2 kinds of beans), pumpkins, pease, onions, green and red pepper, muskmelons and watermelons, plums, apricots, peaches, apples, and grapes. Of the last 3 articles large quantities are grown, particularly in the towns south of Santa Fe, and which are found in every market all over the country. These natives are manufacturers as well as agriculturists. Their pottery, hair sieves, and chiquihuites (a, kind of basket) are in demand, and readily sell among the citizens. Their trade extends to other Indians, particularly the Comanches, with whom they usually barter for buffalo robes and dried meat, horses, and mules. The best horses they usually procure from the Navajos, when this tribe is at peace.

Some of these towns are apparently improving in appearance, while others are in a ruinous condition. This is more particularly the case with Picuris, Pozuaque, Nambe, Cochity, and Zia.

From the peculiar construction of the villages it is not easy to give a correct estimate of the number of tenements. Taos, as an instance, consists of 2 large clusters of houses or quarters, thrown up in a confused mass, with little or no regard to shape, size, or regularity.

The entrance to most of the pueblo houses is gained by a ladder reaching to the roof, from whence admission is effected by a kind of scuttle hole to the interior. Each room, however large, seldom has more than 2 small windows, for which small Pieces of isinglass are used instead of glass. The supply of light is limited, of course, and a gloomy appearance pervades the apartment; still, the rooms are warm and comfortable in winter. This mode of entrance was evidently adopted for defense and protection.

The Pueblo Indians as a community, it can be safely said, are industrious, honest, obedient, and orderly, seldom or never interfering with or molesting any person; yet they should not he neglected.

I have in previous reports recommended the establishment of schools and a few mechanical shops for the benefit of these people, and here allow me again to call year attention to the same, and to request your earnest appeal to the, department on the subject.

Since Mr. Ward’s report in 1864 there have been scores of reports on the Pueblos of New Mexico by Indian agents, authors, and travelers, which can be found in current literature; but the essential details are given in the reports of Rev. Mr. Gorman and Mr. Ward.

Reports of United States Indian Agents on the Pueblos

The reports of the United States Indian agents for the Pueblos of New Mexico since 1846 contain interesting data, The report of one agent, Mr. Pedro Sanchez, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1883, on the Pueblo Indians of the 19 pueblos is given literally, as follows:

Pueblo Indian Agency, Santa Fe, August 8, 1883.

I have the honor to submit for your consideration my first annual report for the A, D. 1883, which is as follows:

The pueblo of Zuni is in good health. Its crops are very promising; has a very good stock of sheep, cows, horses, goats, and donkeys; works wool, and its crops depend on rain. It is unclean and superstitious, but inclined to learn.

The pueblo of Acoma is in good health. Its crops are not very good on account of drought; owns a good number of sheep, cows, horses, and donkeys, It is industrious, works wool for its clothing, improves in its habits, and is disposed to learn.

The pueblo of Laguna is well. Has good crops; owns quite a number of all sorts of animals, which it cares for with careful attention. Its habits seem to improve, and it welcomes education.

The pueblo of Isleta is well, Its crops, under the immediate irrigation of the Rio Grande, grow abundantly, It raises corn, wheat, beans, pease, oats, beautiful grapes, apples, peaches, etc. It has a considerable number of animals, the fruit of its industry. It is improving its habits, and highly appreciates education.

The pueblo of Sandia owns very good lands along the shores of the Rio Grande; raises fruit and grain enough to live. It has some animals. It does not show any noticeable signs of improvement, but, on the contrary, is of a fanatic disposition. It is in good health.

The pueblo of Santa Ana has very good crops bordering on the Rio Grande; raises many kinds of fruits, grain; grows horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys, and works wool. It is superstitious and ignorant, but promises to learn. The smallpox was there, but has utterly disappeared already.

The pueblo of Zia plants little. It enjoys good health and has a considerable number of animals. It is superstitions and ignorant, but promises to learn.

The pueblo of James owns a rich soil and. has very abundant crops of all kinds. It possesses a good stock of animals, and is well. Its habits are antiquated, superstitious, immoral, and ignorant; it is disobedient and lazy.

The pueblo of San Felipe raises grain and many sorts of fruits, enjoys perfect health, and owns some animals It is habitually superstitious, but wants to learn.

The pueblo of Santo Domingo is a large one, having extensive and beautiful lands, and a great number of animals. It raises an abundance of grain, is in good health, and its habits are filthy, fanatic, and immoral. It is slow about education.

The pueblo of Cochiti raises a great deal of all sorts of grain; works pottery: has good herds of horses and donkeys. It is filthy and immoral, but favors education.

The pueblo of Sea Ildefouso is a very small one; most of its lands are owed by the whites, who have obtained them by purchase. It has draft, animals, raises enough for its living, is obedient and wishes to learn. The smallpox has killed about 30 of its little ones lately.

The pueblo or Pojoaque is almost extinct. Its best lands have been sold to the whites and a few remaining Indian is hardly live. They are well.

The pueblo of Natalie owns good lands and is well. It is lazy, antiquated, superstitions. It scarcely lives, but seems to favor education.

The pueblo of San Juan is a large one, has good lands, grows horses, donkeys, and a few cattle. It works pottery for sale. The smallpox has found its way to this pueblo and made victims of all those whose parents did not believe in vaccination, on account of their stale superstitions. It is very disobedient, abides by its old habits, and wants to keep them.

The pueblo of Picuris is small, and the greater part of its lands has been sold to the whites. It has very few animals and its habits are filthy, vicious, and retrograded. It is not inclined to learn.

The pueblo of Taos owns a beautiful tract of land on the lap of the Sierra Madre and at the gap of the canyon of Taos River. The smallpox is there now, and has wrought a great havoc. These Indians are superstitious, fanatic, and vicious, being yet in their old darkness, and go more on their estufas (secret chambers) than on education, but some inclination, however, can be seen in them for education.

The pueblo of Tesuque is small and its soil very dry; raises very little; owns some cows, horses, and donkeys, Its habits are antiquated and cares not for morality.

The pueblo of Santa Clara is very poor, fighting always among itself, and its habits are unclean and superstitions. In its disposition, bad and lazy.

There are 3 schools under my care, 1 at Zuñi, 1 at Laguna, and 1 at Jemes. These are supported by the government partly, and partly by the Presbyterian Church. The teachers at these schools have to struggle with the laziness and little application of the Indians; progress, however, is there visible.

I would wish to have been more concise in this report, but could not, as I had to refer to every pueblo, ever so slightly. From the time I took charge of this agency I have visited the pueblos, spoken to the Indians of each, respectively, and had the opportunity of making them understand the necessity of a change of life. I have patiently noticed their actual condition, habits, and disposition, and I would consider myself happy if, with the aid of Providence and the government, I could see these Indians respect the moral law and social order, as well as make them understand the love and fidelity that each husband ought to have for his wife, and vice versa; the duty of parents to bring up and care for their children properly, and, above all, to appreciate and care for the virtue of their maidens. Very respectfully. your obedient servant,
Pedro Sanchez, United States Indian Agent.

MLA Source Citation:

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894. Web. 6 April 2014. - Last updated on Jun 25th, 2013

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