Pueblo Indian Arts and Industries

Arts and industries.-While the material culture of the sedentary people of this great territory, as revealed by ethnological and archeological investigations, is sufficiently homogeneous to warrant its designation as “the Pueblo culture,” there are many local differences in architecture and in building materials, due chiefly to the influence of environment. In the northern portions particularly, and scattered here and there almost through out the area, are the remains of dwellings built in recesses of cliffs or canon walls, in some cases the natural cavities having been enlarged or modified by artificial means, in others the cliff face having been practically honeycombed to servo as habitations. These are the cliff-dwellings (q. v.) built and occupied by the ancestors of the present Pueblos, no doubt for purposes of defense against ancient enemies. In the valleys and on the mesa tops the structures varied according to the available building materials and to the exigencies of the sites. In the northern parts of the Pueblo area the houses were generally of sandstone, readily quarried near at hand; in some places blocks of lava, or tufa, were used. In the southern valleys, especially along the Gila and the Salt, adobe (q. v.) was the material usually employed. The groups of dwellings were generally compact structures of several stories, with many small rooms made necessary owing partly to the scarcity of suitable timber for roofing larger structures and partly to the lack of means of transporting it, for, like other Indians, the Pueblos had no horses or donkeys before the coming  of the whites. The villages were often rectangular, with open courts, but usually there was little fixed plan of outline, new dwellings being added wherever and whenever need demanded (although sometimes influenced by the direction of the sun), often resulting in great community groups of houses forming irregularly oblong, square, semicircular, circular, and elliptical ground-plans, with wings and minor projections. The pueblos were generally built in terrace fashion; i. e., the upper tiers of houses were set back of those next below, so that the roofs of the lower stories formed a kind of front yard for those next above. Unlike the dwellings of to-day, the lower stories were without doors, entrance being gained by means of ladders and a hatch way in the roof. The upper houses were and still are reached by means of movable ladders, or by masonry steps built against the outer walls and resting on the roofs of the houses below. In the ancient pueblos the fireplace was generally in the form of a shallow box or pit in the middle of the floor, the smoke finding egress through the hatchway as in some of the kivas to-day. Corner fireplaces were also in use, but chimneys, as well as the dome-shaped ovens built on the ground or on the roofs, and paneled doors and shutters, were doubtless derived from the Spaniards. Floors were paved with stone slabs or plastered smooth with adobe mortar like the walls and roofs. Accompanying each pueblo was at least one kiva (q. v.); indeed the belief has been advanced that the kiva formed the nucleus of the ancient pueblo, which grow up around it. The houses are constructed and owned by the women, the men helping with the heavy work, such as quarrying stone and hauling and emplacing the beams. The Pueblos made good basketry (q. v.), but it is not the equal of that of some of the tribes of northern California, although some of the Hopi manufacture basket placques in two distinct styles of weaving, excellently ornamented with anthropomorphic and other figures in harmonious colors derived from native substances, now largely superseded by the dyes of commerce. As potters and weavers the Pueblos have not been excelled by any Indians N. of Mexico. Their earthenware vessels, ancient and modern, consist of practically every form known to the aborigines, from large rough cooking and storage vessels to delicately modeled and elaborately painted jars, bowls, platters, bottles, ladles, and box-shaped utensils.
     Many of the ancient Pueblos, especially those of the northern area, may be designated as horticulturists rather than as agriculturists, so intensive was their method of cultivation. Their small fields were irrigated from living streams or from storage reservoirs, the chief crop being corn. Cotton also was raised, the product being woven into everyday clothing and ceremonial cloaks, kilts, and leggings, which were extensively traded to other tribes. The Hopi were and still are the principal cotton weavers of all the Pueblos, but the native cotton has given place almost entirely to trade stuffs. After the introduction of sheep by the Spaniards. the weaving of native wool, as well as of strands of bayeta on rude hand loons, became an important industry. It is believed that weaving was introduced among the Navaho by Pueblo women adopted into that tribe. Many so-called “Navaho blankets” are really the product of Hopi and Zuni looms, operated by both men and women. In the southern Pueblo area especially, agriculture was conducted on a large scale, and elaborate and extensive systems of irrigation (q. v.) were employed. Such works, utilized by an entire community, were constructed under a communal system; and indeed this method is still largely followed by all the Pueblos. In addition to fields of corn, wheat, pumpkins, melons, etc., small garden patches of onions, beans, chile, etc., near the houses are cultivated, water being daily conveyed to them in jars by the women, to whom the gardens belong.
     In addition to their agriculture the Pueblos hunted to some extent, and there are still some excellent hunters among
them. The deer, antelope, bear, and mountain lion were the larger game sought, and the eastern Pueblos hunted also the buffalo on the plains. Rabbits abound throughout the Pueblo country, and are hunted individually as well as by large groups of men and boys, who surround a wide area and gradually drawing together entrap the rabbits and dispatch
them with boomerang-shaped hunting sticks. Traps also are employed, especially for catching small mammals and birds, including eagles, which are highly prized on account of their feathers, so largely used in ceremony. Fish and
other products of the water are never eaten, and various animals are tabooed as food by the members of certain clans. In early times the turkey was domesticated, and there is evidence that large flocks were “herded” in much the same manner as are sheep and goats at the present time. A few turkeys, as well as eagles, are still kept in captivity, but only for their feathers. The only other domestic animal was the dog, but there is no evidence that the Pueblos employed this animal as a beast of burden like the tribes of the plains. Horses, asses, horned cattle, sheep, and goats, like wheat, grapes, peaches, and apples, now more or less extensively grown, were not known to the Indians before the coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century. In south Arizona, in association with ancient ruins, pictographs and figurines representing a llama-like quadruped have been found, the rock-pictures indicating the animals as being herded by men with bolas.
     The ancient clothing of Pueblo men consisted typically of a short tunic of deerskin and trousers of the same material reaching to the knees; leggings of skin or of cotton, fastened at the knees, held in place by a narrow garter woven in pattern; and moccasins of deerskin with rawhide soles neatly sewn with sinew. Knitted footless stockings of yarn are-now commonly worn by both men and women, with or without leggings. A piece of skin (now usually fresh goatskin), with hairy side inward and entirely incasing the foot, was used over the moccasin in snowy weather. The breechcloth is universally worn by males. The warriors wore a close-fitting cap of skin, ventilated with numerous holes and decorated with feathers; this cap is still worn as a part of the ceremonial costume of the Priests of the Bow, of Zuni. Evidence produced by excavation in the cliff -dwellings indicates that garments woven of yucca fiber, as well as of cotton with feathers, were al

The books presented are for their historical value only and are not the opinions of the Webmasters of the site.   Handbook of American Indians, 1906

Index of Tribes or Nations


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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