History of The Pueblo of Jemez
The Pueblo of Jemez
(pronounced "Hay-mess" or traditionally as "He-mish") is
one of the 19 pueblos located in New Mexico. It is a federally recognized
American Indian tribe with 3,400 tribal members, most of whom reside in a puebloan
village that is known as "'Walatowa" (a Towa word meaning "this
is the place"). Walatowa is located in North-Central New Mexico, within
the southern end of the majestic Canon de Don Diego. It is located on State
Road 4 approximately one hour northwest of Albuquerque (55 miles) and
approximately one hour and twenty minutes southwest of Santa Fe.
The Pueblo of Jemez is an independent sovereign
nation with an independent government and tribal court system. Our secular
Tribal Government includes the Tribal Council, the Jemez Governor, two Lt.
Governors, two fiscales, and a sheriff. Interestingly, for reasons discussed
later, our 2nd Lt. Governor is also the governor of the Pueblo of Pecos.
Traditional matters are still handled through a separate governing body that is
rooted in prehistory. This traditional government includes the spiritual and
society leaders, a War Captain and Lt. War Captain. Through perseverance, our
people have managed to preserve our traditional culture, religion, and
knowledge of our ancient traditional ways regardless of outside pressures. We
have also preserved our complex traditional language, a language the
anthropologists and linguists refer to as "Towa". Jemez is the only
culture that speaks this language, and our traditional law forbids our language
from being translated into writing in order to prevent exploitation by outside
Having originated from a place called
"Hua-na-tota," our ancestors, the Jemez Nation, migrated to the
"Canon de San Diego Region" from the four-corners area in the late
13th century. By the time of European contact in the year 1541, the Jemez
Nation was one of the largest and most powerful of the puebloan cultures,
occupying numerous puebloan villages that were strategically located on the high
mountain mesas and the canyons that surround the present pueblo of Walatowa.
These stone-built fortresses, often located miles apart from one another, were
upwards of four stories high and contained as many as 3,000 rooms. They now
constitute some of the largest archaeological ruins in the United States.
Situated between these "giant pueblos" were literally hundreds of
smaller one and two room houses that were used by the Jemez people during
spring and summer months as basecamps for hunting, gathering, and agricultural
activities. However, our spiritual leaders, medicine people, war chiefs,
craftsmen, pregnant women, elderly and disabled lived in the giant pueblo
throughout the year, as warriors and visitors could easily reach at least one
of the giant pueblos within an hours walk from any of the seasonal homes. In
addition, impenetrable barriers were established with cliffs to guard access to
springs and religious sites, to monitor strategic trail systems, and to watch
for invading enemies. In general, the Jemez Nation resembled a military society
that was often called upon by other tribal groups to assist in settling hostile
Our people experienced their first contact with
Europeans in the form of Spanish conquistadors in the year of 1541. When the
Coronado Expedition entered into the area, exactly 40 peaceful years went by
before contact between the two groups was experienced again. The
Rodriquez-Chamuscado Expedition entered the area in 1581, followed by the
Espejo Expedition in 1583. In the year 1598, a detachment of the first
colonized expedition under the direction of Don Juan de Onate visited the
Jemez. A Franciscan priest by the title of Alonzo de Lugo was assigned to our
people and he had our people build the area's first church at the Jemez Pueblo
of Guisewa (now Jemez State Monument on State Highway 4 in Jemez Springs).
According to our intricate oral history, as well as early written Spanish
records (Espejo Expedition 1583), the Jemez nation contained an estimated
30,000 tribal members around the time of the Spanish contact, indicating that
the population of the Canon de San Diego was probably three times larger than
what it is today. Unfortunately, the peace between our differing cultures did
not last long and the Jemez population soon became decimated as a result of
warfare and diseases introduced by the Europeans.
During the next 80 years, numerous revolts
and uprisings occurred between the Jemez people and Spanish, primarily due to
Spanish attempts to Christianize our people by force, and congregate them into
just one or two villages, where the Franciscan missions were located. As a
result, numerous people were killed on both sides, including many of the
Franciscan priests. By the year 1680, the hostilities resulted in the Great
Pueblo Revolt, during which the Spanish were expelled from the New Mexico
Province through the strategic and collaborative efforts of all the Puebloan
Nations. This was the first and only successful revolt in the United States in
which a suppressive nation was expelled. By 1688, the Spanish had begun their
reconquest in force under General Pedro Reneros de Posada, acting Governor of
New Mexico. The Pueblos of Santa Ana and Zia were conquered, and by 1692, Santa
Fe was again in Spanish hands under Governor Diego de Vargas. Four more years
would pass before the Jemez Nation was completely subdued and placed under
clergy and military rule. Our ancestors were moved and concentrated into the
single Village of Walatowa where we presently reside today. As a result, the most
significant of our ancestral sites are now located just out of view of the
Pueblo on federal lands and are no longer controlled by our people. Regardless,
our ancestral lands are still held in the highest esteem by the Jemez people
and not a week goes by that they are not paid tribute to through our prayers
and religious offerings.
In the year 1838, Jemez culture became diversified
when the Towa speaking people from the Pueblo of Pecos (located east of Santa
Fe) resettled at the Pueblo of Jemez in order to escape the increasing
depredations of the Spanish and Comanche cultures. Readily welcomed by our
ancestors, the Pecos culture was rapidly integrated into Jemez Society, and in
1936, both cultural groups were legally merged into one by an Act of Congress.
Today, the Pecos culture still survives at Jemez. Its traditions have been
preserved, and as previously noted, the Pueblo of Jemez still honorably
recognizes a Governor of Pecos.
Our people are internationally known for
arts and crafts. Pottery such as bowls, seed pots sgraffitto vessels
(elaborately polished and engraved), wedding vases, figurines, holiday
ornaments, and our famous storytellers are now in collections throughout the
world. In addition, Jemez artisans also create beautiful basketry, embroidery,
woven cloths, exquisite stone sculpture, moccasins and jewelry. Our people are
also known as "runners" many of whom still hold unbroken records at
major national events, and continue to set new records with each generation
entering into track and field competition.
Traditional dances are still held
throughout the year at Jemez, many of which are not open to the public. The
public is welcome to share in certain events, particularly the "Nuestra
Senora de Los Angelas Feast Day de Los Persingula", August 2nd (Pecos
Feast of St. Persingula), the "San Diego Feast Day" on December 12th.
Additional events open to the public occur at various times throughout the
Christmas Holidays. Information regarding these events can be obtained at the
Walatowa Visitor Center at the Pueblo of Jemez. Cameras, video camcorders, tape
recorders, sketchpads, alcohol and firearms are strictly forbidden at these and
all events by the order of the Governor. No authorized publication information
regarding Pueblo activities allowed.
We hope you enjoyed your virtual visit to
our historical Pueblo!
© 1993 Pueblo of Jemez - William Whatley
with the photo exhibit, visitors will find themselves engaged in a journey from
the time of our origins through centruries of migration, change and adaptation
into the new millennium. The Photo Exhibit demonstrates the way of life circa
World War II. These photographs display timeless harmony and effectiveness of a
way of life now largely passed, one that deserves respect and renewed
of the photos were taken by the NM Soil Conservation Service Photographers in
1936-1937 and were from the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology Collection at the
University of New Mexico. Additional photos are from the Southwest Museum in
Pueblo of Jemez
The Jemez nation migrated to "Canon de San Diego" region
from the Four Corners area sometime between AD 1275 and 1350. Occupying
numerous puebloan villages that were strategically located on the high mountain
mesas and in the canyons that surround the present pueblo of Walatowa, which
now constitutes some of the largest archaeological ruins in the United States.
prehistoric presence of the Jemez Nation in the Canon de San Diego region is
characterized by the manufacture and use of specific types of pottery. They
produce five basic types, a unique slipped and decorated type that is referred
to by archaeologists as "Jemez Black-on-White;" a cruder, apparently
short lived variant that is referred to as "Jemez Black-on-White
Rough;" an unslipped, undecorated utility pottery referred to as "Jemez
Plain Utility;" and a slightly corrugated variant of the plain utility
ware that is referred to as "Jemez Indented Corrugated."
oral history of the Pueblo of Jemez, Walatowa, indicate that manufacturing of
decorated pottery types of Jemez Black-on-White ceased sometime in the early to
mid-eighteenth century when they reportedly shattered literally hundreds of the
vessels, so that they would not get in to the hands of the Spanish.
Manufacturing of this type was never resumed, and for the next 200 years, the
Jemez People relied on decorated pottery obtained from their Keresan neighbors,
primarily the Pueblo of Zia. Eventually, many of the Zia designs were
incorporated into a new style of pottery which the Jemez again, began to
produce around the turn of the century. Though based on Zia design, this new
style of Jemez pottery soon emerged with a distinctive Jemez signature of
black-on-red and black/red on tan.