No electricity

No running water

Native language not written down

Religion passed down orally from generation to generation

taos puebloSuch is the way with the oldest continually inhabited community in the United States located on 99,000 acres of high mountain desert in Northern New Mexico.

Well, sort of – most members of the Taos Pueblo live in conventional taos-pueblo-homehomes outside the village walls but don native garb and occupy their pueblo houses for ceremonials and commercial enterprising.

And it’s not like their religion hasn’t been messed with in an attempt to “civilize” the “savages.”

Spanish missionaries turned them into slaves and forced Catholicism down their throats hundreds of years ago.

san geronimo church taos pueblo

Today about 75% of the Indians go through Catholic motions but 100% of them still cling to their native beliefs & rituals.  The Virgin Mary, in fact, perhaps as a last defiant gesture of their pagan roots is seen from the perspective of their native religion as the “parallel of Mother Nature.”  Inside their San Geronimo Church (no pictures allowed) the clothing on the statues of Christian Saints are seasonally changed in accord with the natural bio-rhythms of the earth.

To the right of the altar is a symbolic casket hopefully to remind The Natives of the necessity of a Catholic funeral. But I am told by locals that it is not unusual to see shrouded bodies (sans casket) bouncing along in the back of a pickup truck on their way to secret burial grounds.

They do have a cemetery on public display at the original site of the San Geronimo Church.

taos cemeteryThis is the location from which the people of Taos Pueblo staged a revolt against the imperial curse of their white invaders but were slaughtered by U.S. Government troops for their impudence and all but the bell tower of their Church was destroyed.

taos pueblo art gallery

In the village, arts and crafts abound, both traditional and contemporary – from painting to photography, sculpture to performance art, drums to pottery, beadwork to leathergoods.

taos pueblo craftsmanOne artist proudly showed me his drums. Elk hide stretched across a cottonwood shell and the more expensive ones elaborately painted. The wood has been sealed on the inside with bear blood and the leather hide has been treated with elk brain.He beat on one for me and let out a few war whoops.

taos pueblo drums

Crystal clear water in Red Willow Creek flows through the village from a sacred source, Blue Lake. It is their sole source of drinking water. A sign nailed to a tree reads:

Please resist the urge to wade in the water and keep your pets out of the river.

And yet, interestingly, their own dogs run wild and free in such numbers as to be a nuisance.

taos pueblo dogtaos pueblo dogtaos pueblo dog

🙂 I wonder if they can read the sign. 🙂

The price of a ticket to enter the Taos Pueblo was ten dollars, plus tax. The price to carry your camera with you while you walked around was an additional six dollars, plus tax. To actually take a picture with the camera (or cellphone) that you had already paid for – well, turns out that would cost you too.

Two little girls came up to me and they were so cute! They had a wad of greenbacks in their hands and they were going around asking everyone for money. So I volunteered that if I could take their picture I would give them a dollar.

Well, they ran over to pose by that wall, a little further away than I wanted, given that I had a wide-angle lens that struggled to reach that far. Then when I started to hand them a dollar, they said (with irresistible smiles) that I owed them two dollars, one each!

taos pueblo girls

[I found out later when I read the brochure that taking a picture of any member of the community does in fact obligate you to tip them. But – sales tax! – aren’t Native Americans exempt from Federal jurisdiction?]

🙂 🙂 🙂

2 thoughts on “Different Drummers

  1. Wow, I feel like I should pay for admission to read your post since you’ve had to pay an arm and a leg to take photographs! 🙂 I’d say it was well worth the price as this is a beautiful place with an interesting, although sad in parts, story. The Native Americans haven’t had an easy go of it, have they.

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    • Yeah, I suspect they rake in a lot of money. Particularly with so many Casinos nearby. But they don’t seem to be ostentatious and to my way of thinking they have such a peaceful easygoing way about their lives.

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