The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







For the town in Colorado, see Pueblo, Colorado

Pueblos are traditional Native American communities of the Southwest. Though some pueblos have few standing adobe buildings, the commuities are recognized worldwide for adobe buildings, which are also sometimes called "pueblos." The word pueblo, in Spanish, means "village".

Of the federally recognized Native American communities in the Southwest, those authorized by the King of Spain as Pueblos at the time treaties ceded Spanish territory to the United States are now legally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as Pueblos. Some of the Pueblos also came into the United States by treaty with Mexico, which breifly gained jurisdiction over territory in the Southwest ceded by Spain. There are 20 federally recognized Pueblos that are home to Pueblo people.

Pueblos today

Taos Pueblo, circa 1920

For modern Pueblos, the term Pueblo refers to the unique governments of their communities, which are distinct in name from tribal governments first recognized by the United States Congress, rather than by the Spanish monarchy. Pueblo governments are sometimes said to administer members affairs on land grants or pueblos, whereas tribal governments are said to administer members' affairs on reservations. Modern Pueblos include homes and public buildings of adobe, wood frame construction and commercial steel-and-concrete construction.

Early pueblo agriculture often relied on stone beds to retain water. The stone gardens can still be seen at historic sites and in aerial surveys of pueblo areas. Senior water rights held by the Pueblos today allow the communities to continue long-held agricultural traditions. Several Pueblos have recently used their water rights to establish golf courses and hotels related to casino ventures, providing a stream of new revenue that allows the communities to invest community resources in a 21st Century economy.

Modern Pueblos have shopping centers, government buildings, clinics, utility infrastructure and other facilities typical of these times. Most also still maintain central plazas established around Catholic churches during nearly 200 years of Spanish rule, as well as kivas associated with traditional beliefs of the area. Pueblos are often named for saints, following traditions established by friars during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Others, like Pueblo of Zuni or Taos Pueblo were named according to indigenous traditions.

Colonial history

Early pueblo holdings in the American Southwest often included individual structures and community buildings. Before the arrival of Spanish immigrants, native people of the area had constructed villages, sometimes including large apartment block buildings and some of which remain in use centuries later.

Spanish rule established property holdings in much of the American Southwest. Spanish immigrants and Native Americans alike were assigned by law to various Pueblos. Many Pueblo heirs of Spanish heritage now live on, or hold interest in land grants, which are the modern legal embodiment of the Spanish administration of pueblos. However, the legal descriptions of the land grants were frequently overturned because they were poorly formed when compared to more modern legal descriptions. For example, the land grants would sometimes align to riverine landmarks rather than surveyors coordinates for the statements of boundaries; thus the wanderings of a river could and would overturn the claims granted to a landholder in the name of a King of Spain.

With the spread of photography and geographic information in the 19th and 20th century the term pueblo became popularly recognized afar as describing the original large multistory buildings of adobe, stonework and timber built by the Pueblo people.

Historic places

Taos Pueblo, 1999

Historically, pre-Spanish towns and villages, which of course were not yet called pueblos, were located in defensive positions, for example, on high steep mesas such as Acoma. Anthropologists and official documents often refer to earlier residents of the area as pueblo cultures. For example, the National Park Service states, "The Late Puebloan cultures built the large, integrated villages found by the Spaniards when they began to move into the area." [1] The people of some pueblos, such as Taos Pueblo, still inhabit centuries old adobe pueblo buildings. Residents often maintain other homes outside the historic pueblos. Adobe and light construction methods resembling adobe now dominate architecture at the many pueblos of the area, in nearby towns or cities and in much of the American Southwest.

In addition to the contemporary pueblos there are numerous ruins of archeological interest throughout the Southwest, some of relatively recent origin, others of prehistoric origin such as the cliff dwellings and other habitation s of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples.

Pueblo is also the name of a large Puerto Rican supermarket chain with branches in all 78 Puerto Rican cities plus Venezuela and Florida. Pueblo Supermarkets also has a spin-off company named Pueblo Xtra

USS Pueblo is the name of the only United States flagged warship currently held by a foreign power.

Last updated: 02-07-2005 00:24:30
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55