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Explore the cultures of Native Americans in New Mexico at pueblos, cultural centers, markets, shops, monuments and museums throughout the Albuquerque area. The following are suggested trips to New Mexico pueblos and other sites for those interested in the culture of Native American in New Mexico. The amount of time suggested for the stop, travel distance and location is listed under each suggested site.
With 19 pueblos in New Mexico - most within an hour’s drive of Albuquerque - no other city in America offers so varied an opportunity to experience the living culture and rich history of America’s first inhabitants. From the dusty streets of America’s oldest city at Acoma Pueblo to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and seasonal markets and powwows, Indian culture thrives in New Mexico. Local museums and preserved sites give us a glimpse into the ancestral lifestyle of a resilient people who rebounded from the oppression of conquest to become dynamic members of today’s society.
(1-2 hours, University of New Mexico campus, University and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, limited free parking, closed Sun. and Mon., 505-277-4405, www.unm.edu/~maxwell/)
Founded in 1932, the Maxwell Museum offers an excellent introduction to the cultural heritage of today’s pueblo Indians. The “People of the Southwest” exhibit illustrates how the ancient lifestyles, pottery, ceremonies and traditions across the Southwest influenced today’s pueblos of New Mexico. One exhibit replicates a room from Chaco Canyon, the UNESCO World Heritage Site north of Albuquerque, which supported one of the most advanced societies of its time. The museum features hands-on activities for children, monthly cultural and entertainment programs, and a gift shop.
(1-3 hours, 2401 12th St. NW, 505-843-7270, www.indianpueblo.org/)
History may be interesting, but to experience the vibrant, living culture of today’s Native Americans, visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, owned and operated by the 19 pueblos in New Mexico. The center showcases the daily lifestyle and ceremonial traditions of modern Indians. Museum exhibits illustrate the history and unique art styles of each pueblo, and the art gallery presents traditional and contemporary visual art from Indian artists.
Except for feast days several times a year, ceremonial dances at the New Mexico pueblos are closed to outsiders, but not to worry. On weekends traditional dance groups perform in the center’s courtyard; photography permitted. You can take home more than pictures, too. Artists sell their wares and the gift shop carries a wide selection of art and jewelry. For some real cultural flavor, the Pueblo Harvest Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The “Native-Fusion” menu features buffalo tenderloin, grilled salmon, and New Mexican lamb with live entertainment on weekend evenings and Sunday brunch.
(4-6 hours, 140 miles roundtrip, 800-747-0181, http://www.acomaskycity.org/main.html?pgid=11)
Got wheels? Head west on I-40 for 55 miles, then “exit the present.” Acoma "Sky City" Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited city in America, sits atop a 376-foot mesa overlooking the desert. In the pueblo, listed as a National Historic Trust Site, “living history” blurs with modern reality. Check in for tours at the cultural center. The Haak’u Museum provides an overview of the pueblo’s 1,000-year-old history and examples of the world-famous, black-and-white pottery. Guided tours of the mesa-top village leave hourly.
A Native guide leads groups through ancient streets, past adobe houses, horno ovens, kivas and the San Esteban del Rey Mission. Built in 1629 with paintings from the 1700s on the walls, the church is a Save America’s Treasure Site and listed as one the 100 most endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund.
While exploring Acoma, you’ll have time to visit with vendors who sell pottery and jewelry from their doorsteps. The museum gift shop sells museum-quality pottery and artwork. Hungry? Get a deli lunch in the Yaaka Café or dine in the Sky City Casino restaurant on the interstate before returning to Albuquerque.
(1-4 hours, Visitor Center at Unser Blvd. and Western Trail NW, 505-899-0205, www.nps.gov/petr/)
In a desert strewn with boulders, visitors to the Petroglyph National Monument will find the work of ancestral puebloans. More than 17,000 human and animal images, effigies and symbols are etched onto the black surface of volcanic rocks that litter the escarpment along Albuquerque’s West Mesa.
The visitor center has trail guides to three areas with concentrations of petroglyphs. Boca Negra Canyon is the most accessible with exquisite examples, including the image of a possible macaw from Mexico close to the parking area. A 2.5-mile trail in Rinconada Canyon and a 1.5-mile trail in Piedras Marcadas Canyon loop past hundreds of glyphs. Standing in one of the alcoves surrounded by mysterious figures, you can see the rooftops of nearby houses, vegetation along the river and the towering crest of the Sandia Mountains, a view as inspiring today as it was centuries ago.
(2 hours, 50 miles roundtrip, 485 Kuaua Rd., Bernalillo, 505-867-5351, http://www.nmhistoricsites.org/coronado)
From about 1,000 years ago until the Spanish conquest, 40 New Mexico pueblos with up to 1,000 inhabitants each lined the middle Rio Grande Valley. After the Spanish arrived in 1540, many villages decimated by disease and oppression were abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1935, excavations at the multi-story, 1,200-room Kuaua Pueblo in Coronado State Monument discovered extraordinary murals in one of the ceremonial kivas. The frescos were removed and preserved and replicas were painted in the reconstructed kiva. The park museum displays life-sized copies of the murals.
The traditional pottery, jewelry, rugs and art of the Southwestern Native Americans is famous worldwide, so famous that Asian knock-offs proliferate street markets and souvenir stores. For reasonably priced items of good quality, you can buy direct from New Mexico Native American artists under the portal in Old Town. If you’re interested in top-quality, authentic products, shop reputable stores and ask for certified “Handmade Indian” items, and expect to pay a premium. Pueblo and museum gift shops and galleries, juried Indian market fairs, and Bien Mur Indian Market at Sandia Pueblo offer artisan-quality merchandise.
Explore New Mexico folk art!
Just 45 minutes north of Albuquerque at Cochiti Pueblo, you will feel transported to another place during a hike through tent rocks, known as " hoodoos," and slot canyons. https://www.blm.gov/nlcs_web/sites/nm/st/en/prog/NLCS/KKTR_NM.html
Driving about 50 miles northwest of Albuquerque, you will encounter the Jemez Pueblo along a scenic byway trail. Red rocks frame the village landscape with fry bread and pottery stands below. The visitor center provides a nice overview of the history of the pueblo and the area. www.jemezpueblo.com
For a longer day, plan to visit Bandelier National Monument, which is about a 100-mile drive from Albuquerque. The monument encompasses 33,000 acres of rugged canyons and mesa land including evidence of human presence for more than 11,000 years. Visit cliff dwellings, see petroglyphs and watch for wildlife during hikes in the area. www.nps.gov/band
Located approximately 100 miles north of Albuquerque near Española, Puye Cliff Dwellings showcases cliff and cave dwellings, early Pueblo architecture, an original Harvey House plus stunning views.
A bit of a trek from Albuquerque (just under 2 hours), but worth the drive, is the Salt Missions Pueblo ruins. A set of four mission ruins near Mountainair, the dramatic structures are all that's left of the 17th century Tiwa and Tompiro speaking puebloan people. www.nps.gov/sapu