Taos Pueblo is the only living Native
American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and
a National Historic Landmark. The multistoried adobe buildings have been
continuously inhabited for over 1000 years..
Culture & Spirit
The tradition of secrecy forbids the disclosure of many of the rituals
and ceremonies of the Indian heritage to outsiders, but visitors may still
enjoy the charm and hospitality of the pueblo and marvel at the superb
architecture and the fine crafts of this fascinating world.
Archaeologists say that ancestors of the Taos Indians lived in this valley
long before Columbus discovered America and hundreds of years before Europe
emerged from the Dark Ages. Ancient ruins in the Taos Valley indicate
the people lived here nearly 1000 years ago. Most of the present buildings
were constructed between 1000 and 1450 A.D. They appeared much as they
do today when the first Spanish explorers arrived in Northern New Mexico
in 1540 and believed that the Pueblo was one of the fabled golden cities
of Cibola. They are considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited
communities in the USA. Some say that the pueblo at Acoma may be as old,
and does make the same claim, both are fascinating to visit.
The Pueblo is made entirely of adobe -- earth mixed with water and straw,
then either poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks. The walls
are frequently several feet thick. The roofs of each of the five stories
are supported by large timbers -- vigas -- hauled down from the mountain
forests. Smaller pieces of wood -- pine or aspen latillas -- are placed
side-by-side on top of the vigas; the whole roof is covered with packed
dirt. The outside surfaces of the Pueblo are continuously maintained by
replastering with think layers of mud. Interior walls are carefully coated
with thin washes of white earth to keep them clean and bright. The Pueblo
is actually many individual homes, built side-by-side and in layers, with
common walls but no connecting doorways. In earlier days there were no
doors or windows and entry was gained only from the top.
Approximately 150 people live within the Pueblo full time. Other families
owning homes in the North or South buildings live in summer homes near
their fields, and in more modern homes outside the old walls but still
within Pueblo land. There are over 1900 Taos Indians living on Taos Pueblo
The history of the Pueblo church:
The present San Geronimo, or St. Jerome, Chapel was completed in 1850
to replace the original church which was destroyed in the War with Mexico
by the U.S. Army in 1847. That church, the ruins still evident on the
west side of the village, was first built in 1619. It was then destroyed
in the Spanish Revolt of 1680 but soon rebuilt on the same site. St. Jerome
is the patron saint of Taos Pueblo.
The Pueblo Indians are about 90% Catholic. Catholicism is practiced along
with the ancient Indian religious rites which are an important part of
Taos Pueblo life. The Pueblo religion is very complex; however, there
is no conflict with the Catholic church, as evidenced by the prominent
presence of both church and kiva in the village.
How is the Pueblo governed?
A tribal governor and war chief, along with staffs for each, are appointed
yearly by the Tribal Council, a group of some 50 male tribal elders. The
tribal governor and his staff are concerned with civil and business issues
within the village and relations with the non-Indian world. The war chief
and staff deal with the protection of the mountains and Indian lands outside
the Pueblo walls.
- Other Facts:
- Tiwa is the native language. English and Spanish are also spoken.
- The land base is 99,000 acres with an elevation of 7,200 feet at the
- The tourist trade, arts, traditional crafts and food concessions are
important employment sources at the Pueblo. Some tribal members are
employed in the Town of Taos. The Pueblo has a centralized management
system where tribal members are employed in a variety of occupations.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs maintains an elementary school, located
behind the south Pueblo in an area restricted to the public. The majority
of teachers are Indian. There is also a preschool program for three
and four-year-olds. An education committee comprised of Pueblo members
oversees the education of students and monitors a scholarship program
for students wishing higher education. Indian children also attend public
schools in the Town of Taos.
- Mica-flecked pottery and silver jewelry are made by local artisans
and sold at many of the individually owned curio shops within the Pueblo.
The Taos Indians, being great hunters, are also famous for their work
with animal skins -- moccasins, boots and drums. There are a growing
number of contemporary Pueblo fine artists, combining Indian tradition
with modern artistic expression. The outstanding Taos Pueblo trademark
is the natural look, that is, the enhancement of natural material appearance
without additional coloration.
- The Pueblo is generally open to visitors daily from 8 am to 4:30 PM,
except when tribal rituals require closing the Pueblo. Late winter to
early Spring the Pueblo closes for about ten weeks. Please call ahead
if you'll be visiting during this time, 758-1028.
The Pueblo at Taos is one of New Mexico's authentic examples of the survival
of Pueblo Indian life, literally unchanged since 1540 when Coronado saw
buildings and customs closely resembling those which can be seen today.
Perhaps its inaccessibility as the most northerly of all of the Rio Grande
pueblos made it more difficult for the Spanish, and later the Anglo-Americans,
to transform its ancient ways. Perhaps the intense independence and the
strong sense of community of the Taos people helped to maintain their
cultural integrity. Despite centuries of invasion, tribal customs remain
largely unchanged. A strict taboo on marriage outside of the pueblo preserved
racial purity even though the Taos people had friendly relationships with
other tribes and non-Indians.
When To Visit:
Taos Pueblo is open daily but closes for ceremonial purposes. San Gerónimo
Feast Day on Sept. 30 is the largest event of the year. However, cameras
and recording devices are not allowed at any religious ceremonies open
to the public. Signs mark houses around the plaza that sell arts and crafts.
Respect the off-limits signs. Also, don't climb the ladders to the rooftops.
The pueblo also operates Taos Mountain Casino with a gift shop and video
arcade, (505) 737-0777, (888) 946-8267. Alcohol is prohibited on the entire
reservation. The pueblo charges admission, parking and camera fees. Any
sketching, painting or commercial photography requires advance written
The pueblo is located three miles (4.8 km) north of the town of Taos and
is open daily to visitors most of the year. It closes periodically for special
ceremonials, so please call ahead.