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Remembering the Ancestors for Indigenous People’s Day

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Greetings from Piscataway/Pamunkey lands! As Indigenous Peoples Day approached, the blog team discussed writing about the holiday and a new program that is going to air soon. It seemed like a good time to remember some of the earlier residents of this country: the Ancestral Puebloans. Conservators have worked to preserve many of their dwellings in national parks, such as Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The Ancestral Puebloans were the forefathers and foremothers of modern Pueblo nations, such as Acoma, Laguna, Zia, ZuniSanta Ana, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Cochiti, Jemez, Taos, Picuris, Sandia, Isleta, Santa Clara, Ohkay Owingeh, San Ildefonso, Nambé, Tesuque, and Pojoaque. For over 700 years since 12,000 B.C.E., Ancestral Puebloans lived in what is now known as the Four Corners region, long before European contact with the North American continent. These people were dry or floodwater farmers, primarily growing maize, and possessed “organizational and engineering abilities not seen anywhere else in the American Southwest.” The Mesa Verde National Park staff observed that, “By the Classic Period (A.D. 1100 to A.D. 1300), Ancestral Puebloans were heirs of a vigorous civilization, whose accomplishments in community living and the arts rank among the finest expressions of human culture in North America.”

The ruins of Pueblo Bonito stand in the New Mexico desert.
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, New Mexico [photo by Rebecca Raupach]
Ever since cowboys first discovered the cliff dwellings in the 1880s, the sites have impressed visitors and drawn archaeologists. President Theodore Roosevelt, who made the conservation of American lands his legacy as the “conservation president, ” used his authority to protect over 230 million acres of public land and “establish[ing] 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act.” This act became law on June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225). As a further extension of President Roosevelt’s conservation goals, Congress passed an act to create Mesa Verde National Park; Roosevelt made a proclamation on March 11, 1907 making Chaco Canyon a national park (35 Stat 2119). The actions that Roosevelt and Congress took preserved these unique spaces and the cultural heritage of the continent.

A yellow exhibit sign that says "Pueblo Bonito" and contains a picture of ruins.
Pueblo Bonito exhibit sign, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, New Mexico [photo by Rebecca Raupach]
The ruins of Pueblo Bonito stand in front of a blue sky with shrubs and a dirt path in the foreground.
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, New Mexico [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

Comments (2)

  1. It should be Native American’s Day. I do not understand why you use the term, indigenous, for the Native Americans. People from another part of the world rarely use that term or do not use it at all, e.g. Europeans. I know from Spaniards conquerors, the first in arrive to America, they call Native Americans (North to South), indigenous, but it was a derogatory name. The other derogatory name that Spaniards called Native American was, Indians, nothing to do with original people from Indian continent.

  2. I had a chance to visit the Pueblo Native American Museum,two years ago on November 11,2016 .It was very nice the town was full of historical artifacts ,I was with a team of Social Justice Women .They celebrating on Veterans Day that year.

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