Taos - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The traditional Taos were agriculturalists, depending primarily on maize, beans, and squash. Wheat and other European imports were eagerly adopted, with wheat gaining some commercial importance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Hunting always supplemented agriculture, with the mountains providing deer, elk, bear, turkey, grouse, and squirrel and the Plateau providing antelope and the plains bison in the 1800s. Eagle, hawk, and duck feathers were important in rituals. Rabbits are still hunted on reservation land and figure prominently in summer ceremonies. Many species of wild plants were and are gathered as well as wildflowers that are Important in ceremonies. Given the northern location and altitude, the growing season was too short for cotton, so the Taos relied on the more southerly Pueblos for woven goods. Today, wage labor, revenue from tourism, and many forms of government assistance have largely replaced the traditional Subsistence base, with agriculture largely replaced by gardening and hunting reduced mostly to a sport or to obtain ritual items. Pigs and chickens are raised by a few households. Sheep and goats were never herded. The dog was ubiquitous, but the most important animal for both practical and prestige purposes was the horse, which figures prominently in myth and legend and is still highly valued. Although never considered prestigious, cattle became important enough for a Cattlemen's Association to be formed at the Pueblo.

Industrial Arts. Since 1600 the dominant type of pottery and today the only type is a utilitarian ware of micaceous clay. Taos manufactures reflect their reliance on the hunt and inlude excellent hard-soles moccasins, folded deerskin "boots" worn by mature women, and drums. Buckskin leggings and shirts, bison robes, and rabbit-skin blankets were important in the past. The art of weaving rabbit-skin blankets was revived by Taos women in 1970, and the establishment of a Pueblo arts and crafts center, along with the popularity of Indian crafts in general, has fostered the emergence of a number of skilled craftspeople and artists working in a number of media.

Trade. Trade was never of any great importance either pre- or postcontact, although trade from as far away as Mexico (for parrot feathers) did occur.

Division of Labor. Household chores, horticulture, Pottery making, the tending of small domestic animals, and the annual remudding of houses were women's concerns. The men farmed, irrigated, hunted, raised livestock, and worked hides. Men also were more involved in ceremonial activities than were women.

Land Tenure. Theoretically, land is communally owned, and there are pastures and grazing lands on which anyone can run their horses and cattle. Houses, summer houses, and fields are considered to be individual property and are passed down from one generation to the next without regard for the age or sex of the heir. As is true of all reservations, the land is legally held in trust by the federal government. At Taos, land may be sold, traded, or inherited only by and to a tribally recognized Taos Indian.

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