Taos - History and Cultural Relations

It is believed that the ancestors of Taos and other Eastern Pueblo groups moved into the Rio Grande area from the north and west, possibly from the Anasazi region of the Four Corners beginning in the 1100s. The Taos creation myth supports a migration from the north, and it is certain that they have been in the Taos Valley since about 1200, first living at the now-ruined Pot Creek Pueblo and others south of their present location, and at the current site since 1350 where they were encountered by the Coronado expedition in 1540. The Taos have figured prominently in every attempt to expel foreigners from their territory. Following Spanish settlement in 1598 resentment against the Europeans intensified, culminating in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 which was plotted from Taos. After U.S. occupation, the Taos joined with the Mexicans in the 1847 revolt. The governor, Charles Bent, and Others were scalped, and the ruins of the old mission at the Pueblo testify to the retaliation by the U.S. Army. In 1906 Blue Lake, twenty miles above the Pueblo in the mountains, and forty-eight thousand acres of surrounding aboriginal-use area were incorporated into the Carson National Forest. The Indians waged a legal battle with the government for the Return of these lands to their reservation. In 1971 sovereignty over the Blue Lake area was restored to the Pueblo, marking the first time in U.S.-Indian relations that land was returned, rather than financial compensation paid, on the basis of Religious freedom.

Taos shares many cultural features with the other Pueblo communities of New Mexico and Arizona, and contact Between Taos and other Pueblos has been frequent if not intensive. Given their northern location and easy access to the Plains, the Taos had significant contacts with southern Plains groups, notably the Comanche in the 1700s and more Recently with the Kiowa and Cheyenne in Oklahoma. In spite of many Plains influences—Peyotism, dress style, secular dances and music—Taos has remained distinctly Puebloid. Some customs that appear to be Plains-derived may actually have been elaborated in response to ecological adaptation, including the reliance on hunting and especially bison hunts, which fostered a major dependence on horses and all the material culture that requires. As is true of all the Pueblos, there is a marked ethnocentrism at Taos, but this is even more pronounced in terms of their quiet disdain for the Spanish and for the White Americans who have settled in increasing numbers in Taos Valley in the twentieth century, although never on Indian land.

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