Tribal History

In order to fully appreciate and understand the Pojoaque people and their cultural context, it is necessary to talk about some historical background on Pojoaque. In one account of general Tewa origins, all of the known Tewa people dispersed to their present villages from Pojoaque, thereby making Pojoaque the “mother” village for all of the historic Tewa people. It is likely that the ancestors of the Pojoaque people migrated into the general vicinity of the present Pueblo from the Four Corners region late in the first millennium, A.D. Their Anasazi ancestors built and occupied some of the cliff dwellings of the Mesa Verde area, and one or more of the large villages of the Montezuma Valley in southwestern Colorado. If such was the case, the Pojoaque people have historically confronted many threats to their survival long before we were able to discern their presence in the Rio Grande Valley.

There were periodic droughts, plagues of grasshoppers, pestilence, and the advent of the Navajo and Apache peoples into the Southwest sometime in the 15th century, sustaining and unremitting raids of warfare. There were also likely encroachments by neighbors in times of general food shortages. Eventually, there was the great migration to the Rio Grande Valley itself.

All of these factors represented profound threats to the Pojoaque people’s continuity. The Pojoaque people endured despite these adversities is evident as we look at the cultural vitality reflected in the Pueblo today. It is against this background that the invasion and subsequent colonization by the Spanish beginning in the 1540 must be assessed. The Spaniards represented just one more threat to be met and overcome, and the people met it with the same pragmatism with which they met all past challenges. They took what they considered to be good from the encounter and they rejected that which they considered threatening to their cultural integrity. A bloody revolt was waged by all Pueblo peoples in 1680 over the subjects of greatest contention between the two peoples – religious persecution and cultural oppression.