Moki and Taos Indian Pueblos
In 1858 Lieut. Joseph C. Ives, in command of the Colorado Exploring Expedition, visited the Moki Pueblos, near the Little Colorado. They are seven in number, situated upon mesa elevations within an extent of ten miles, difficult of access, and constructed of stone. Mi-shong'-i-ni'-vi, the first one entered, is thus described. After ascending the rugged sides of the mesa by a flight of stone steps, Lieutenant Ives remarks: "We came upon a level summit, and had the walls of the pueblo on one side and an extensive and beautiful view upon the other. Without giving us time to admire the scene, the Indians led us to a ladder planted against the front face of the pueblo. The town is nearly square, and surrounded by a stone wall fifteen feet high, the top of which forms a landing extending around the whole. Flights of stone steps led from the first to a second landing, upon which the doors of the houses open. Mounting the stairway opposite to the ladder, the chief crossed to the nearest door and ushered us into a low apartment, from which two or three others opened towards the interior of the dwelling. Our host courteously asked us to be seated upon some skins spread along the floor against the wall, and presently his wife brought in a vase of water and a tray filled with a singular substance (tortillas), that looked more like a sheet of thin blue wrapping paper than anything else I had ever seen. I learned afterwards that it was made from corn meal, ground very fine, made into a gruel, and poured over a heated stone to be baked. When dry it has a surface slightly polished, like paper. The sheets are folded and rolled together, and form the staple article of food of the Moki Indians. As the dish was intended for our entertainment, and looked clean, we all partook of it. It has a delicate fresh-bread flavor, and was not at all unpalatable, particularly when eaten with salt…. The room was fifteen feet by ten; the walls were made of adobes; the partitions of substantial beams; the floors laid with clay. In one corner were a fire-place and chimney. Everything was clean and tidy. Skins, bows and arrows, quivers, antlers, blankets, articles of clothing and ornament were hanging upon the walls or arranged upon the shelves. At the other end was a trough divided into compartments, in each of which was a sloping stone slab, two or three feet square, for grinding corn upon. In a recess of an inner room was piled a goodly store of corn in the ear…. Another inner room appeared to be a sleeping apartment, but this being occupied by females we did not enter, though the Indians seemed to be pleased rather than otherwise at the curiosity evinced during the close inspection of their dwelling and furniture…. Then we went out upon the landing, and by another flight of steps ascended to the roof, where we beheld a magnificent panorama…. We learned that there were seven towns…. Each pueblo is built around a rectangular court, in which we suppose are the springs that furnish the supply to the reservoirs. The exterior walls, which are of stone, have no openings, and would have to be scaled or battered down before access could be gained to the interior. The successive stories are set back, one behind the other. The lower rooms are reached through trap-doors from the first landing. The houses are three rooms deep, and open upon the interior court. The arrangement is as strong and compact as could well be devised but as the court is common, and the landings are separated by no partitions, it involves a certain community of residence." [Footnote: Colorado Exploring Expedition, p. 121.]
This account leaves a doubt whether the stones receded from the inclosed court outward or from the exterior inward. Lieutenant Ives does not state that he passed through the building into the court and ascended to the first platform from within, and yet the remainder of the description seems to imply that he did, and that the structure occupied but three sides of the court, since he states that "the houses are three rooms deep and open upon the interior court." The structure was three stories high.
[Illustration: Fig. 26.—Room in Moki House.]
The above engraving was prepared for an article by Maj. Powell, on these Indians. Two rooms are shown together, apparently by leaving out the wooden partition which separated them, showing an extent of at least thirty feet. The large earthen water-jars are interesting specimens of Moki pottery. At one side is the hand mill for grinding maize. The walls are ornamented with bows, quivers, and the floor with water-jars, as described by Lieutenant Ives.
In places on the sides of the bluffs at this and other pueblos, Lieutenant Ives observed gardens cultivated by irrigation. "Between the two," he remarks, "the faces of the bluff have been ingeniously converted into terraces. These were faced with neat masonry, and contained gardens, each surrounded with a raised edge so as to retain water upon the surface. Pipes from the reservoirs permitted them at any time to be irrigated." [Footnote: Colorado Exploring Expedition, p. 120.]
Fig. 27 shows one of two large adobe structures constituting the pueblo of Taos, in New Mexico. It is from a photograph taken by the expedition under Major Powell. It is situated upon Taos Creek, at the western base of the Sierra Madre Range, which forms the eastern border of the broad valley of the Rio Grande, into which the Taos stream runs. It is an old and irregular building, and is supposed to be the Braba of Coronado's expedition. [Footnote: Relation of Castenada, Coll. H. Ternaeux-Compans. ix, 138. Trans. of American Ethnological Society.]
Some ruins still remain, quite near, of a still older pueblo, whose inhabitants, the Taos Indians affirm, they conquered and dispossessed. The two structures stand about twenty-five rods apart, on opposite sides of the stream, and facing each other. That upon the north side, represented in the above engraving, is about two hundred and fifty feet long, one hundred and thirty feet deep, and five stories high; that upon the south side is shorter and deeper, and six stories high. The present population of the pueblo, about four hundred, are divided between the two houses, and they are a thrifty, industrious, and intelligent people. Upon the east side is a long adobe wall, connecting the two buildings, or rather protecting the open space between them. A corresponding wall, doubtless, closed the space on the opposite side, thus forming a large court between the buildings, but, if so, it has now disappeared. The creek is bordered on both sides with ample fields or gardens, which are irrigated by canals, drawing water from the stream. The adobe is of a yellowish-brown color, and the two structures make a striking appearance as they are approached. Fire-places and chimneys have been added to the principal room of each family; but it is evident that they are modern, and that the suggestion came from Spanish sources. They are constructed in the corner of the room. The first story is built up solid, and those above recede in the terraced form. Ladders planted against the walls show the manner in which the several stories are reached, and, with a few exceptions, the rooms are entered through trap-doors by means of ladders. Children and even dogs run up and down these ladders with great freedom. The lower rooms are used for storage and granaries, and the upper for living rooms; the families in the rooms above owning and controlling the rooms below. The pueblo has its chiefs.
The measurements of the two edifices were furnished to the writer in 1864 by Mr. John Ward, at that time a government Indian agent, by the procurement of Dr. M. Steck, superintendent of Indian affairs in New Mexico. Among further particulars given by Mr. Ward are the following: "The thickness of the walls of these houses depends entirely upon the size of the adobe and the way in which it is laid upon the wall; that is, whether lengthwise or crosswise. There is no particular standard for the size of the adobes. On the buildings in question the adobes on the upper stories are laid lengthwise, and will average about ten inches in width, which gives the thickness of the walls. On the first story or ground rooms the adobes are in most places laid crosswise, thus making the thickness of these walls just the length of the adobe, which averages about twenty inches. The width of an adobe is usually one-half its length, and the thickness will average about four inches. The floors and roofs are coated with mud mortar from four to six inches thick, which is laid on and smoothed over with the hand. This work is usually performed by women. When the right kind of earth can be obtained the floor can be made very hard and smooth, and will last a very long time without needing repairs. The walls both inside and out are coated in the same manner. On the inside, however, more care is taken to make the walls as even and smooth as possible, after which they are whitewashed with gesso or gypsum."
Several rooms on the ground floor were measured by Mr. Ward and found to be, in feet, 14 by 18, 20 by 22, and 24 by 27, with a height of ceiling averaging from 7 to 8 feet. In the second story they measured, in feet, 14 by 23, 12 by 20, and 15 by 20, with a height of ceiling varying from 7 to 7 1/2 feet. The rooms in the third, fourth, and fifth stories were found to diminish in size with each story. There is probably a mistake here, as the main longitudinal partition walls must have been carried up upon each other from bottom to top. A few of the doorways were measured and found to range from 2 1/2 feet wide by 4 1/2 feet high and 2 1/3 feet wide by 4 10/12 feet high. The scuttles or trap-doors in the floors, through which they descended into these rooms by means of ladders, were 3 feet by 2 1/2, 3 feet by 2, and 1 feet 10 inches by 2 1/2 feet, and the window openings through the walls were, in inches, 14 by 14, 8 by 16, 16 by 20, and 18 by 18.
Mr. Ward then proceeds: "No room has more than two windows; very few have more than one. The back rooms usually have one or more round holes made through the walls from six to eight inches in diameter These openings furnish the apartments with a scanty supply of light and air The first story or the ground rooms are usually without doors or windows, the only entrance being through the scuttle-holes or doors in the roof, which are within the rooms comprising the story immediately above. These basement rooms are used for store-rooms. Those in the upper stories are the rooms mostly inhabited. Those located in the front part of the building receive their light through the doors and windows before described. The back rooms have no other light than that which goes in through the scuttle-holes and the partition walls leading from the front rooms, that is, where a room is so situated as to have both. Others again have no other light than that which enters through the holes already described. Such rooms are always gloomy. Some families have as many as four or five rooms, one of which is set apart for cooking, and is furnished with a large fire-place for the purpose. Those who have only two or three rooms usually cook and sleep in the same apartment, and in such cases they cook in the usual fireplace, which stands in one corner of the room. No perceptible addition has been made to either of the buildings for many years, and it is evident that after the death or removal of their owners they were entirely neglected. Those in good condition are still occupied. From the best information attainable the original buildings were not erected all at one time, but were added to from time to time by additional rooms, including the second, third, and more stories. There are no regular terraces, the roof of the rooms below answering that purpose. Thus it is that no entire circuit can be made around any one of these stories, the only thing that can be called a terrace being the narrow space left in front of some of the rooms from the roofs of the lower rooms."
Mr. Ward seems to object to the word "terrace" in defining the platform left in front of each story as a means of access to its apartments and to the successive stories. It was used by the early Spanish writers to explain the same peculiarity found in many of the great houses in the pueblo of Mexico and elsewhere over Mexico, the roofs being flat and the stories receding from each other. While this platform is not in strictness a terrace, the term expresses this architectural feature with sufficient clearness. The two structures at Taos are large enough to accommodate five hundred persons in each, the inmates living in the Indian fashion. They were occupied in 1864 by three hundred and sixty-one Taos Indians.
"Each terrace is reached," remarks Mr. Miller before mentioned, speaking of the pueblos in general, "by a wooden ladder, first from the ground and afterward from the one below; and ingress and egress to and from the rooms below is on the inside in the room above through trap-doors and upon ladders. It is wonderful to see with what agility the Indian children and the dogs run up and down these ladders. Nowhere is there any side communication between the rooms in the great building, and but one family occupy each series of rooms situated one above the other." This last statement is too broadly made, as we have seen that Mr. Ward has given the measurements of doors through partition walls. Such doors will also be shown in a subsequent engraving. But there is no doubt of the fact that the number of lateral rooms communicating with each other was small, and that the families or groups, if such existed, united in a communal household, were separated from each other by solid partition walls, a fact which will reappear in the house-architecture of Yucatan.
In 1877, David J. Miller, esq, of Santa Fe, visited the Taos Pueblo at my request, to make some further investigations. He reports to me the following facts: The government is composed of the following persons, all of whom, except the first, are elected annually. 1. A cacique or principal sachem. 2. A governor or alcalde. 3. A lieutenant-governor. 4. A war captain, and a lieutenant war captain. 5. Six fiscals of policemen. "The cacique," Mr. Miller says, "has the general control of all officers in the performance of their duties, transacts the business of the pueblo with the surrounding whites, Indian agents, etc., and imposes reprimands or severer punishments upon delinquents. He is keeper of the archives of the pueblo; for example, he has in his keeping the United States patent for the tract of four square leagues on which the pueblo stands, which was based upon the Spanish grant of 1689; also deeds of other purchased lands adjoining the pueblo. He holds his office for life. At his death, the people elect his successor. The cacique may, before his death, name his successor, but the nomination must be ratified by the people represented by their principal men assembled in the estufa. In this cacique may be recognized the sachem of the northern tribes, whose duties were purely of a civil character. Mr. Miller does not define the duties of the governor. They were probably judicial, and included an oversight of the property rights of the people in their cultivated lands, and in rooms or sections of the pueblo houses."
"The lieutenant-governor," he remarks, "is the sheriff to receive and execute orders. The war captain has twelve subordinates under his command to police the pueblo, and supervise the public grounds, such as grazing lands, the cemetery, estufas, &c. The lieutenant war captain executes the orders of his principal, and officiates for him during his absence, or in case of his disability. The six fiscals are a kind of town police. It is their duty to see that the catechism (Catholic) is taught in the pueblo, and learned by the children, and generally to keep order and execute the municipal regulations of the pueblo under the direction of the governor, who is charged with the duty of seeing to their execution."
"The regular time for meeting in the estufa is the last day of December, annually, for the election of officers for the ensuing year. The cacique, governor, and principal men nominate candidates, and the election decides. There may also be a fourth nomination of candidates, that is, by the people. In the election, all adult males vote; the officers first, and then the general public. The officers elected are at the present time sworn in by the United States Territorial officials."
In this simple government we have a fair sample, in substance and in spirit, of the ancient government of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Some modification of the old system may be detected in the limitation of officers below the grade of cacique to one year. From what is known of the other pueblos in New Mexico, that of Taos is a fair example of all of them in governmental organization at the present time. They are, and always were, essentially republican, which is in entire harmony with Indian institutions. I may repeat here what I have ventured to assert on previous occasions, that the whole theory of governmental and domestic life among the Village Indians of America from Zunyi to Cuzco can still be found in New Mexico.