Taos Pueblo, or Tau-Tah, the place of the Red Willows, is considered the longest continuously inhabited place in the United States, a village of about 150 full-time residents, with around 2,000 people living on Pueblo land.
This sign greets you as you enter the village:
Welcome To Taos Pueblo
The Red Willow People of Taos Pueblo welcome visitors as they have for over 1,000 years. To visit the living village is to walk into a sacred place where life continues from the earliest of human existence. Little has changed here in the high desert village. From the people to the pristine landscape, Taos Pueblo continues to enchant visitors old and new.
This sign makes clear the view that the village is a sacred place, and the daily human activities that take place, day after day, year after year, and century after century are sacred in nature. This thoughtful attitude has traditionally been visible in the simple beauty of the architecture and in the most utilitarian objects like clothing or cooking pots. It continues to make Taos Pueblo an extraordinary place, the only inhabited U.S. Native American World Heritage site.
The village is divided between the Hlauuma (north house) and Hlaukwima (south house). Each is made up of individual homes with outdoor ovens and more contemporary indoor fireplaces as well. Originally, the homes had no doors or windows. Access was gained by a ladder to the buildings’ roofs, which could be pulled up for defense. The village originally had a much taller wall for defense. Construction is mud brick – a mix of earth, water, and straw - with fresh coats of fresh mud applied inside and out periodically, with white interiors. No electricity or running water exists within the village.
Pueblo culture is found throughout the Southwest, beyond New Mexico where Taos Pueblo, the most northern pueblo, is located. It is also the most well-preserved, as a Heritage site and living culture. UNESCO is committed to the protection and longevity of both.
Connection With The Land
The people of Taos are also careful to provide protection to a spirituality that may easily be misunderstood or misused by those who are unfamiliar with the traditions. Beliefs are traditional but with Christian elements as well. For example, Saint Geronimo is the patron saint of the village. Blue Lake was returned to the Pueblo by the U.S. Government in 1970 after being under the control of the U.S. Forest Service since 1906. Blue Lake is at the heart of traditions, with important summer ceremonies, and is therefore off-limits to the public.
In testimony before Congress in 1969, leader Paul Bernal explained,
“In all of its programs the Forest Service proclaims the supremacy of man over nature; we find this viewpoint contradictory to the realities of the natural world and to the nature of conservation. Our tradition and our religion require people to adapt their lives and activities to our natural surroundings so that men and nature mutually support the life common to both. The idea that man must subdue nature and bend its processes to his purposes is repugnant to our people.”
Art & Taos Pueblo
Art, nature, and spirituality can be interconnected. Native arts range from intricately costumed dance, to the distinctive Taos style pottery, which uses clay with mica, a mineral that adds a beautiful glimmer.
Painters Oscar E. Berninghaus and his friend Bert Geer Phillips first came to Taos in 1898. They founded the Taos Society of Artists in 1915, with four other artists. The artists never shared a style, but they all responded to the land and culture and the dream of creating an artists’ colony in Taos. Photographer Edward Curtis made it his life’s work to record Indian ways with photography, wax cylinder recording and journal entries. Curtis came to Taos in 1905.
Mable Dodge Luhan, a wealthy socialite and patron, moved to Taos in 1918. She shared the dream of the Taos Society and invited friends like Georgia O’Keefe to visit New Mexico. O’Keefe eventually moved to New Mexico and developed a spare landscape style that has become iconic. Many important writers, photographers, and even psychology pioneer Carl Jung visited Taos, staying with Mable and her last husband, Tony Luhan, a Taos–raised Indian.
The landscape and way of life has captivated many non-native artists, who came in droves, generation after generation. Taos remains a thriving center still, for artists of all genres.
These are fabric designs by Taos artist Pop Chalee (Merina Luján Hopkins, or Blue Flower), whose father was native to Taos. Commissioned to produce a series of textile patterns, she created designs that reflect her love of nature and bring beauty and delight to the everyday.
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