Occupied by the Anasazi for over 400 years, the ancient ruins of the Pecos Pueblo, which was declared a National Historic Landmark In1960, are now part of the Pecos National Historical Park, managed by the National Park Service.The site is located in San Miguel County, off I-25 between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Situated in the picturesque pinon and juniper dotted foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, near the Pecos River , the Pueblo site is surrounded by forest land, grasslands, mesas, and mountain peaks. Nearby are the ruins of the Spanish-built Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos. It dates back to 1619. The National Park Service has restored one of the Pueblo’s many ceremonial kivas for visitors to see.
The first pueblos in the Pecos Valley began as a group of rock-and-mud villages built around AD 1100. By 1500, the Pecos Pueblo, known by its Anasazi name as “Cicuye” grew to become a 5-story structure. It was constructed from clay, indigenous stone and adobe mud. The impressive Pueblo housed an estimated 2,500 inhabitants.
The Pecos Pueblo supported a thriving culture with extensive farming in the surrounding valley that provided corn, beans and squash as staples, while the nearby mountains provided abundant wild game. The Pueblo became a major trade center for the eastern part of the Puebloan territory in the Pecos Valley. The Pueblo people traded goods, such as cotton stuffs, pottery, belts, and food for buffalo products, beads, and leatherwork.
Spanish explorers first visited the pueblo in 1541, under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who was in search of treasure. By the early 17th Century, Spanish priests had taken up residence at the Pueblo and were attempting to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Pueblo’s name was changed to Pecos and work was started on the construction of a great Mission. It is thought to have been built by the Franciscan, Fray Pedro Zambrano Ortiz. The Mission was an architectural wonder - with 7-foot thick adobe walls in some places and roof timbers that weighed several tons. It’s dominating presence may have been constructed by the Spanish as a reminder that God and the Catholic Church were invicible and that the Indians had to succumb to their will.
The Indians destroyed the Mission, during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when they defeated the Spanish and drove them out of New Mexico and into Texas. The Indians built a traditional kiva in front of the church, during the Revolt - as a rejection of the Christian religion, which had been forced on them by the Spanish.
The Spanish, however, returned in 1692 and regained control of the territory. After the Spanish reconquest, the mission was rebuilt and the Indians were once again forced to become Christians. The Spanish then abolished and destroyed all forms of their native Indian religion. Today, the Mission’s remaining walls still rest on the original structure’s stone foundation.
During the 1700’s, the Pueblo was continually attacked by marauding Plains Indians and in 1781, many of its inhabitants were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic spread by the Spanish. In 1838, the last 17 survivors abandoned the Pueblo and moved across the Rio Grande River to live with relatives at the Jemez Pueblo. Located about 73 miles west of Santa Fe the Jemez Pueblo remains populated today.
Excavations of the Pecos ruins and mission were conducted between 1915 and 1929 by the noted archaeologist, Alfred V. Kidder (October 29, 1885 - June 11, 1963). They were initiated as a part of a series of archaeological expeditions in the Southwest that were sponsored by Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Kidder excavated a large collection of cultural artifacts that included pottery and pottery fragments, and human bones that dated back more than 2000 years. Kidder sent the pottery and other artifacts back to the Robert S. Peabody Museum in Andover, Massachusetts. The human remains of Pueblo people he excavated were sent to the Peabody Museum at Harvard.
During the early 20th century, archaeologist were not required to consult with Native American descendants concerning the excavation of their ancestor’s homes and graves. Although Kidder was aware of the relationship between the abandoned Pecos Pueblo and the modern Pueblo of Jemez, he did not think that the descendents had any claim to the artifacts and remains he excavated.
That situation was rectified in 1936, when the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), was passed by Congress. It authorized the Pueblo of Jemez to become the legal and administrative representative of the Pueblo of Pecos. Furthermore, the Act requires federal and other museum facilities to inventory, establish cultural affiliations, and publish in the Federal Register all information regarding Native American human remains and artifacts in their possession.
Following that legislation, the Pueblo of Jemez made a formal claim on behalf of the Pecos people to reclaim all human remains and artifacts removed from the Pecos Pueblo site. This repatriation resulted through the efforts of the Jemez Pueblo tribal archaeologist, William J. Whatley, who researched museum archives to find records relating to remains and artifacts from the Pecos Pueblo - that their descendents wanted returned. As a result of his determination, the human remains from Kidder’s excavations of the Pecos Pueblo were finally returned to the Jemez people in 1999. The bones of the ancient inhabitants were then ritually reburied at Pecos National Historic Park.
Today, a small museum in the Visitor’s Center at the site displays some of the Anasazi and Spanish artifacts recovered from the ruins.
During the summer, The National Park Service sponsors daily demonstrations of India arts and crafts, such as pottery making, bread baking, basket weaving and the creation of turkey-feather blankets. Many of of the demonstrations are done by descendents of the original Cicuye people, who live at the Jemez Pueblo.
Edited by Mel Fenson from information derived from The National Park Service, Wikipedia, other web sources, and “Ancient Cities of the Southwest” by Buddy Mays, copyrighted 1982, published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco.
In Return of the Bones, author Belinda Vasquez Garcia weaves a mystical story, based on the actual history of the removal and shipment of ancestral bones from the Pecos archaeological site to the Peabody Museum at Harvard by archaeologist, Alfred V. Kidder in the early 1900’s - and the quest for their return by the people of the Jemez Pueblo in 1999.
Belinda was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a child, she was fascinated by the supernatural and believed in witchcraft. Her writings explore the power of magic and sorcery blended with spice and realism.
She has a degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of New Mexico and worked as a Software Engineer and Web Developer for the Sandia National Laboratory. Her books are available from Amazon.com.
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Return of the Bones
He had heard the bones crying, longing for home. Eighty-four years earlier he had watched helplessly as those bones - that were the bones of his parents and other inhabitants, who had lived their lives at the Pecos Pueblo, were ripped from their graves to be transported far away from their resting place - to be studied at Harvard.
Now a 98-year-old Grandfather, he learns that the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has been passed by Congress and decides he must recover the bones and return them to the Pueblo. He reveals to his granddaughter, Hollow-Woman, who he had raised since birth, how he witnessed the theft of those family skeletons so long ago and implores her to embark upon a road trip to Boston with him to recover the sacred bones.
She and Grandfather are the last of the Pecos people, but Hollow-Woman is not interested in old bones. She hates memories of the haunted family ruins, a place of the Spanish Inquisition, church torchings, blood spillings, ghosts, witches, and poisonings. She works at an Indian casino and is of modern ways, while Grandfather is of the old ways. He is a shaman and values tradition. She finally agrees to accompany him on the trip to help retrieve the bones, hoping the road trip will heal their broken hearts.
Grandfather fashions a magical dream catcher for his granddaughter to
help her "see" and understand the traditions of her ancestors
and appreciate the significance of the bones. While driving a ratty
old pickup-camper, the cantankerous Grandfather and Hollow-Woman bicker
along the many miles from the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico to the Peabody
Museum in Boston. Eventually, with the help of the dreamcatcher, which
sometimes hurls her back to the past, Hollow-Woman begins to understand
and embrace the ties that bind her to her family's past and present.