Santo Domingo Pueblo

The mission church at Santo Domingo Pueblo
Santo Domingo Mission Church
Leaf design inside and geometric design outside on a polychrome bowl
Polychrome bowl with leaf design inside and geometric design outside
6 in H by 11 3/4 in Dia
circa 1930
Cloud, water and geometric designs on a polychrome vase
Polychrome vase decorated with cloud, water and geometric designs
8 3/4 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Circa 1900
Floral and geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar decorated with a floral and geometric design
6 in H by 5 1/2 in Dia
Dated c. 1950
Geometric design on a polychrome chile bowl
Polychrome chile bowl decorated with a geometric design
3 1/4 in H by 8 in Dia
Dated c. 1940
    Kewa
  • Language: Eastern Keres
  • Size: 81,000 acres
  • Population: 2,500

Pueblo History

The people of Santo Domingo Pueblo have been in the general area of the Pajarito Plateau since the 1200's. Previous villages were destroyed by floods in 1606, 1700 and 1855, causing the residents to move to higher ground and rebuild. The present village came together organically around 1866. The present mission church was built in 1899.

The Santo Domingo people were participants in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In 1681, Antonio Otermin (Spanish Governor of the Province) led a punitive mission against Santo Domingo, only to arrive and find the pueblo deserted: the people had moved to the mountain stronghold at Cieneguilla with their Cochiti Pueblo neighbors. Otermin had the village burned before moving on. When Don Diego de Vargas arrived in the area in 1692 he attacked Cieneguilla and burned it, too. Many of the survivors fled west and south to Acoma, Zuni and Hopi. Most of those only stayed a short while before moving to Laguna when it was first being established. Eventually, though, most returned to the present area of Santa Domingo and started over again.

It is felt the people of Santo Domingo came to the Pajarito Plateau from the Mesa Verde area in the 1200's.

Geometric design on the outside of a large polychrome dough bowl
Large polychrome dough bowl decorated with a geometric design on the outside
9 3/4 in H by 17 in Dia
Made c. 1910
Birds, clouds and geometric design on a polychrome storage jar
Polychrome stroage jar decorated with birds, clouds and geometric design
11 3/4 in H by 15 1/2 in Dia
1950's vintage polychrome jar
1950's vintage polychrome storage jar
8 1/2 in H by 8 3/4 in Dia
Geometric design and faceted rim on a polychrome bowl
Polychrome bowl with geometric design and faceted rim
5 in H by 9 in Dia
An unknown Santo Domingo potter made this jar
Jar by an unknown Santo Domingo potter

Pottery History

Kewa Polychrome seems to have developed in the 1880's and has been a mainstay of pottery design in the pueblo ever since. The style features black geometric designs in vertical panels painted on a cream-colored slip body with a solid red slip underneath. The Aguilar family started a "reverse painting" trend around 1910 by covering the cream-colored slip almost entirely with black and red. Today's polychrome designs feature animals, leaves and flowers. It is strictly forbidden to paint human forms or sacred symbols on their pottery.

There were very few potters in the pueblo in the early 1900's as most people were making jewelry. Santana Melchor, taught the art of pottery making by her mother, began making pieces in the 1920's and by 1945 she was the most prominent potter at Santo Domingo. She also taught the art to her children and grandchildren. However, it seems the recent revival in Santo Domingo pottery began in the 1970's when Robert Tenorio, originally of a jewelry-making lineage, learned pottery making from his aunt Andrea Ortiz. Over the years since he has revived many of the traditional Kewa styles and passed his art on to more of his family. He has also inspired others within the pueblo to learn to make Santo Domingo pottery again.

Geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar with a geometric design
9 in H by 8 1/4 in Dia
Floral and geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar decorated with a floral and geometric design
9 1/2 in H by 7 3/4 in Dia
Wildlife and nature design on a polychrome canteen
Polychrome canteen decorated with a wildlife and nature design
5 3/4 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Geometric design on a polychrome dough bowl
Polychrome dough bowl decorated with a geometric design
6 3/4 in H by 14 1/2 in Dia
Geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar with a geometric design
9 in H by 9 1/4 in Dia
Upper photo courtesy of Wikipedia userid Davidhc9, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License
Pottery photos courtesy of Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery