Tiwa-Speaking Pueblos

The Tiwa language is a member of the Tanoan family of languages. In New Mexico there is further a Southern Tiwa and a Northern Tiwa subset. Tiwa is also spoken at the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo near El Paso, Texas and may have been spoken at the now extinct Piro Pueblo near Socorro, New Mexico (the Piro Pueblos were destroyed by the other tribes as they followed the Spaniards southward in the aftermath of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt: the Piros and some Isletans had long been close allies of the Spanish).

Tiwa seems to have been a branching from proto-Tewa beginning possibly in the 1100s as various groups were moving down out of the Jemez Mountains and Chama River area into the Rio Grande valley. As much as the Chaco Canyon and Four Corners areas were being abandoned to get away from the more war-like Athapascans moving in from the north and east, the Tiwa ended up being on the front lines again a couple hundred years later when the Apache, Navajo, Comanche and Kiowa came raiding from the north and east, before, during and after the Spanish occupation. The Spanish had brought horses to help while the French traded furs for guns...

Northern Tiwa

Between 1100 and 1350 CE, there was a really large pueblo at Pot Creek (also known as T'aitona). After a couple hundred years of habitation and growth, it burned. Between what archaeologists and ethnologists have been able to put together, some kind of schism developed among the residents and, after the fire, they split into 2 groups and built Picuris and Taos, several miles from Pot Creek.

In the beginning, Picuris quickly grew larger, more wealthy and more powerful in its position at the mouth of a pass through the mountains that connected the world of the Rio Grande pueblos with world of the Great Plains. The arrival of the Spanish was disastrous for them. Because of Picuris participation in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the returning Spaniards looted and burned the pueblo to the ground and while the pueblo has been rebuilt, Picuris has never recovered.

Even though Taos, too, participated in the Pueblo Revolt, its history with the Spanish (and the Mexicans and the Americans) is more complicated. Oral histories have recorded that, in the beginning, Taos was settled by 13 clans, 7 of which were sourced in Jicarilla Apache lore, 6 in Tewa lore. In the days of Pot Creek Pueblo, the Jicarillas migrated into the area from the east and northeast, from the drainages of the Canadian River and the Purgatoire River. Prior to that most of them were in the El Cuartelejo area, on the eastern plains of Colorado and western plains of Kansas and Nebraska. During the Spanish occupation, the people of Taos killed a few Spaniards and priests and ran to the El Cuartelejo area and hid out for a few years. Spanish troops were sent after them a couple times but to little avail: the people came back when they were ready to. And their pueblo (built around 1400 CE) was never razed nor burned.

Due to its location and history of trade, the Spanish allowed Taos to continue its tradition of hosting trade fairs with surrounding tribes. After Mexico declared its freedom from Spain, the Mexican authorities encouraged the trade fairs to get bigger, although they imposed more taxes.

Stephen Kearny and his Army of the West (with the Mormon Brigade) took New Mexico without firing a shot in 1847. However, shortly after that the Taos Rebellion happened and a lot of shots were fired. The rebels killed Governor Bent and a few other prominent Americans before an American militia arrived from Santa Fe. Then a lot of Taos people died when the Americans bombarded and burned the church where they had taken refuge. The shooting spilled over into Mora where a lot of women and children were killed (while their men were in the mountains hunting) and their village burned. When it was over, a number of the rebel leaders were tried, convicted and hanged from trees around the Taos Plaza (not on pueblo grounds).

Some of the above info is drawn from "Excavations at Pot Creek Pueblo", by Ronald K. Wetherington, Fort Burgwin Research Center, Number 6, 1968.

Southern Tiwa

Finding data about how the Southern Tiwa came to be where they are and how their language developed has been hard.

When Coronado and his men rolled across New Mexico in 1539-40, they found 12 or 13 "Tiguex" pueblos spread thoughout the Middle Rio Grande. They looted Kuaua first, then slowly made their way around to virtually all the others, killing, raping, looting and spreading European diseases as they went. When Don Juan de Oñaté came through 60 years later, only the pueblos of Isleta and Alameda were still occupied, the others having been wiped out by disease.

Due to the damage done to Southern Tiwa culture by the Spanish, there is almost no pottery tradition left at either Sandia or Isleta. There are potters working at Isleta now but they are forging their own traditions, usually based on styles, shapes and designs from other pueblos rendered in the colors of Isleta. When the Archaeology Department at the University of New Mexico decided they were finished with their excavations at Pottery Mound, they transferred title to the property to Isleta Pueblo.

The last working commercial potter at Sandia passed on several years ago.