Linguistically connected to four other Keres-speaking pueblos, relations and cultural exchanges have traditionally been closest between Santa Ana and nearby Zia and San Felipe Pueblos. For the Santa Ana people the annual cycle of life is tied closely to position of the sun and to the agricultural and hunting seasons. Some of their traditional rituals have had their dates changed to Spanish holy days to accommodate Catholicism. Santa Ana’s Day, for example, is celebrated every year on July 26 with a corn dance, a mass, a feast and by visiting among family members.
According to Keresan oral tradition, the gods left behind sacred societies and officers to maintain social order before they departed from the people. The cacique, essentially a priest, is charged with assuring that order, authorizing communal rituals and appointing key officials in the pueblo administration. The pueblo governor acts as the principle intermediary between the pueblo and the outside world but the cacique is the most sacred and most important position in the pueblo hierarchy.
The people of Santa Ana Pueblo have occupied their current site about 27 miles northwest of Albuquerque since at least the late 1500's. They believe their ancestors came from an underground world to the north. Oral history says Iyatiko, their mother, helped their ancestors ascend through four subterranean worlds: the white, red, blue and yellow worlds - before emerging here at Siapapu into this fifth world. Those ancestors, then called Keresans, migrated south to a place they called White House where they lived with the gods who taught them what they needed to know so that they could survive in this hostile world. Eventually, the Keresans began arguing with the kachinas (the gods who essentially control the rain} after a while. Then they started arguing among themselves. This angered Iyatiko and she altered the Keresan language so that each group spoke a separate tongue. That caused the Keresans to leave White House and the settle in different places. The group that moved furthest south settled in the present area of Santa Ana.
The original pueblo, Tamaya, was located about 5,400 feet above sea level against a rocky mesa wall on the north bank of the Jemez River. Historically, travelers in the area followed the north-south trade route along the Rio Grande or headed east and west to the south without making contact. The site provided both protection and seclusion and made Tamaya one of the least visited of the New Mexico pueblos.
The first Spaniards came in the 1540s, looking for gold and finding none. But they kept coming back over the years and Tamaya finally submitted to Spanish rule in 1598. The pueblo was assigned the patron saint Santa Ana and that was when the "official" name changed. The relationship between the Spanish invaders and the pueblo peoples exploded in 1680 when the pueblos staged a successful revolt and drove away their oppressors. Freedom lasted twelve years, twelve years in which the relationships between the pueblos broke down and they were no longer united. Then the Spanish returned and forced the Santa Anans to flee their village and take refuge in the nearby Black Mesa and Jemez Mountains when the Spaniards overran the pueblo and destroyed many of the buildings.
In 1693, the Santa Ana people returned to the present pueblo location and submitted to Spanish rule. Then they began acquiring adjacent land near the Rio Grande to use for agricultural purposes. They supplemented their diet by hunting and gathering . The Santa Ana population rose through most of the 18th century but was reduced in 1789-1791 by a smallpox epidemic. Other epidemics reduced the pueblo’s population further in the late 1800's.
Today, from the raising and selling of blue corn products to Native American clothing to Native American foods to the wholesale and retail distribution of native Southwestern plants to Indian gaming and other investments the pueblo is flourishing, enveloped in a spirit of entrepreneurship.
Pottery is not a large industry in Santa Ana. Traditionally, the people of Santa Ana traded with the people of Zia: crops for pottery. Those few Santa Anans who did make pottery usually emulated the potters of Zia with their wares and their designs. Then the Santa Anans moved further east to the Rio Grande. There they found a fine sand they could use for a temper agent and it produced a different product than the crushed basaltic rocks the Zia potters still use today for tempering their pottery. Most Santa Ana pottery produced in the 1800's had an architectural style with a white slip but by the 1920's, Santa Ana pottery was almost extinct. A revival began in the 1970's when Eudora Montoya (the only Santa Ana potter left) began holding classes to teach the craft to other women. But even now, there isn't a lot of Santa Ana pottery being produced.