Acoma Pueblo is a very interesting place. In the picture above, it’s hard to see the village, but it is sitting on top of the bluff. It is inhabited by the Acoma people (pronounced Á-cō-ma). In fact, the peublo has been continuously inhabited for about 1,500 years, making it the oldest city in the United States. It even survived sieges by the Spanish in the 1500’s.
The Pueblo rises 350 feet above the desert floor and there wasn’t a road to the top until the 1960’s. Before that, only 5 staircases (and I use that term lightly) accessed the top. These stairs are so completely hidden from view (probably because they barely exist) that the Spanish never found them when they layed siege to the Peueblo. Interestingly, they (and many other Indian tribes in the area) are matrilineal, with the youngest daughter in the family inheriting the family’s house on the Pueblo.
The only way to see Sky City (another name for the Acoma Pueblo), is by guided tour. On the tour we were assaulted by little bugs (that luckily didn’t bite) that just wanted to land on us and hang on. I’m not sure what they were, but they were about 1/4 inch long and very tanacious. Whenever we would pause in the tour for the guide to point something out, Bob and I felt like monkeys picking nits off each other. It was ridiculous! The guide has lived on the Pueblo his entire life and he said he’s never seen the bugs before. Maybe they are the result of the really mild winter.
Only about 15 families currently live on the Pueblo. There is no electricity or plumbing on the Pueblo so we saw many Port-A-Potties and outhouses. Many more families routinely use their homes on the Pueblo during ceremonies and other special occasions. Many occupy their homes during the day but have homes elsewhere for the night.
Pottery is a big thing for them and they have many very talented potters. We saw some incredibly decorated pottery that took quite an artist to create. Traditionally, the pottery from this area is white with black, intricate markings. Fragments of this pottery have been found as far away as Maine. The trade routes of the ancient indians were quite extensive. On the Pueblo, they have found macaw feathers from South America and shells from the coast of Baja. This is true throughout the region.
At the end of the tour, the guide offered to let us walk down one of the ancient staircases, or we could drive back down with him. Bob and I decided to walk. The guide explained that the stairs had been “improved” for use by the public, but that the stairs were much like they have been for over a thousand years. Before the 1960’s, this particular staircase was the only route for anything the Indians needed in the Pueblo. Everything had to be hand carried up and down the stairs The guide warned that it was a quick 3 second descent should we fall.
Oh, My, Goodness, the “stair” was GROSSLY overexaggerated. It was barely more than a suggestion in the rock. It was quite a challenge and gave us a whole new appreciation for how agile the peole who lived her must have been. If you ever visit Acoma Pueblo, don’t miss the chance to go down those steps, but be warned! Bob and I were the first of our group to go down and we were followed by a family from Paris. The mom and dad were very slow and the kids got ahead of them so we ended up helping the two kids down. Of course, the boy (about 10 years old) LOVED it! It was quite an adventure (and thank God Bob could speak enough French to communicte with them!) Then again, the tone of voice used by a parent to convey danger and caution is universally understood.
Take a look at all our photos here.