New Mexico’s Pueblo Indians are believed to be descendants of the Anasazi. The Anasazi populated the Four Corners region of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is the largest, best preserved and architecturally advanced of all of the early villages of the Anasazi. First inhabited in the ninth century it became a national monument in 1907 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. The Pueblo Indians began settlements along major rivers during the 13th century. They lived primarily around the Rio Grande which begins in south-central Colorado and flows through to the Gulf of Mexico.
Colonization Brings Decimation
According to a study by researchers at Harvard University, the Native population in North America could have been between 2 and 18 million prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. By the end of the 19th century that population had dwindled to about 530,000. Virtually 95 percent of the Native American population died in the first 150 years following 1492. Prior to colonization, the native people did not suffer from smallpox, measles, chickenpox, influenza, typhus, diphtheria, cholera bubonic plague, scarlet fever, whooping cough or malaria. Lacking the immunity from these diseases the native people suffered greatly.
New Mexico’s First Explorers
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was the first major explorer to come into contact with New Mexico’s indigenous population at Zia Pueblo in his 1540–1542 expedition. The expedition of Gaspar Castaño de Sosa was the first to visit Picuris Pueblo in 1591. San Juan Pueblo became the first settlement claimed by the Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate in 1598. In 2005 the Pueblo went back to its original name Ohkay Owingeh
Pueblo Revolt of 1680
The most significant date of record in the history of the Pueblo people occurred in the latter part of the 17th century. In 1680 the Pueblo Revolt forever changed the history of New Mexico. Po’pay, a medicine man at Ohkay Owingeh, spearheaded the revolt. The neighboring pueblos successfully drove the Spanish colonists out of New Mexico for twelve years. Every state has two statues at the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. The statue of Po’pay and Sen. Dennis Chavez represent the state of New Mexico.