The Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico
The Acoma Pueblo is the oldest still inhabited community in North America. The ancient village of pueblo homes can be found on top of a 365-foot tall mesa to the west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pueblo actually dates to over 1,200 years ago and some of the buildings that are still standing have been there for over 500 years.
"The view is amazing," said Jenna Porter who traveled from South Dakota for a family vacation to see the Acoma Pueblo. "It looks even prettier than pictures of the Pueblo we saw before we came.” Jenna read about the Pueblo at her school, she explained, as she followed a Acoma Pueblo Native American guide on a tour.
Thousands of visitors come to the Acoma Pueblo each year from around the world for a living history tour of the village. The Acoma Mesa is the only Native American site named as a National Trust Historic Site. Visitors are only able to visit if they take the guided tour led by a tribal member. A bus picks you up at the Sky City Cultural Center and takes you to the top of the hill to see the adobe homes.
You also meet artists who sell pottery and jewelry. Pictures are only allowed if visitors request a camera permit at the visitor center. Permits are attached to cameras so that people who live there know that it is OK to be photographed.
"I've never seen anything like this before," said Camille Coehlo who traveled from Boston, Massachusetts, to see the Acoma Pueblo.
Camille enjoyed a traditional lunch of fry bread baked in outdoor horno ovens that is served at the Yaak'a Cafe. She visited the Haak'u Museum and Gaits'j Gallery to learn about the Acoma people and their traditions before boarding the tour bus to the Pueblo village.
"I'm impressed by this cultural experience,” she said. “It provides so much insight about the people who have lived here for so many years.”
The tour guide shows visitors two and three story adobe structures. Some of the buildings have outside ladders to climb to get into the upper levels of the houses. There are a few homes where visitors are allowed to go inside to buy pottery and jewelry. Most of the artists stand outside to greet the guests. Tables are set up with hand crafted jewelry and traditional olla pots that are hand coiled with clay dug from the grounds of the Pueblo.
"The Acomas are a matriarachal society," explains the tour guide. "That means that the homes on the mesa are passed on from mother to daughter and owned by the women, not the men. The families that get to live there are chosen by the tribal council as a family honor.”
Cannon damage from 1540 can still be seen on the side of some of the houses in the mesa. The damage was from the first time the Acoma Pueblo came under enemy attack by the Spaniards who decided to colonize the area. The village was burned and hundreds of Acomans were killed and made slaves. Visitors can see evidence left behind from that time.
You can also see one of the oldest churches in New Mexico, the San Esteban Del Rey Mission, which was built by the Spaniards. Of the 6,000 Acomans alive today, only about 50 actually live year around in the village. Most tribal members live in homes on the nearby reservation.
Native Americans from the Acoma Pueblo gather on the mesa for feast day celebrations and public events throughout the year. Celebrations include their St. Esteban Feast Day in September, the Acoma Pueblo luminarias and dances in December, and the Governor's Feast Day in February.
PHOTOS: (TOP) The pueblo homes of Acoma Native Americans in New Mexico. (BOTTOM) Kid Reporter Jacob Schroeder with an Acoma guide at the pueblos. (Photos Courtesy Jacob Schroeder)