Gina Dawn Stuart-Richard
Copyright © Gina Dawn Stuart-Richard 2012
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of
In the Graduate College
This thesis has been submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for an
advanced degree at the University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library
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SIGNED: Gina Dawn Stuart-Richard
This thesis has been approved on the date shown below:
April 6, 2012
Dr. T. J. Ferguson
Affiliated Professor of American Indian Studies
Professor of Practice of Anthropology
The pages of this thesis hold much more than just the culmination of years spent
as a student, researcher, and writer. These pages also reflect the relationships with many
generous and inspirational people I have met since beginning my graduate work. The list
is long, but I cherish each contribution to my development as a scholar and researcher.
To my advisor and Master’s Committee Chairperson, Dr. T. J. Ferguson, you
have been a wise and patient mentor who has challenged me to always look below the
surface of the problem in order to understand the larger context of the issues.
To my mentor and committee member Dr. Nancy J. Parezo, you have offered
many encouraging words, thoughtful criticism, and time and attention during a very busy
year—you are my Obi-Wan Kenobi for everything AIS and have shown me that social
change is central to intellectual work and, as such, scholars have a responsibility to use
the privileges of academia to imagine and create a better world.
To my committee members Dr. Maria Nieves Zedeño and Dr. Benedict J.
Colombi you have provided direction and kind criticism when it was due and who have
kept me on the path by encouraging me and offering me your wisdom and knowledge.
To my family for their sacrifices and support while I climb this academic
mountain—your encouragement means the world to me and you are the reason for my
success and are my motivation to keep moving forward. Special thanks to my husband
Andy and my daughters Allison and Emélie, at times you have borne the brunt of my
frustrations but have also celebrated my many successes. Your love and encouragement
is what pulls me through. Thank you.
I would also like to thank the Pueblo of Acoma, the Hopi Tribe, the Pueblo of
Laguna, the Navajo Nation and the Zuni Tribe for submitting the Tribal Significance
Statements to the New Mexico Cultural Properties Committee for the Mount Taylor
nomination. The importance of this undertaking should not be underestimated.
And finally, this work was made possible by the generous encouragement and
support of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona. This
material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate
Research Fellowship under Grant No. 2011120951.
This thesis represents an act of persistence, not only in its creation, but in the
previous generations of my own family and their persistence in carrying and holding
sacred our identity as Mississippi Choctaw people. I dedicate this project to my
Mississippi Choctaw ancestors whose determination and sacrifices over many
generations have made this project a very personally significant one. This project is
dedicated to Daniel Shumaka (1785-1860), Sarah Ann Shumaka (1827-1883), Jemima
“Cricket” Bledsoe (1849-1919), Marion A. Moffett (born 1879), Alikchi Alva Council
Shelton (1899-1978), and most especially to my grandfather, Joe M. Shelton (19212006). Chi hollo li, hash asha li biliah. Yakoki.
LIST OF TABLES .............................................................................................................. 7
LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................................................ 8
ABSTRACT........................................................................................................................ 9
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................... 10
Statement of the Problem ............................................................................................. 11
Purpose and Research Questions ................................................................................ 14
Definitions .................................................................................................................... 15
Research Paradigm...................................................................................................... 18
Limitations ................................................................................................................... 19
Ethical Considerations ................................................................................................ 20
Landscape Definitions and Cultural Connections ....................................................... 22
Senses of Place............................................................................................................. 27
Landscape Theory and Ensouled Geography .............................................................. 29
Ancient Blood and a Living Landscape ....................................................................... 32
Identity Loss, Cultural Trauma and Ceremonial Restoration ..................................... 34
Loss of Ancestral Heritage Lands and U. S. Preservation Policy ............................... 39
Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 40
Identity and Connections to the Land .......................................................................... 42
Data Analysis ............................................................................................................... 43
Identity and Its Connection to the Land....................................................................... 44
Setting and Tribal Groups ........................................................................................... 45
Indigenous Knowledge About the Land ....................................................................... 47
Application of the Case Study ...................................................................................... 50
CHAPTER 5: RESULTS .................................................................................................. 63
Data Evaluation ........................................................................................................... 64
The Pueblo of Acoma ................................................................................................... 65
The Hopi Tribe ............................................................................................................. 69
Pueblo of Laguna ......................................................................................................... 71
Navajo Nation (Diné)................................................................................................... 74
Zuni Pueblo .................................................................................................................. 76
Data Comparison ......................................................................................................... 78
CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSION ......................................................................................... 81
Discussion .................................................................................................................... 83
Limitations ................................................................................................................... 85
Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 87
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTS .................................................................................... 89
Section 1: Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statements Regarding Mount Taylor ........ 89
Section 2: Hopi Tribe Significance Statements Regarding Mount Taylor ................ 104
Section 3: Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statements Regarding Mount Taylor ..... 106
Section 4: Navajo Nation Significance Statement Regarding Mount Taylor ............ 117
Section 5: Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Regarding Mount Taylor ............... 120
REVIEW BOARD DOCUMENTATION)..................................................................... 125
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................... 126
Table 1: Variables Associated With Land by Native Writers .......................................... 48
Table 2. Evidence from the Mount Taylor Tribal Significance Statements ..................... 57
Fig 1. Mount Taylor, New Mexico facing north............................................................... 12
Figure 2. Comparison of the boundaries for the Mt Taylor Traditional Cultural Property
........................................................................................................................................... 54
Figure 3. “The Old Bell Tower.” Bell in the opening of San Esteban del Rey’s north bell
tower ..................................................................................................................................66
Land is a critical element in the formation of, maintenance and continuance of
Native identity to tribes in North America. Since time immemorial, Native people have
occupied these landscapes in a manner than can perhaps be best described as “persistent.”
Native views of the land can differ significantly from those of a Western, or AngloAmerican tradition. And when managers of these lands come from a Western tradition,
dissimilar views on how these lands should be used can become very problematic for
Native people. This research examines how five tribes (Pueblo of Acoma, the Hopi Tribe,
Pueblo of Laguna, Navajo Nation and Pueblo of Zuni) view their identity and future
cultural continuity as their ancestral homelands are inundated by competing uranium
mining interests that threaten to destroy the Mount Taylor landscape of northern New
Since time immemorial, Native people have occupied the landscapes of North
America in a manner that can perhaps be best described as persistent. Prior to European
contact, a thousand generations of Native people were born from, fought over, lived on,
and perished into lands that knew no other people before them. Indeed, it is this ancient
and continuous connection to the landscapes of their origins that formed peoples with
unique cultural traditions that would eventually become the Native people of today. This
enduring link with the land is what sustains many of the expressions of contemporary
Native culture and identity. Laguna Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko (1977) writes
that the land itself is a living, breathing essence with the power to create an entire culture,
or heal and restore a wounded soul. In her essay “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo
Imagination,” Silko tells us that the land has the power to bring people into existence, to
create distinct Native identities, and that by the creation of stories also forms the
imagination of Native people.
Location, or "place," nearly always plays a central role in the Pueblo
oral narratives. Indeed, stories are most frequently recalled as people
are passing by a specific geographical feature or the exact place where
a story takes place.... The Emergence was an emergence into a precise
cultural identity . . . a journey of awareness and imagination in which they
emerged from being within the earth and from everything included in earth to the
culture and people, differentiating themselves for the first time from all that had
surrounded them, always aware that interior distances cannot be reckoned
in physical miles or calendar years . . . . [Silko as quoted in Cochran 1995: 69]
This process of creating of Native identity, Silko argues, is directly attributable to
the landscapes of ones’ heritage and is somehow different from the creation of non-
Native identities. “Thus the journey was an interior process of the imagination, a growing
awareness that being human is somehow different from all other life—animal, plant, and
inanimate. Yet we are all from the same source: the awareness never deteriorated into
Cartesian duality, cutting off the human from the natural world” (Silko as quoted in
Cochran 1995: 69). Many people today tend to see the land as a Cartesian grid with
particular landscapes located, not in the imagination, but at a Cartesian address, an exact
point that can be referenced scientifically with exact satellite precision. The idea that the
land is somehow more than just real estate, or the result of some unfinished geological
process is what may be behind the connection of land to the identities of many Native
people. Land is infused with something else to many Native people, perhaps something
greater or a “spirit of place” that creates a “heightened awareness of the spiritual and
redemptive power of the natural and the imaginative. . . . the link between land and story”
(Holm 2008: 243).
Statement of the Problem
Native views of the land can differ fundamentally from those of a Western, or
Anglo-American worldview. And when managers of these lands come from a Western
tradition, dissimilar land-use values can become very problematic when these differing
values become imposed on the same lands. One recent controversy that highlights the
problems that arise from different land-use paradigms is the nomination of Mount Taylor
to the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties in 2009. Five tribes (Pueblo of
Acoma, Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Laguna, Navajo Nation, and Zuni Tribe) submitted
extensive evidence to the state of New Mexico’s Historic Preservation Division to prove
this area qualifies as a Traditional Cultural Property or an place that “embod[ies] or
sustain[es] values, character, or cultural coherence” (King 2003: 1) and should be
protected from the potentially devastating effects of uranium mining.
Figure 1. Mount Taylor, New Mexico facing north. Photograph by Jim Blanchard (Acoma and Others
The Mount Taylor area was found eligible for listing on the National Register of
Historic Places (NRHP) in 2007 (Benedict and Hudson 2008). But given the 1872
General Mining Act, any such recognition could be subordinate to uranium mining
interests, an issue that has deeply divided mining interests and historic preservation
proponents. To provide an additional layer of protection, these tribes called on the state of
New Mexico to exercise its power to recognize this historic property under the state’s
historic preservation laws to foster its protection for future generations. Under the New
Mexico Cultural Properties Act of 2005, the power to protect cultural properties granted
to the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee might be greater than the
powers of protection granted to properties under the NRHP. As the New Mexico Cultural
Properties Act of 2005 states, powers granted to the New Mexico Cultural Properties
Review Committee are done so “in a manner conforming with, but not limited by, the
provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966” (New Mexico Statutes 186-1 2005, emphasis added). Like the NRHP protection, state preservation is not a
guarantee of protection, but does provide a process whereby tribes can participate in the
decision-making process that affects these sacred lands.
Although the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee
overwhelmingly approved the nomination in a 4-2 vote, uranium mining and ranching
interests sued and in February 2011, the New Mexico district court struck down the
nomination. The court decision did not address the case on the merits of the nomination
as a Traditional Cultural Property under the NRHP, but rather on a technicality
stipulating that the committee had violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when it failed
to notify uranium companies which held leases in this area, and also based on the
extremely large size of the area to be protected (Ausherman 2011). The tribes are
appealing this decision and a hearing by the New Mexico State Supreme Court is
scheduled for May 14, 2012 (Rayellen Resources, Inc. et al v. New Mexico Cultural
Properties Review Committee and Pueblo of Acoma et al, Case No 33,497). Should the
interests of uranium mining and ranchers prevail in this matter, this sacred and often used
site in the plateau Southwest could be irreversibly damaged and lost to generations of all
people. For some tribes, this place is integral to their cultural histories. Without
protection, these lands, along with the tribal identities associated with them, could be
jeopardized, or at the very least, forever changed.
Purpose and Research Questions
Land use and preservation dilemmas such as the Mount Taylor case, create a
problem for land managers and tribes since these significant ideological differences go
deeper than land use or mining interests. The crux of the problem lies in how these lands
are seen as sacred and important to tribal heritages and identities and demonstrates how
historic preservation legislation is not set up to protect homelands using this paradigm.
The outcome is often unsatisfying and not a good way to address the protection issues of
these types of sacred lands. My goal in this thesis to explore the link between these
sacred lands and the creation, maintenance, and continuance of distinctly Native
identities so that perhaps preservation legislation can be enacted in the future that
addresses this issue. Native people see themselves as coming from lands that are imbued
with sacredness, and then eventually returning to that land in a cycle that is as old as the
generations who have inhabited it. I am concerned with questions about the role that land
plays in identity creation, and how the ways one views the land can substantially affect
the way identities are created. Ultimately I am interested in what the potential effects to
the continuation of tribal identity might be if physical and spiritual damage occurs within
these ancestral lands if uranium mining and ranching interests eventually prevail in this
court case.
A theoretical framework is developed in this thesis that focuses on how Native
peoples envision the landscapes of their heritage and how this is connected to identity
formation, maintenance, and persistence. This is investigated using statements of Native
authors, researchers, and theorists. The Tribal Significance Statements offered in the
nomination of Mount Taylor to the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties Tribal
Significance Statements are examined as a case study to identify how the five nominating
tribes see their identities created from their relationship to their ancestral landscapes and
how these identities persist in a close connection with the Mount Taylor landscape.
This “geosacred relationship” (Holm 2008 243) that many Native people have
with their heritage lands includes many processes in many realms that might not be
considered important to a conventional Western definition of landscape or sacredness.
The Oxford English Dictionary (2012) defines “landscape” as “all the visible features of
an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.” By this definition, a
landscape is not what is under the surface or in the areas above and only includes what is
visible to the observer. In contrast, a Native definition of the same term can have a much
different meaning:
So long as the human consciousness remains within the hills, canyons, cliffs, and
the plants, clouds, and sky, the term landscape, as it has entered the English
language, is misleading. “A portion of territory the eye can comprehend in a
single view” does not correctly describe the relationship between the human being
and his or her surroundings. This assumes the viewer is somehow outside or
separate from the territory he or she surveys. Viewers are as much a part of the
landscape as the boulders they stand on. There is no high mesa edge or mountain
peak where one can stand and not immediately be a part of all that surrounds.
[Silko 1986: 884-885]
In this thesis, I use Silko’s holistic definition of “landscape” to incorporate a Native
viewpoint in what would otherwise be a Western scientific inquiry.
“Sacred” is another term that needs to be defined. According to the Oxford
English Dictionary (2012), one definition of “sacred” means “connected with God or a
god or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration” as well as “regarded
with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, group, or individual.” This
definition is obviously indicative of a Judeo-Christian, or other monotheistic religious
tradition and focuses on the meaning of sacred as being connected to a religion with a
high-order association to a single god and is somewhat different from a Native definition.
The operational definition of sacred in a Native frame of reference can be much more
complex and deep-seated. The Earth Island Institute, a grassroots environmental group
and offshoot of the Sierra Club provides a useful perspective on what sacred means from
a Native viewpoint:
To the Western ear, “sacred” may be synonymous with “sacrosanct” — inviolably
holy — but to an indigenous culture, a place labeled as “sacred” may instead
mean something spiritually alive, culturally essential, or simply deserving of
respect. This Western conception of and emphasis on “sacredness” often leads
indigenous groups to accept the label, however ill-fitting it may be, because
protection efforts might otherwise be ignored. A place that is just “spiritual” or
“culturally important” rather than “sacred” may not be deemed by those outside
the community as important enough to protect. [Sacred Lands Film Project 2012]
Vine Deloria, Jr., in an interview with Duncan Campbell, contrasted the Native
and Western definitions of sacredness:
Well, it’s a problem we have currently in practical politics. And the question is, is
this particular location sacred only to us or could it be sacred to other people or
whatever? And I argue that the place is sacred in itself and it’s up to people to
apprehend that that’s the nature of the place. And then consequently almost
anyone could have the experience. Indians just happen to be there more often. But
if you say something’s sacred to us, then you’re opening the door for all kinds of
people to choose all of their specificities as if it were a matter of intellectual
assent to a belief and you’ve destroyed the whole idea of what is sacred or what is
not. [Personal Life Media 2007]
Within Native definitions of sacredness, the boundaries of what is and what is not sacred
are not contained within a single definitive answer. Sacredness is instead a fluid concept,
in stark contrast to the Western definition offered by the Oxford English Dictionary.
Deloria (1994) recognized the differences in these root concepts by saying that “This lack
of understanding highlights the great gulf that exists between traditional Western thinking
about religion and the Indian perspective. It is the difference between individual
conscience and commitment (Western) and communal tradition (Indian), these views can
only be reconciled by examining them in a much broader historical and geographical
context” (270).
This Native, or Indigenous, view of the landscape is the focus of this research. In
this thesis, I use the term “Native” to refer to people who are originated on the North
American continent. The term Indigenous is used when the concepts or theories being
discussed could be applied to the larger set of Native peoples outside of the boundaries of
the United States. The term Western will be used to refer to people of or descended from
the larger western hemisphere and the term Anglo-American will refer specifically to
people who are or were from or descended from, or have significant ties to a British legal,
cultural, and linguistic heritage. This term is used to distinguish these people from those
of the larger European society which has a Western heritage and is not meant to say that
other cultures have not or did not affect Native Americans in the past, or even the present.
However, the use of this term in this thesis is used to distinguish the culture and laws of
Anglo-American descendants (because most of the laws of the United States are based on
English Common Law) as the predominant force that substantially affects the
administration of Native American heritage lands today.
Research Paradigm
Historically, Native communities have been studied by researchers and
anthropologists who applied a Western or Anglo-American frame of reference. While
many anthropologists have done outstanding work with Native people, relatively few
anthropological publications were written by Native scholars using Native ways of
knowing and seeing the world. Until recently the question of which research paradigm to
use for a project like this was not routinely considered. By virtue of the project being
conducted in an American university, it was assumed that the research paradigm would
be Western or Anglo-American based. However, in recent years, indigenous and cultural
studies scholars such as Winona LaDuke (2005) and Shawn Wilson (2008) have made
the point that although it may be common to conduct research utilizing an AngloAmerican scientific research paradigm, Indigenous people have always had their own
research paradigms designed around Native understandings of the world. Today there is
increased interest, especially in American Indian Studies, to recognize these Indigenous
paradigms, and to consciously choose to use them singly or in conjunction with one or
more Anglo-American theories to conduct research about Native American peoples.
Many Native people today choose to assert more control over their research, lands, and
especially heritage management resources (Ferguson et al. 2006: 10-11), so respecting
traditional Native research paradigms is critical to understanding the ideological conflicts
associated with scholarly research. The research for this thesis reflects an Indigenous
research paradigm by addressing the goals, the cultural histories, and views of identity
that are connected to the land from the point of view of particular Native peoples.
This research seeks to understand the role of landscape in identity creation from
the point of view of the five tribes in the case study: the Pueblo of Acoma, the Hopi
Tribe, the Pueblo of Laguna, the Navajo Nation and the Zuni Tribe. The information used
for this research was publicly submitted by these five tribes and may not reflect the views
of all the members of these tribes. It certainly does not reflect the views of all Native
Americans. It is important to understand that issues such as tribal or personal identity are
complex matters and contain elements which are beyond the scope of this project.
Although in some instances the word identity or land may be used to refer to general
categories, the idea of Native identity is much more accurately described as Native
identities—recognizing that each tribe, group, or member has different ways of creating
their own distinct identities by their unique relationship to their distinct and separate
ancestral heritage lands. Likewise, in the case study, it is important to note that all tribes
and all people do not characterize their relationship to the land in the same way.
Therefore, it becomes necessary to form categories for inquiry that do not necessarily
represent the views or categories of all tribes or peoples. Although there may be
commonalities, the purpose of this research is to explain these connections between the
land and identity, not to provide an inventory of factors that will apply to all Native
Ethical Considerations
In conducting this research, it was apparent from the literature that some tribes
were reluctant to give specific details regarding sacred categories due to cultural and
religious prohibitions about revealing sacred information to outsiders, non-Indians, nontribal members, or to uninitiated tribal members. Therefore, to respect and uphold tribal
sovereignty, all information used in my study was publicly provided by the tribes in the
Tribal Significance Statements they included with the cultural properties nomination
form. Sensitive cultural information and locational information about specific sacred sites
was not included in this thesis because it does not add significantly to the research
conclusions and might compromise the protection of these sacred sites.
All research for this thesis was conducted in accordance with the Arizona Board
of Regents guidelines for human research. This project, as it was submitted to the
University of Arizona’s Institutional Review Board, was determined to not constitute
human research under the definition approved by the Arizona Board of Regents.
Documentation provided to and approved by the University of Arizona’s Institutional
Review Board for Human Subjects Determination is included at the end of this thesis in
Appendix B.
Landscape Definitions and Cultural Connections
In recent years the term “landscape” has become a popular topic for study in the
arts and sciences. Terms such as cultural landscapes, traditional cultural properties,
landscape theory, cultural geography, architecture and landscape, and a plethora of
emerging Native landscape studies seem to be the topics de jour at major universities
nationwide. The question becomes is this a fundamental change in what is an important
dimension of Indigenous life that must be discussed if one is to understand certain aspects
of Native life, or is it a theoretical fad, a hot topic? Unexpectedly, as popular as these
studies seem to be, there is not a single definition of landscape that is broadly applied in
all these studies. It seems as though each discipline utilizes its own definition of the term
“landscape” and thus influences research questions and interpretations as well as
conclusions. What all these landscape studies hold in common, however, is contention (or
assumption) that culture is deeply, and somewhat inextricably, tied to the landscape in
ways that are not easily, or universally, understood. This is not a new idea.
In the early part of the 20th century, Carl Sauer, a Berkeley cultural geographer,
began to lay out a definition for what a landscape is and is not. Long considered Sauer’s
seminal work, “The Morphology of Landscape” defines landscape as one that necessarily
situates the concept firmly in geography (Leighly 1963:6). Sauer struggled with the term
and what it implied. “The term ‘landscape’ is proposed to denote the unit concept of
geography, to characterize the peculiarly geographic association of facts. Equivalent
terms in a sense are ‘area’ and ‘region’” (Sauer 1963: 321). But in the same work, Sauer
struggled to make a distinction between the physical properties of the land and the
temporal properties of history upon it (Sauer 1963: 321). Although Sauer worked closely
with Alfred Kroeber and his students, Sauer’s views on the land conflicted with
Kroeber’s. Nevertheless, Sauer but still gave credit to Kroeber and German geographers
of the day for a theoretical construct that distinguished the physical from the cultural
landscape, an important distinction that has remained active in academia. Sauer’s
argument that German theoreticians contention that the land’s “shape, in which the
process of shaping is by no means thought of as simply physical” (Sauer 1963: 321) is
important to this definition as well. It may be defined, therefore, as an area made up of a
distinct association of forms, both physical and cultural” (Sauer 1963:321). Sauer further
describes landscape as not so much a thing per-se, but more of a process, one with a
distinctly “organic quality” (Sauer 1963:322). Kroeber, however, believed the term
“organic” was the exclusive opposite of “culture” (Kroeber 1917: 163). Additionally,
Sauer stated that it is difficult to conceptualize landscapes without a human element
simply because the geographic reality is that landscapes are formed by human interaction
with the land itself and it is this culturally embedded interaction that gives meaning to the
land (Sauer 1963:325). Sauer quoted Oswald Spengler’s ideas about the culturelandscape connection as one where cultures “grow with original vigor out of the lap of a
maternal natural landscape, to which each is bound in the whole course of its existence”
(Sauer 1963:325). Although Sauer’s and Spengler’s ideas were novel for their day,
contemporary definitions of landscape generally incorporate this culture-landscape theory
prima facie. They are so ingrained that few reference them anymore; and attributions to
Sauer’s and Spengler’s theories are given only vague reference if at all.
Nearly seventy years after Sauer sought to define landscape as a concept strongly
linked to culture, anthropologist Tim Ingold echoes a similar thought when he defines
landscape as “a part of us, just as we are a part of it” (Ingold 1993:154). Ingold references
the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure as being similar to any proposed
definition of the landscape. Saussure theorized that language and mental concepts
correspond to an example of words written on both sides of a single page. One cannot cut
apart the words on one side without also cutting the words on the other (Ingold
1993:155). Ingold theorizes that landscape and culture operate in much the same fashion
with space imbued with cultural meanings with the world being “as it is known to those
who dwell therein, who inhabit its places and journey along the paths connecting them”
(Ingold 1993:156). However, as similar as this definition may seem to Sauer’s landscape,
there is a subtle difference. Sauer defines the physical landscape as one thing that,
geographically speaking, limits a culture: “We are interested in that part of the areal
scene that concerns us as human beings because we are part of it, live with it, are limited
by it, and modify it” (Sauer 1963:325). Just as Sauer saw the culture-landscape
connection as essentially a one-way relationship with humans altering the land, Ingold
portrays the landscape as the embodiment of culture and with culture altering the land–
inseparable concepts and components of a single thing or a relationship, two sides of the
same page with each side affecting the other.
As interesting and similar as these two concepts of the culture-landscape
connection may be, it is worth noting that both are formulated from a Western or AngloEuropean worldview; one that contrasts with a Native worldview. For the purposes of
landscape studies in North America, particularly when dealing with Indigenous cultures,
it is critical to include in our definitions and theories Native concepts of the culturelandscape relationship. In “Mountain Form, Village Form: Unity in the Pueblo World,”
Rina Swentzell (1993) of Santa Clara Pueblo contextualized the definition of landscape
through a pueblo worldview. In speaking about her beliefs on how culture influences the
landscape, Swentzell reflects on her own Santa Claran traditions of the land: “we remain
a part of any place we visit—any place where we breathe or leave our sweat. That is why
we must think and move carefully wherever we go, because we become one with the
place and, therefore, influence its spiritual quality” (Swentzell 1993:144). Thus, social
thought and action influence both the cultural and the physical landscape and their
interrelationship. This adds a third dimension. Although this view is somewhat similar to
both Sauer’s culture-landscape structure and Ingold’s cultural embodiment of landscape,
Saussure’s “both sides of the same page” metaphor is perhaps even better illustrated
through Swentzell’s pueblo landscape worldview. “Intimacy with the human and natural
contexts is essential to operate in the multiple levels of reality. Intimacy with the land,
with the earth, is especially crucial . . . That intimate connection and relationship with
[the land as] our mother pervades all thought and action” (Swentzell 1993:144-145).
Swentzell, like Sauer, explains that these connections retain a deeply organic quality
because of the human cultural component within the landscape (Swentzell 1993:142) and
that the pueblo beliefs of this culture-landscape connection are at the heart of pueblo life,
and pueblo people literally feed this connection. “As they took from the land,” Swentzell
(1993: 146) explains, “they were obligated to give something back in return . . . thoughts
of thankfulness or a sprinkle of cornmeal, symbolic of nourishment and recognition.”
Although it is difficult to define exactly what a culture-social-landscape
connection may mean in a way that encompasses every society in every instance, there is
ample evidence to suggest that such a connection does exist although it is recognized in
different ways by different cultural epistemologies and philosophies and is activated by
different cultural traditions and activities. One thing seems to remain consistent from
either a Western or Native American worldview: the natural characteristics of a landscape
can and do influence our cultural beliefs, traditions, and religions. Similarly, as humans
move across landscapes over time with their wealth of technological potentials, the
imprints left behind are indelible marks upon the land even if they might appear invisible
to an untrained eye. Perhaps Sauer epitomized this concept succinctly when he said that
“one has not fully understood the nature of an area until one ‘has learned to see it as an
organic unit, to comprehend land and life in terms of each other’” (Sauer 1963:322).
From this a person, society or any social unit has a sense of place, an identity.
Senses of Place
Scholars working in the Anglo-European anthropological tradition have been
intrigued for more than a century about the connections that Native people have to
ancestral places in the American west. Keith H. Basso has explored this topic for more
than a half century and in Wisdom Sits in Places he asks the question “What do people
make of places?” (1996: xiii). As Basso examines the concept of place from a Native
(specifically a Western Apache) viewpoint, he realizes that this concept of place has
much more depth and importance than when imagined in an Anglo-American context.
Whereas Western concepts of place predominantly involve a Global Positioning System
(GPS) coordinate on a Cartesian grid, Basso notes that place for the Western Apache is
quite different. “Apache constructions of place reach deeply into other cultural spheres,
including conceptions of wisdom, notions of morality, politeness and tact in forms of
spoken discourse, and certain conventional ways of imagining and interpreting the
Apache tribal past” (Basso 1996: xv). Place pervades all aspects of life for the Western
Apache including language, art, music and philosophical thought.
Basso notes that some places in the Western Apache landscape have become
significant because of the history and stories that have become connected to a specific
site, area or locale. Once lands become storied landscapes, infused with cultural meaning,
Native people invest themselves into that landscape and it becomes prominent within a
group’s cultural continuity. It is a complicated blend of culture and land wherein, as
Basso (1996: xiii) states, “groups of men and women have invested themselves (their
thoughts, their values, their collective sensibilities) [into the land] to which they feel they
One of the most profound concepts that Basso identifies among the Western
Apache is the idea of a cyclical relationship between humans and the land. Not only do
the Western Apache nourish themselves from the land, they also sustain it. In one San
Carlos Apache story that Basso relates, the people who originally planted corn seeds at
the place called Juniper Tree Stands Alone have come to harvest their corn:
These fields look after us by helping our corn to grow. Our children eat it and
become strong. We eat it and continue to live. Our corn draws life from this earth
and we draw life from our corn. This earth is part of us! We are of this place,
Juniper Tree Stands Alone. We should name ourselves for this place. We are Gad
´O´ááhn [Juniper Stands Alone People]. This is how it shall be. [Basso 1996: 21]
Additionally when the people die, they return to the earth, nourishing it in much the same
way as it nourished them, and thus completes the cycle.
Western Apache believe it is not just the places that hold significance, but the
place names as well. These places connect the people to the land as a storied landscape,
with place names imbued with meaning. As one Apache elder explained to Basso:
Western Apache place-names were created by his ancestors, that they were—and
are—his ancestors’ very own words . . . Descriptive place-names came first . . .
The names of clans, which are based upon descriptive place-names, came later
when the land was being settled upon and people had gathered in the vicinity of
farms. Commemorative names were awarded last, after the Apaches had made
the land their own . . . Whenever one uses a place-name, even unthinkingly, one is
quoting ancestral speech . . . It is something, he says, to think about. [Basso 1996:
Although many Western authors hint that a deeper connection to the land may
exist, especially among some Native people, few Western authors expound on the
concept beyond a land-identity suggestion. However, Basso does comment on this and
states that in order to form and maintain identity, Native people must be intimately
connected with the landscapes of their heritage:
As Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux), has observed, most American Indian
tribes embrace “spatial conceptions of history” in which places and their names—
and all that these may symbolize—are accorded central importance. For Indian
men and women, the past lies embedded in features of the earth—in canyons and
lakes, mountains and arroyos, rocks and vacant fields—which together endow
their lands with multiple forms of significance that reach into their lives and shape
the ways they think. Knowledge of places is therefore closely linked to
knowledge of the self, to grasping one’s position in the larger scheme of things,
including one’s own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is
as a person. With characteristic eloquence, N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa) suggests
that this has been so for a very long time. [Basso 1996: 34]
Basso continues using Momaday’s own words:
From the time the Indian first set foot upon this continent, he centered his life in
the natural world. He is deeply invested in the earth, committed to it both in his
consciousness and in his instinct. The sense of place is paramount. Only in
reference to the earth can he persist in his identity. [Momaday (1994), in Basso
1996: 35]
Clearly, Native identity comes from the land, and both Momaday and Deloria believe that
a close connection to the lands of Native heritage is imperative for maintaining a
distinctly Native identity.
Landscape Theory and Ensouled Geography
In support of my commitment to an Indigenous research paradigm, one of the
most powerful theoretical perspectives will be a model of Native theories and ways of
knowing and relating Native identity to the landscape developed by Professor Gregory
Cajete from the Pueblo of Santa Clara in New Mexico. Initially called Spiritual Ecology,
and later Theology of Place, Cajete’s (1993a) Native place theory is based on his own
tribal tradition. Cajete examines a proposed generalized Native place theory as
experienced by and in Cajete’s own Santa Claran tradition. Cajete privileges one area of
culture—religion—in his model and holds that it is the main mechanism for puebloan
culture-social-land interactions, similar in importance to Basso’s Athabascan naming
principles. Reverently calling the ancient and sacred landscapes which Santa Clarans
have called home since ancient times an “Ensouled Geography,” Cajete (1993a: 50)
theorizes that the relationship that Native people have with the landscapes of their
heritage is one that “embodies a theology of place which reflects the very essence of what
may be called spiritual ecology.” Cajete also says that this land-theology connection has
much more depth and involvement than just the physical landscape itself because the land
was formed by the people, and the people and their identities were formed by the land. At
the heart of Native American identity are the landscapes that are deeply connected to how
Native people perceive themselves and their realities (Cajete 1993a: 50):
Indian people, through generations of living in America, have formed and been
formed by the land. Indian kinship with this land—its climate, its soil, its water,
its mountains, its lakes, its forests, its streams, its plants, and its animals—has
literally determined the expressions of Indian theology. The land has become an
extension of Indian thought and being, because, as one Pueblo elder states, “It is
this place that holds our memories and the bones of our people . . . this is the
place that made us!” [Cajete 1993a: 50-51]
Cajete (1993a: 51) expands this theory by employing an old saying used by
pueblo people that translates to “that place that the People talk about” (1993a: 51), a
concept very similar to the Athabascan and Western Apache concept of naming. By
orienting themselves to a physical place in the landscape, pueblo people are actually
orienting themselves to something much greater—sacred orientation and a place of
consciousness called sacred ecology (Cajete 1993a: 51). This sacred orientation to the
land affects all aspects of pueblo life from religion to language to identity. Cajete (1993a:
51) argues that this is made possible by the fact that Native people have had a long and
continuous relationship to the land that could span as long as 30,000 years or more, that
is, from time immemorial, a concept that Frank Hamilton Cushing began using in the
1880s, one that he had obtained from the Zuni. This relationship, especially to the sacred
mountains, is what has influenced the Santa Claran tradition of taking a broader view of
important things, a view Cajete (1993a: 51) calls “Pin peyeh obe” which means to “look
to the mountain.” The meaning of this phrase is that one must consider the long range
effects and outcomes of a situation as if one stands on a mountaintop to gain a much
broader spatial and contextual perspective including a deeper perspective through time,
that is how the generations to come will be affected (Cajete 1993a: 51). Cajete says that
this perspective “remind[s] us that in dealing with the landscape, we must think in terms
of a ten thousand—twenty thousand—or thirty thousand—year relationship” (1993a: 51).
Laguna Pueblo author Paula Gunn Allen makes a very similar point in her short
essay “Iyani: It Goes This Way”:
We are the land. To the best of my understanding, that is the fundamental idea
embedded in Native American life and culture in the Southwest. More than
remembered, the Earth is the mind of the people as we are the mind of the earth.
The land is not really the place (separate from ourselves) where we act out the
drama of our isolate destinies. It is not a means of survival, a setting for our
affairs, a resource on which we draw in order to keep our own act functioning . . .
the relationship is more one of identity, in the mathematical sense, than of
affinity. The Earth is, in a very real sense, the same as ourself (or selves), and it is
this primary point that is made in the fiction and poetry of the Native American
writers of the Southwest. [Allen 1993: 191]
Allen’s beliefs are similar to those of Cajete (1993a), Momaday (1994), Swentzell
(1993), Ingold (1993) and Western Apache narrators (Basso 1996) because landscape and
identity are inseparable concepts—identity construction is deeply connected to
homelands and the land itself is defined by the people who live upon it. And in turn, the
people and all of nature are defined by the land.
Ancient Blood and a Living Landscape
This deep landscape connection to Native identity is found articulated in a great
deal of Native literature of the latter portion of the twentieth century and continues to the
present day. Native authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Luci Tapahonso, and Beth
Brant remind us of just how deep this connection is and how necessary it is to life as
these authors relate the land not just to post-contact historical events, but to events that
happened even before humans were a part of the earth. Land and creation are inseparable.
The land is the beginning of all things as Laguna Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko
tells us. “It begins with the land; think of the land, the earth, as the center of a spider’s
web. Human identity, imagination and storytelling were inextricably linked to the land, to
Mother Earth, just as the strands of the spider’s web radiate from the center of the web”
(Silko 1996: 21). According to Silko, elements of Native identity existed in the land even
before people were a part of their ancestral landscapes and that the lands were created for
them before they were born.
Mohawk poet Beth Brant (1999) recognizes the depth of this connection and how
it is related to the land where humans were created and the place where people return
when they die. Brant (1999: 96) writes, “Native women write about the land, the land, the
land. The land that brought us into existence, this land that houses the bones of our
ancestors, this land that was stolen, this land that withers without our love and care. This
land that calls us in our dreams and visions, this land that bleeds and cries, this land that
runs through our bodies.” According to Brandt, the land is what brought humans into
existence, thus cementing the concept of Mother Earth as the creator of all things.
In a similar fashion, Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso explains that after the Holy
People created the land and the people on it, they have continued to watch over the
people and the lands that they created. “It is said that the Diyin Dine’é, the Holy People,
appear at dawn each morning. After they set the world in place for us, they retreated to
live within the sacred mountains . . . They did not abandon us; they return each morning
to ‘check on us’” (Taphonso 2008: 11). Tapahonso reminds us that the Navajo people
believe not only in the holiness of their ancestral landscapes, but that the creators are
watching over them every day, protecting them and guiding them from sacred places that
still exist on the Din landscape.
Along with this primordial connection to the land, many Native people see this
land-identity connection as one that is essentially cyclical in nature, as Basso has
demonstrated in his work with the Western Apache. This connection is best described as
one where ancestral blood comes from and eventually returns to ancestral lands. Author
N. Scott Momaday (1989) examines this ancestral link to the land in his novel The
Ancient Child. “Looking at the Oklahoma plains, ‘He could not remember having seen
earth of that color; it was red: earlier a flat brick red, now deeper, like that particular
conte crayon that is red and brown, like old blood, at the same time—or catlinite, the
color of his father’s name’” (Momaday 1989: 63). These and many other Native authors
speak of the land as a living entity that has always given life to, and continues to sustain
Native people over the millennia.
Identity Loss, Cultural Trauma and Ceremonial Restoration
Native identity and the land have existed side-by-side in an interdependent
relationship for thousands of years. This relationship has influenced agriculture,
ecological understanding, art, dancing, and the ceremonial cycle and it serves to
reconnect the people and the land on a regular, and consistent basis. As Cajete (1993a:
52) writes, “We do this because it is a way to continue to remember to remember our
relationship to our place, and to preserve our view of life for each of the generations to
follow. Once we break these sacred cycles we will begin to forget about spiritual ecology
and will collectively abuse the land, as we see today.” Because the relationship between
the people and the landscapes of their heritage are renewed on an on-going basis, the two
coexist and influence one another so long as the connections are respectfully kept. “This
is the complex of the relationship, symbolism, attitude, and interaction with the land that
comprises the Pueblo theology of place” (Cajete 1993a: 52). Native people connect and
reconnect to the land, thus sustaining their identities as Native people.
Silko tells us that some tribes, such as the Pueblo of Laguna, have fared far better
than most because their members still have a daily connection to their ancestral heritage
lands. She argues that maintaining this connection is of paramount importance:
One of the other advantages that we Pueblos have enjoyed is that we have always
been able to stay with the land. Our stories cannot be separated from their
geographical locations, from actual physical places on the land. We were not
relocated like so many Native American groups who were torn away from their
ancestral land. And our stories are so much a part of these places that it is almost
impossible for future generations to lose them—there is a story connected with
every place, every object in the landscape. [Silko 1996: 58]
Silko goes on to say that because the Laguna were able to remain on their ancestral lands,
they are able to renew this land with the ceremony of storytelling in a way that reaffirms
their identity as Laguna people:
What I enjoyed most as a child was standing at the site of an incident recounted in
one of the ancient stories that old Aunt Susie had told us as girls. What excited
me was listening to her tell us an old-time story and then realizing that I was
familiar with a certain mesa or cave that figured as the central location of the
story she was telling. That was when the stories worked best, because then I
could sit there listening and be able to visualize myself as being located within the
story being told, within the landscape. . . So we sometimes say the moment is
alive again within us, within our imaginations and our memory as we listen.
[Silko 1996: 42-43]
Cajete warns that disrupting ties to the land and blocking access to sacred, storied
landscapes can have devastating effects on Native people. Once the people have moved
away from or are no longer connected to their ancestral lands, the critical land-identity
connection can be severed and the identity of the people may erode away with especially
ruinous effects. “As a result, many Indian communities experience ‘existential’ problems
such as alcoholism, suicide, self-abuse, depression and the other social and spiritual ills
which befall traditional people once they lose their direct connection to spiritual ecology”
(Cajete 1993a: 52-53).
In recent years, one group of psychologists have pointed to this “existential
problem” and its accompanying loss of identity as possible root causes of many social
and medical problems that plague Native societies today. Issues of intergenerational
grief, cultural trauma and historical trauma impact Native people today in ways that were
not previously understood (Morgan and Freeman 2009). In addition to these existential
problems, new medical research also shows compelling evidence that Native populations
who relied on traditional medicinal remedies from a specific landscape for millennia may
be at risk for health problems previously unknown to them once they no longer have
these lands and remedies available to them (Jackson 2008). The powerlessness felt by
many Native people due to the disruption in the cultural continuum and identity
formation as a result of 500 years of colonialism, disease, forced removal, allotment and
assimilation creates an atmosphere of cultural sadness and intergenerational grief that
many Native groups struggle with daily (Pullar 1992).
Public health research also indicates that restoring health may mean restoring ties
to the land. Native medical researcher Dr. Lori Colomeda (Micmac) of Salish Kootenai
College says that “When indigenous peoples speak about restoring health, they talk about
restoring the land in the same breath. For indigenous peoples, health is linked to the
health of the land, health of the culture, and spiritual health” (Colomedia and Wenzel
2000: 244). By honoring this tie to sacred landscapes, Native people can “look to the
mountain” for a healing restoration of their identity. Cajete believes that as long as Native
people remain “people of place” (1993a: 53), this existential breakdown can be avoided.
The restorative effect that ancestral lands can have on identity has long been
recognized by both Western authors in works such as The Wizard of Oz and Native
authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday and others as “a particularly
holistic and healing sense of place” (Holm 2008: 243). In Silko’s Ceremony, the
protagonist, Tayo, becomes healed from his psychological war wounds by reconnecting
with the traditions and landscapes that his ancestors have called home since time
immemorial. “Tayo’s illness is a result of separation from the ancient unity of person,
ceremony, and the land, and his healing is a result of his recognition of this unity” (Allen
1992: 119). In Ceremony, it is only when Tayo returns to the land and becomes a part of
the storied Laguna landscape and “the enduring story within the land” (Allen 1992: 126)
that he becomes fully healed.
Cajete (1993-1994: 43) expanded on his theory dealing with Native identity and
ties to the landscape by using the term “ensoulment” to recognize the deep connections
that many Native groups have between their souls and the soils of their traditional lands.
This ensoulment, Cajete explains, “represent(s) the deepest level of psychological
involvement with their land and in a sense also reflected a kind of map of their soul”
(1994a: 43). Cajete works from the idea that not only were Native people born of the land
and born for the land, “they understood themselves as literally born of the earth of their
Place” (1994a: 43). Therefore, Cajete reasons that although Indigenous people have a
deep connection to the landscape, it is more specific than that. They see themselves as
connected to a particular landscape, a specific place from which they were born. “That
children are bestowed to a mother and her community through direct participation of
‘earth spirits,’ and that children come from springs, lakes, mountains or caves embedded
in the earth where they existed as spirits before birth, was a widespread Indian
perception” (Cajete 1994a: 43). Cajete argues that because of this connection to a specific
landscape, and perhaps even a specific feature of a particular landscape, that this is
ultimately where Native identity comes from. “This is the ultimate identification of being
indigenous to a place and forms the basis for a fully internalized bonding with Place . . .
‘Indigenous’ means being so completely identified with a place that you reflect its very
entrails, its insides, its soul” (Cajete 1994a: 43).
Cajete maintains that this connection to traditional lands is so deeply embedded in
Native identity that the traumatic loss of such lands is a devastating affliction that can
affect many generations to come (1994a). This, Cajete laments, has resulted in a kind of
“soul death” for people who then entered the reservation system (1994a: 45). He quotes
one tribal elder who remarked that “They withered like mountain flowers pulled from
their mother soil” (Cajete 1994a: 45). Cajete then argues that the key to Indian
revitalization may be found in a return to traditional homelands since it is these lands and
a kinship with the natural world in these specific landscapes that is from where the soul
comes and has hope for what the future might bring. “Reconnecting with nature and its
inherent meaning is an essential healing and transformational process for Indian people . .
. It lies as a seed buried deep, deep within the Indian soul, waiting for its opportunity to
sprout anew in the hearts and mind of a new generation of Indian people” (Cajete 1994a:
Loss of Ancestral Heritage Lands and U. S. Preservation Policy
Despite the fact that historic and cultural preservation laws now mandate that
Indigenous material culture and human remains deserve consideration under the law, the
lands that formed the very identity of Native people does not receive this same
consideration. As Cajete (1994a: 44) observes, “Today, the artifacts of Indian cultures are
legally protected. Yet the wellsprings from which such cultural expressions come—the
land, the plants, the animals and the waters—are generally viewed by mainstream society
as being outside the realm of cultural preservation.” Although this view has changed
somewhat in historic preservation practice, it remains an important point that perhaps
deserves more consideration in future historic preservation legislation.
Although Cajete has published his theories of Spiritual Ecology and Theology of
Place in two later books, Look to the Mountain and A People’s Ecology, they remained
largely unchanged and served as the springboard from which Cajete argues for his return
to Native education, and Native sustainable ecological practices. By utilizing a deep
understanding of the connections between identity and sense of self to traditional
landscapes, Cajete has produced what is not only a viable theory which can explain the
deep connections that identity has to landscape, but also explains the devastating effect to
identity when this link is severed. Through these theories, Cajete shows us one way to
understand ways to heal Native societies from the impacts of 500 years of colonialism
and should perhaps be taken up in the 21st century in historic preservation practice.
Landscapes can be understood from many different angles with many alternative
views of how land impacts culture. Native authors, researchers, and theorists have
outlined some very specific ways in which Native identity is connected to land and
includes elements from many different fields, including religion, literature, ceremony, the
natural world, and epic answers to even larger questions such as “Who are we?” “Where
do we come from?” and “Where are we going as a people?” To many Native scholars,
the ultimate goal is survival of Native identity in a world that is struggling after 500 years
of colonial influence which many consider to be “post-apocalyptic” (Lauter 2010: 631,
Silko 1977, Vizenor 1978). For these people, the key to cultural continuity and the
survival of their identities lies in maintaining and restoring their connections to the lands
of their heritage. It is through these connections to the land, their mother, they can
ultimately pass along ancestral knowledge and Native identity and guarantee cultural
survival for the next generation.
Identity and Connections to the Land
As virtually every Native author, researcher, and scholar whose works were
reviewed for this project has made clear, Native identity comes essentially from the land.
This connection and association is conveyed and articulated through creation stories,
storytelling, songs, dances, place names, ceremonies, pilgrimages, sacred trails, and a
multitude of other ways. This redundancy serves to connect people to ancestral lands.
These are the ways in which Native identity is created, maintained, and continued for
future generations. It is the past—how Native ancestors successfully figured out how to
live with respect and in balance with the land—that assures Native people of their place
in the world, and it is the legacy that they will pass to their children and grandchildren.
This relationship with a specific “homeland” is what makes their cultures and traditions
unique and it is what sustains them, just as they sustain the ancient land from where they
came. It is a symbiotic relationship. This thesis examines the process by which
homelands impact identity from a case study of five tribal groups. By examining
statements of Native people themselves, this processes can become somewhat clearer.
Several Santa Clara, Navajo and Laguna authors (Allen 1993; Cajete 1993a, b,
1993-94, 1994a, b, 1999; Silko 1986, 1996; Swentzell 1993; Tapahonso 2008) have
stated that it is the events of the past, especially the pre-human past, that transpired on
ancestral homelands and the ways in which Earth People (as opposed to Spirit People)
have interacted with these places of spiritual genesis that are responsible for the creation
and development of specific Native identities. It is important to build a theoretical
framework to understand how this occurs, and to answer the following research
What role does the land play in the creation of a contemporary Native
2. If this role exists and is considered important, what are the ways that
contemporary identities have been created from ancestral landscapes?
3. How are contemporary identities maintained through reference to and
association with a homeland? Does this maintenance require continued access
to places in the homeland and active control of respectful stewardship which
the addition of new populations threaten?
4. What might be the potential effects to the continuation of these identities if
these ancestral homelands are no longer accessible to Native people?
By understanding these factors, conceptions of the homeland and its landscape, the
worldviews of place, time and culture intersections, advances in land preservation can be
made to preserve lands and access to them for Native interests. If such is the case, then by
logical extension, it is only proper that the needs, intellectual paradigms and concerns of
Native people themselves be the leading voice in this undertaking for landscapes
recognized as culturally specific homelands.
Data Analysis
A case study is used to interrogate specific ways in which Native identities are
formed by the land. For this thesis, an indigenous “homelands and identity” framework is
created based on values obtained from the printed works of Native North American
authors, regardless of cultural heritage of the author. These works address the importance
of land in identity creation, and show ways in which these authors assert how identities
are created, maintained, and continued. Next, works that convey information about
specific cultural identities, creation narratives and ideas about identity will be examined
to provide context for the case study. The information for the case study consists of the
printed Tribal Significance Statements submitted to the state of New Mexico’s Historic
Preservation Division asking for protection for Mount Taylor by the Pueblo of Acoma,
Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Laguna, Navajo Nation, and Zuni Tribe. This case study data will
be compared to this homelands and identity framework to examine how culturally
specific notions of identity are found and applied in contemporary tribal identities with
specific examples, commonalities and distinctiveness noted.
Identity and Its Connection to the Land
This connection to homelands is conveyed through creation and clan migration
narratives, stories, songs, dances (ritual and secular performance), place names,
ceremonies, pilgrimages and sacred trails. It is the past that occurs on a homeland that
assures Native people of their place in the present world, and it is the legacy that
members of each society will pass to their children and grandchildren. A direct, ongoing
connection to a homeland that has existed since creation is what makes Native cultures
and traditions unique. Native authors state that it is this connection that sustains them,
just as they in turn, through their rituals, songs and prayers, sustain the ancient land from
where they came.
Setting and Tribal Groups
The information used in this thesis comes from the communities surrounding
Mount Taylor in the state of New Mexico in the form of a case study from 2009 that was
conceived and authored by Native people, or the anthropologists they hired and directed,
and was submitted to the State of New Mexico to nominate Mount Taylor to the New
Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. In response to the anticipated damage to
and possible destruction of this sacred site by uranium mining, five tribes (Pueblo of
Acoma, the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Laguna, the Navajo Nation and the Zuni Tribe) in New
Mexico submitted Tribal Significance Statements detailing specific reasons about how
and why the Mount Taylor area is important to their creation narratives and concepts,
identity, cultural continuity, and future as Native peoples. Formally titled “Application
for Registration, New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties,” and received by the
Historic Preservation Division on May 22, 2009, this public document totals more than
500 pages which provide critical information to help us understand the role that sacred
landscapes can play in identity formation and maintenance among these five tribal
In the nomination to the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Division, a
physical and historical description of Mount Taylor was given:
Mount Taylor is visible from much of central New Mexico. At 3,445 meters
(11,301 feet) above mean sea level, it is one of the highest peaks in the State. In
1849, a U.S. Army topographical engineer named the peak for President
Zachary Taylor. “The peak is part of the rim around a five square mile volcanic
crater, exposed by millions of years of erosion, that rises above a vast pedestal of
Cretaceous era sandstone mesas capped by layers of cooled lava.” [Acoma and
Others 2009: Section 9, page 1]
However, the five tribes who submitted the nomination view the mountain as
representing much more:
Mt. Taylor, as a landscape, provides guidance to people in ways
that motivate, organize, and structure how they live their everyday lives as
members of their communities. They [the tribes] note, “The concept of landscape
blends the land itself with the perceptions of individuals and communities in the
context of their cultural values and beliefs” . . . Quoting a passage by Ferguson . .
. Benedict and Hudson . . . convey their understandings that (1) people and their
landscapes cannot be separated, and (2) the processes through which people create
and maintain their landscapes are informed by the processes through which
culture instills values, beliefs, and historical memory among the members of their
respective communities. [Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 1]
Although exactly what constitutes the geographic and cognitive boundaries of
such a place is hard to define, the Native communities that submitted the nomination
have been in existence for a very long time, perhaps thousands of years, and are well
known. The Pueblo of Acoma refers to Mount Taylor as Kaweshtima. This ancient
pueblo community has existed alongside Mount Taylor in a timeframe that exceeds 1,000
years (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 18) and according to Acoma oral
tradition, probably much longer. The Hopis call the mountain Tsiipiya, and although the
Hopi mesa communities maintain somewhat different traditions, they are likewise an
ancient group with connections to Mount Taylor (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12,
page 37). The Pueblo of Laguna refers to Mount Taylor as Tsibina and has roots in the
Mount Taylor area that predate the Pueblo Revolt and extend before A.D. 1550 (Acoma
and Others 2009: Section 12, page 46). The Navajo Nation calls the mountain Tsoo Dziɬ
and tribal members have inhabited the Mount Taylor region for at least the past 500 years
and most likely much longer (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 83). Zuni Pueblo
calls Mount Taylor Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne and traces its roots in the area back
to their emergence into the fourth world and claim cultural affiliation with the Mount
Taylor area back to Paleoindian times (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 100).
From this, it is clear that these five tribes have had long and continuous affiliations with
this sacred area that extend back before written records in this area.
Indigenous Knowledge About the Land
I have compiled the information on Southwest Native American ways of knowing
and understanding the land that are contained in the Mount Taylor Tribal Significance
Statements. These expressions about homelands and identity help us explicate what is
theoretically important to understand the role that a homeland plays in tribal identities as
it pertains to these specific tribal and cultural contexts. Many of these relationships
between landscape and identity appear cross-culturally as commonalities. Insofar as the
categories in Table 1 are represented, for purposes of clarity it was recognized by the
researcher that some of the points raised by different tribes do have certain similarities
and have been grouped in such a fashion. For example, one tribe may express the
importance of deities and land, while another tribe discusses spirit beings and land and
therefore are grouped into a single category. Detailed in Table 1 below are the categories
as expressed by Native authors and which form the framework in which the case study
will be interpreted.
Table 1: Variables Associated With Land and Identity as Noted by Native Writers
Association with individual or community identity
Association with creation and origin stories
Association with deities and spirit beings
Association with specific place names
Association with oral tradition
Association with kinship groups and clans
Association with religious and medicinal societies
Association with priesthoods and kiva groups
Association with beginning of life ceremonies
Association with coming-of-age ceremonies
Association with matrimonial ceremonies
Association with end-of-life ceremonies
Association with religious or medicinal ceremonies
Association with ancestral villages and use areas (archaeological sites)
Association with pilgrimage activities
Association with ritual or sacred paraphernalia
Association with ritual performances
Association with burials or reburials
Association with death and rebirth
Association with spiritual and sacred trails
Association with prayers and offerings
Association with shrines
Association with stars, astronomy and the cosmos
Association with weather phenomenon
Table 1: Variables Associated With Land and Identity as Noted by Native Writers
Association with seasons or the changing of the seasons
Association with sacred waters
Association with medicinal plants
Association with food and agriculture
Association with collection of minerals, paints, pigments, crystals, and other natural
Association with hunting, animals, or both
Association with migration stories
Association with architecture and construction
Association with directionality and the sacred directions
Association with Zenith or Nadir directionality
Association with epic battles or stories
Association with directional colors
Association with holistic nature and interdependence of all things
Association with creation of sacred geography
Association with material culture
Association with songs
Association with cave or underground locations
Association with divination or prophecy
Association with fertility
Association with world renewal
Many of the variable categories identified for this theoretical framework
correspond to the themes identified by the anthropologists and historians who were
contracted by the tribes to provide the Tribal Significance Statements for the Mount
Taylor nomination. In the introduction to the Tribal Significance Statements (Acoma and
Others 2009), the tribes document the 10 themes as described by Benedict and Hudson
for the 2008 National Register of Historic Places nomination that can be applied to tribal
views and the significance of Mount Taylor:
• Mt. Taylor is a place where practitioners go to conduct traditional and religious
• The Mountain not only has been in use since time immemorial, these age-old
traditional uses are ongoing;
• Mt. Taylor is a place that figures prominently in oral traditions regarding the
origin, place of emergence, and migration;
• The Mountain is viewed as a breathing entity that embodies a spiritual essence;
• Spiritual beings recounted in oral traditions inhabit Mt. Taylor;
• Mt. Taylor is considered a sacred landscape, part of a larger cultural landscape;
• The Mountain encompasses the peak, adjacent mesas, plateaus, and valleys;
• Mt. Taylor is important in ceremony;
• The Mountain plays a vital role in cosmology and religion; and
• Mt. Taylor is a distinctive landmark and a way point to aid travel.
[Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 2]
Application of the Case Study
Using the variables in Table 1 as a guide, the assertions from the Tribal
Significance Statements in which the tribes explained how identities are formed from
long and continuous connections to the land can now be placed into categories.
Understanding these categories is important, but how can one who is not initiated into
these cultures interpret these categories into meaningful information? Native writers in
other works see specific connections between their ancestral landscapes and their
contemporary individual and cultural identities in ways informed by their own ancient
cultural traditions that are often contained in stories, ceremonies, and other traditional
knowledge related to the land that is not generally understood by those who have grown
up outside these specific tribal contexts. This case study helps to illustrate these
connections in ways that serve to enlighten and inform the non-initiated and provide
knowledge of specific ways in which identity comes from ancestral lands.
In their nomination of Mount Taylor, the Pueblo of Acoma, the Hopi Tribe, the
Pueblo of Laguna, the Navajo Nation, and the Zuni Tribe reveal specific information
contained in stories, ceremonies, plant and animal information, migration and pilgrimage
details, and many never-before-published comments on how important Mount Taylor is
to their identity formations, maintenance, and continuance as tribal people.
For example, the Zuni Tribe discusses the importance of Mount Taylor for the
ongoing duties of medicine societies such as the Galaxy Society and Sword-Swallower
Society—both important to the continuance of a distinct tradition that informs the Zuni
who they are as a people. According to the Zuni, their sustained use of this sacred area
ensures the continuance of their unique identity into the next generation. To analyze this,
the case study data was placed into the homelands and identity framework for analysis in
order to understand how Zuni relates this ancestral heritage land area to their
maintenance and continuance as a people with a separate tribal identity. The Tribal
Significance Statements were then analyzed to create a table that provides a complete,
easy-to-read reference of the importance that Mount Taylor plays in the formation of
tribal identities.
The New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee granted the Mount
Taylor Cultural Property a temporary emergency designation as a traditional cultural
property for one year to give the five tribes the time they needed to prepare a formal
nomination of the property. Immediately after this decision, opponents of the nomination
claimed that the New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs had violated the state’s Open
Meetings Act during the 2008 initial emergency meeting (Paskus 2009). A public hearing
was held in Grants, after which five Navajo men were severely beaten. “The attackers,
described by some of the victims as ‘Mexicans,’ used rocks and baseball bats, ambushing
one man with a pellet gun and hitting another with a brass-knuckle-handled knife”
(Paskus 2009). Although all five victims survived, one “attacker yell[ed] something to the
effect of, ‘You got Mount Taylor, now you’re mine” (Paskus 2009). Fearing that the
beatings could be considered hate crimes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation intervened
and started an investigation, the results of which have not been made public. After the
tribes submitted their nomination of Mount Taylor, the New Mexico Cultural Properties
Review Committee decided to list the property on the State Register as a traditional
cultural property. However, on-going litigation previously noted and appeals of the
Review Committee’s decision mean the issue is still undecided at the time this thesis was
What is not debated, however, is the significance that Mount Taylor has for the
five tribes who nominated it to the state register. In order to demonstrate its significance
to the five tribes, in their nomination they submitted extremely detailed information on
their tribal origins, religions, sacred practices, ancestral claims, songs, dances, deities,
traditions, ceremonies, shrines, plants, sacred waters, migrations, and world renewal. This
information was offered to demonstrate how critical Mount Taylor is to their pasts, their
current tribal identities, and their ultimate cultural continua. For over 130 years,
anthropologists have been transfixed by the Native cultures of the desert Southwest and
have written hundreds of volumes regarding tribal cultural and religious practices.
Notably, the 2009 Mount Taylor nomination allowed the tribes to tell the story of this
mountain’s significance in their own words.
While underscoring the importance of Mount Taylor to tribal interests, the tribes
acknowledged the importance of this mountain to other cultures living in the area. “The
Tribes can only describe the significance of the TCP [Traditional Cultural Property] to
themselves. This should not be taken as an assertion that the mountain is not equally
significant to other people, for example, other Indian Tribes, or the hispanic communities
that have lived near the mountain, some for over 200 years” (Acoma and Others 2009:
Section 12, page 1). In fact, the Hispanic community, or any other community has
standing to prepare their own nomination of Mount Taylor as a traditional cultural
property related to their own particular cultural, architectural and historical roots.
The five nominating tribes asserted that Mount Taylor was significant to them,
using a “cultural landscape” perspective to explain how the mountain informs who they
are as tribes, people, and stewards of this land. In the introduction to the Tribal
Figure 2. Comparison of the boundaries for the Mt Taylor Traditional Cultural Property, as defined by the
Nominating Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service (Acoma and Others 2009).
Significance Statements, the tribes used previous statements from Benedict and Hudson’s
2008 U.S. Forest Service National Register of Historic Properties determination to show
that these connections to the landscape cannot be limited to just the topographic features
of the mountain:
In their determination that Mt. Taylor is eligible for listing on the National
Register of Historic Places (NRHP), Benedict and Hudson . . . examine how each
of the affiliated Indian Tribes and Pueblos view Mt. Taylor as an essential feature
of their landscapes and maintain their distinctive identities through their
traditional and continuing relationships with this Mountain. They observe that
among most traditional American Indian communities, the associations that
people maintain with important landscapes, such as Mt. Taylor, are “not limited to
the physical realm of topographic features, stone, trees, [and] water,
but also includes the spiritual world. Their cultural practices and beliefs reflect a
sense of place.” [Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 1]
This landscape sense of place is not limited to only the five tribes that nominated
Mount Taylor. In a footnote from the Tribal Significance Statements, the tribes assert that
“A resolution passed by the All Indian Pueblo Council in 2007 . . . similarly establishes
that all 19 of New Mexico’s Pueblo Indian Tribes possess significant cultural and
historical relationships with this Mountain” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page
1). Underscoring that each tribe possibly relates to this mountain in different ways is the
fact that the tribes have different names by which they call Mount Taylor, and their
traditions that are informed in the many ways in which they relate to this mountain. This
linguistic and cultural diversity is noted in the preface to the Tribal Significance
This linguistic diversity exhibited among the traditional names used by the
Nominating Tribes to identify the Mt. Taylor landscape, and the discussion of the
challenges that the Tribes faced when defining the TCP’s boundary . . . confirms
that considerable diversity exists among the communities in how they characterize
the importance of the Mountain in the cultures and histories of their people. As
discussed further in the final section of these introductory remarks . . . the
Nominating Tribes decided that each community would provide its own statement
describing the significance of the Mt. Taylor Cultural Landscape in
acknowledgement and respect for this diversity. [Acoma and Others 2009:
Section 12, page 2]
Recognizing the cultural differences in the ways in which the five tribes relate to
this geographic area might seem like a daunting task when the nomination argues for the
significance of a single area. However, the nominating tribes saw this diversity as being
advantageous in nominating this sacred mountain as a traditional cultural property.
Given the cultural diversity among the Nominating Tribes, the narratives contrast
with one another in striking ways. There are differences in details among the
communities’ relationships with Mt. Taylor or even how the Tribes crafted their
respective contributions but what is important is that these culturally distinct
communities (1) agree that Mt. Taylor is worth talking about in a collaborative
effort to covey its importance for all of their communities, and (2) are willing to
talk about their relationships with the Mountain in uncomfortable detail in support
of the nomination. In the end, each of the Nominating Tribes contributes but a
small piece of a much greater and more richly textured whole. [Acoma and Others
2009: Section 12, page 5]
The tribes, in their decision to ask for protection of this sacred area were united in
their diversity in that no matter how Mount Taylor was talked about, whether from a
Hopi or Navajo or any other viewpoint, it was clear that the mountain is vitally important.
Despite perceived cultural differences, the anthropologists and historians hired by the
tribes seem to agree on this fact:
Ferguson explains that “Landscapes have complexity and power because
they are created by people through experience and engagement with the world”. . .
Bender adds, “Landscape has to be contextualized. The ways in which people—
anywhere, everywhere—understand and engage with their worlds depend on the
specific time and place and historical conditions.” . . . Basso observes that
landscapes are “a venerable means of doing human history…a way of
constructing social traditions and, in the process, personal and social identities.”
[Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 4]
Table 2 provides a summary of how these contextualized tribal statements are
related to more general ideas of where identity comes from, how it is maintained, and
why it persists through connections with Mount Taylor. Each time these tribal statements
intersect with tribal variables from Table 1, it is noted with a number in the appropriate
column. These numbers correspond with numbered quotations taken from the Tribal
Significance Statements which appear in Appendix A. These quotes show how each of
these tribes, in very detailed and specific ways, connect a specific homeland variable to
the Mount Taylor landscape.
Table 2. Evidence from the Mount Taylor Tribal Significance Statements
Acoma Hopi
Navajo Zuni
Association with individual or
community identity
1, 7, 14, 36
15, 17,
18, 22,
47, 48, 50, 80
53, 74, 75,
76, 77, 78,
93, 94,
95, 96,
47, 51, 52, 81, 85
59, 67
94, 96,
2, 4, 5, 7, 36, 37, 38 47, 50, 52, 80, 81,
10, 11,
54, 62, 64, 82, 83,
12, 13,
65, 66, 68, 84, 85,
14, 16,
69, 70, 71, 86, 88,
17, 18,
73, 77
19, 20,
93, 94
Association with creation and 2, 3, 4, 7, 37, 45
origin stories
8, 10, 14,
16, 17,
18, 22,
25, 27
Association with deities and
spirit beings
Association with specific place 2, 3, 18 45
54, 73
Association with oral tradition 3, 9, 11, 41
14, 15,
16, 18
76, 77
Association with kinship
groups and clans
Association with religious and
medicinal societies
9, 10
36, 39, 46 55, 59
83, 90
55, 56, 59,
60, 62
97, 99,
Association with priesthoods
and kiva groups
Association with beginning of
life ceremonies
Association with coming-ofage ceremonies
7, 34
Association with matrimonial
Association with end-of-life
39, 46
57, 60, 61, 80
Association with religious or
medicinal ceremonies
39, 41
83, 87,
Association with ancestral
25, 26, 38, 40, 45 49, 52, 54 80, 86,
Association with pilgrimage
21, 25, 40, 42
54, 55, 57,
59, 63
Association with ritual or
sacred paraphernalia
13, 27,
52, 57, 66, 80, 87,
Association with ritual
27, 35
Association with burials or
22, 35 40, 41, 45
Association with death and
Association with spiritual and
sacred trails
24, 25,
55, 57, 59, 88
Association with prayers and
2, 4, 7, 39
16, 18,
24, 25,
27, 34
54, 56, 57, 87, 92
58, 60, 62,
63, 65, 68,
72, 77, 78
94, 96,
Association with shrines
16, 21, 41, 42,
22, 24, 43, 45
25, 33
54, 56, 57,
58, 59, 60,
94, 96,
Association with stars,
astronomy and the cosmos
21, 25 27 43
80, 81,
85, 89
Association with weather
2, 4, 5, 6, 39, 41,
7, 13, 24, 42, 43
27, 33
47, 50, 56, 84
61, 62, 63,
64, 65, 67,
Association with seasons or
the changing of the seasons
2, 4, 5, 6,
16, 19
Association with sacred
4, 15, 20, 43, 44
25, 27
71, 75
93, 94,
96, 101
Association with medicinal
7, 14, 15,
16, 17,
23, 27,
28, 30,
Association with food and
2, 4, 7,
14, 16,
17, 27,
28, 29
Association with collection of
minerals, paints, pigments,
crystals and other natural
13, 23,
Association with hunting,
animals or both
2, 4, 12,
14, 15,
16, 17,
23, 27,
Association with migration
3, 8, 9, 37, 38, 45 49, 51, 52, 82, 83,
14, 16,
18, 26
Association with architecture
and construction
14, 19,
20, 21,
22, 23
57, 63, 78 80, 87
94, 96,
97, 98,
99, 100,
52, 63, 68,
70, 72
80, 92
94, 96,
98, 100,
80, 84,
94, 97,
99, 100,
97, 98,
Association with directionality 4, 5, 6, 7, 45
and the sacred directions
16, 18,
19, 20,
21, 27
47, 49, 62, 83, 84,
64, 65, 66, 85, 91,
67, 74
94, 96,
Association with Zenith or
Nadir directionality
47, 67
Association with epic battles
or stories
6, 11, 12,
13, 15
Association with directional
4, 12, 27
83, 84,
86, 87,
64, 67, 74
Association with holistic
nature and interdependence
of all things
1, 2, 7, 37, 39
14, 15,
16, 17,
18, 19,
20, 21,
26, 30,
31, 34
53, 74
93, 95,
96, 102,
Association with creation of
sacred geography
2, 3, 5, 41
10, 11,
14, 17,
18, 20,
25, 26,
85, 89
93, 94
Association with material
32, 33 45
75, 77
94, 99
83, 84,
85, 87,
91, 92
Association with songs
Association with cave or
underground locations
13, 21
58, 59, 62,
66, 73
Association with divination or
59, 62, 68
Association with fertility
Association with world
Table 2 provides an effective way to organize the extensive information from the
Tribal Significance Statements based on themes, or variables as discussed by Native
authors. In Table 2, these categories show that these tribes have many commonalities in
how they see their identities connected to Mount Taylor as evidenced in the great number
of references to certain areas such as world creation, deities, prayers, weather and
medicinal plants. Some categories such as fertility only have a single entry indicating that
the Tribal Significance Statements don’t contain much information for that area. Other
tribes have included extensive information that falls within these categories as
represented in the number of references from the Pueblos of Acoma and Laguna, whereas
other tribes such as Hopi have fewer references. This seems to correspond with the length
of each tribes’ Tribal Significance Statement and should not be construed to mean that
Mount Taylor is any more or less significant to one group than the other.
The information summarized in Table 2 and the accompanying quotes from the
Tribal Significance Statements in Appendix A provide clear representations of how the
five nominating tribes see the specific ways in which their identities are connected to this
ancestral landscape area. Caution must be exercised in forming cross-cultural conclusions
about the relevance of these data for other Native American tribes. As the Tribal
Significance Statements tell us:
Each Tribe’s statement shows that the Mountain is a cultural property and a
cultural landscape in the sense that it is a constructed world of cultural product for
each of the communities . . . Through their interactions with the Mountain, within
the physical setting of the TCP and from afar, in how members of a Tribe think
about, talk about, and act upon their relationship with Mt. Taylor in their
communities, people impose their own cognitive map . . . of interconnected
morphology, arrangement, and meaning. [Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12,
page 4]
The Mount Taylor cultural landscape is different for each tribe because it reflects that
tribe’s unique belief system which cannot, and should not be construed as extending to all
members of a tribe or group of tribes, and simply cannot represent the views of all Native
It was noted in the Tribal Significance Statements that some of the information
was only reluctantly provided by the tribes (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page
60) and in “uncomfortable detail” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 5). Some
things are not proper to discuss outside of a community, with non-members, those of the
opposite sex, or even during certain seasons of the year according to the cultural norms of
that group. Given this, it should be understood that there may be more to the story than
what was presented in the Tribal Significance Statements, and therefore they cannot be
taken to mean that this is an exhaustive account of the importance of this mountain to
these tribes.
Data Evaluation
The information gathered in the case study is presented below in narrative form to
provide “thick descriptions” in the style of noted anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973).
Geertz promoted anthropological descriptions that set aside the ethnocentric beliefs of the
observer in favor of the emic perspective of the insider:
You either grasp an interpretation or you do not, see the point of it or you do not,
accept it or you do not. Imprisoned in the immediacy of its own detail, it is
presented as self-validating, or, worse, as validated by the supposedly developed
sensitivities of the person who presents it; any attempt to cast what it says in
terms other than its own is regarded as a travesty--as, the anthropologist's severest
term of moral abuse, ethnocentric. [Geertz 1973: 24]
By applying the theoretical approach of Geertz, these descriptions illustrate both the
experience that the tribes shared with the State of New Mexico and the context for this
experience as described by Native authors, researchers, and theorists. Gregory Cajete’s
theories of “Ensouled Geography,” “Theology of Place,” and “Spiritual Ecology” may be
applied as appropriate to place these tribal experiences with the land into context and to
provide more depth of understanding for those outside of these tribal traditions. The goal
will be use the data to answer the research questions for this thesis, namely: What role
does the land play in the creation of a contemporary Native identity? If this role exists
and is considered important, what are the ways that contemporary identities have been
created from ancestral landscapes? How are contemporary identities maintained through
reference to and association with a homeland? Does this maintenance require continued
access to places in the homeland and active control of respectful stewardship that the
addition of new populations threaten?
The Pueblo of Acoma
The tribal name for this mountain is Kaweshtima and is translated by the Pueblo
of Acoma as “Our Snow-Covered Mountain Mother.” The Pueblo of Acoma states that
they have occupied these ancestral lands for over 1,000 years. The Acoma people state
that the importance of this place lies in the idea that it is this mountain, as a living entity
that informs them of not only who they are as a people, but where they are going and is
responsible for the construction of their identity. This association starts at the beginning
of time as the creation story of two sisters who created all other living things, their sacred
mountain, the four directions, the life-giving moisture and then set it all in motion with
all living things dependent upon each other for survival. This mountain, and the stories
that the Acoma tell about it, forms the basis for their morality, sacred obligations, and
their role as caretakers of this land. Like other sacred mountains described in creation
narratives, Mount Taylor is integrated into Acoma society, into the values of the people,
and informs them of their rightful place in the world and is one beginning place for their
ancient ceremonial cycle which is still practiced today.
Figure 3. “The Old Bell Tower.” Bell in the opening of San Esteban del Rey’s north bell tower [Acoma
Pueblo], with pueblo buildings in background and Mount Taylor faintly visible on horizon. Camera facing
North. Photo by Edward S. Curtis, circa 1905 (Acoma and Others 2009).
The community of Acoma Pueblo believes that this sacred place was created for
them by these sisters and that their people emerged from the earth and then migrated to
the south in search of this “promised land.” They descended down the mountain and
entered the valley where the mountain has watched over them, protecting. Earlier epic
battles had occurred between the directional spirits which resulted in a truce whereby
these spirits agreed to share this land and divide up the seasons between them. These
spirits still reside in sacred chambers in the mountains and watch over the people and
protect them so long as the people remember their sacred and ceremonial obligations to
these spirits and to this land. According to Gregory Cajete, these ceremonial obligations
are what ties people to their lands and is a way in which people can bridge the pre-human
past with current times. “We do this because it is a way to continue to remember to
remember our relationships to our place, and to preserve our view of life for each of the
generations to follow . . . This is the complex of the relationship, symbolism, attitude, and
interaction with the land that comprises the Pueblo theology of place” (Cajete 1993a: 52).
In short, this ongoing ceremonial relationship to these lands helps to maintain a distinct
Acoma identity that will continue until either the Acoma tribe relinquishes its ties to these
lands, interrupts its ceremonies to their sacred mountain, or these lands become
unavailable or no longer accessible to them. In this case, according to the Pueblo of
Acoma and Cajete’s theories, a distinct Acoma identity would then perish or radically
The people of Acoma believes that although the original people migrated into the
heart of Kaweshtima’s valley, other people have joined them along the way—each group
bringing their own traditions and lifeways that were incorporated into Acoma life over
the years. It is this interaction between Acoma and their creation deities, Acoma and the
later migrations of people, Acoma and the creatures and other life forms that surround
them that have made them the Acoma people who they are today. In return for all of the
gifts that they have received from Kaweshtima, the Katchina and other spirits, the people
of Acoma reciprocate by being stewards of this ancient and contemporary homeland—
sustaining it as it sustains them. Kaweshtima is reflected in their architecture, occupying
the most prominent position in the outward view from the pueblo as well as occupying a
significant place within their underground kivas. These kivas contain special places
called “fog seats” or “kiva benches” which represent the heyaashi, or sacred mist that
descends from the mountain into the pueblo providing mist, fog and live-giving moisture.
So important is an unobstructed view of this mountain that when early missionaries
blocked the pueblo’s view with a church, the Acoma people rebuilt their pueblos in order
to regain a panoramic view of their beloved Kaweshtima.
According to the Pueblo of Acoma’s Tribal Significance Statement, a deep
historical depth is involved in their relationship to these lands and the ways in which they
connect and reconnect continuously. The tribe’s submission statement to the state of New
Mexico details in numerous ways, how these lands were created for them in the prehuman past, and discusses specific ways in which they interact with these lands on a daily
basis that functions to keep this connection alive. The people of Acoma argue that the
ancient “spirit trails” that provide access to the summit of Kaweshtima also provide
sacred and spiritual access to the head of their mountain mother. Along these “spirit
trails” the people’s blessings and prayers travel out into the world and back and are where
Acoma’s spirit beings also travel. Along these trails, the people collect sacred water and
other items needed to properly offer prayers at their mountain shrines. The Tribal
Significance Statement for Acoma Pueblo cites the work of Gregory Cajete and his
theories of “Spiritual Ecology” as a good model of how they interact with their heritage
lands. By depending upon the interaction of all spheres of existence—spiritual, human,
animals, plants, and the land itself, the Acoma people keep their relationship to their
homeland alive, and their relationship to their mountain mother alive as well, thus
ensuring the continuation of their existence and their unique tribal identity.
The Hopi Tribe
The Hopi Tribe calls this mountain Tsiipiya which they translate as “Home of the
Clouds.” The Hopi have occupied these ancestral lands in excess of 1,000 years. To the
Hopi people, Tsiipiya, their sacred mountain, has always been a part of Hopi identity.
This mountain was created for the Hopi thousands of years ago when Hopi ancestors
entered into a covenant with their creator. This creator agreed to provide this mountain to
them so long as the Hopi people promised to take care of it and their homelands and
become its protector. Since that time, the Hopi people have retained stewardship of this
land and see evidence of this ancestral commitment in their archaeological sites and rock
art in the area, which they refer to as their ancestors’ footprints.
Tsiipiya and its surrounding lands is not a secular area, but a sacred one inhabited
by the Katsinam, or spirit deities that function as messengers between the people and the
spirit world for the good of all people. According to the Hopi Tribal Significance
Statement, there are over 28 Hopi deities that call Tsiipiya home. In addition, Tsiipiya is
the place of origin for 10 of their contemporary clans. Many Hopi religious societies also
have a close and intimate relationship to Tsiipiya. There are also many clans and societies
that had their origins on Tsiipiya but are no longer in existence and have been lost over
time. The relationship that the Hopi have to this mountain is a dynamic and ancient one.
Hopi spirit deities that live on this mountain are responsible for the live-giving rain that
all Hopi depend on for survival. The Hopi Tribal Significance Statement says that “The
majestic peak serves as a physical, emotional and spiritual link between the Hopis and
our environment” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 38).
The Hopi also identify with their ancestors who, in order to fulfill their sacred
covenant with their creator, have been the mountain’s caretakers for thousands of years.
The Hopi have faithfully served Tsiipiya and continue their long association with this
area by religious pilgrimages and ceremonies that continue today just as they have since
time immemorial. The Hopi believe that when their time on earth is finished and they die,
they become clouds that return to Tsiipiya or to other sacred mountains like the San
Francisco Peaks. The Hopi believes that Tsiipiya calls to them from these clouds, sacred
springs, and shrines from the top of this mountain.
Cajete’s theories of landscape and identity argue that this deep and intimate
connection with the land and its special places like prominent mountains over long
expanses of time is what is at the heart of Native identity. Cajete believes that a way of
life so intertwined with the earth, especially on continually inhabited ancestral homelands
forms a bond like no other. Cajete calls this deep bond an “ensoulment” and explains that
it “represent[s] the deepest level of psychological involvement with their land and in a
sense also reflects[s] a kind of map of their soul” (1993a: 43). Applying Cajete’s theories
to statements by the Hopi, Tsiipiya represents much more than a mountain, it
essentializes the Hopi’s souls. Cajete’s pueblo-based theories argue that once people are
removed from their ancestral heritage lands, or in the case of Mount Taylor, denied
access to these lands so they are no longer permitted to interact in their established ways
or the lands are destroyed, such an event would be devastating to the Hopi. Cajete states
that when this has happened in the past “the historic relationship between Indians and
their environment was so deep that separation from their home territory . . . constituted
literally a kind of soul loss for that whole generation” (1994a: 45). The Hopi believe that
they do not exist separate from these homelands. In describing how they belong to this
land, the Hopis simply explain “In the culturally inhabited landscape, the participant is
the property of the land” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 39).
Pueblo of Laguna
The Pueblo of Laguna calls this mountain Tsibina which they translate as
“Woman Veiled in Clouds.” Although the Laguna Tribal Significance Statement reveals
that the current pueblo has been in existence since at least A.D. 1550, Laguna oral
tradition relates that the people conceptualized this ancient homeland as one that was
created for the Laguna people at the time of emergence into this world. To the Laguna
people, Tsibina is viewed as a female spirit connected to rain, clouds, and life-giving
moisture. Although the Laguna Tribal Significance Statement reveals that the pueblo has
been in existence at least since A.D. 1550, Laguna oral tradition tells us that the people of
Laguna have conceptualized this ancient landscape as one that was created for them at the
time of the Laguna people’s emergence into this world. Created by Grandmother Spider,
Tsibina was the first of the sacred mountains created and that when Laguna people die,
this mountain is where they will return. Although oral tradition maintains that the Laguna
people migrated to this place, they have always conceptualized this as a “promised land”
created for them.
Tsibina is protected by the Laguna people as well as by a series of “Guardian
Peaks” which ring the mountain and are the focus of Laguna prayers and shrines.
Important ceremonies take place on her slopes and individuals and religious societies
make pilgrimages and reconnect with the mountain through ceremonies and storytelling.
Although the Laguna people are reluctant to speak directly about specific shrine
locations, prayer offerings are deposited in specific places where the rain clouds emerge.
Tsibina is also important for as a locale for the gathering of medicinal plants and herbs,
deposition of prayer-feather offerings, and is significant for securing prophecies of the
future. These prophecies are obtained at a special cave or prayer opening in the mountain
accessible only by special sacred trails. Since this is a place of power, it should not be
approached lightly.
Other special shrines on Tsibina are places connected with fertility, rain and
lightning where Laguna religious leaders place offerings so that breezes will distribute
these offerings to far off places. When the breezes carry the offerings away, especially to
bless the corn fields and water sources, new offerings can be placed and new prayers can
be offered up. Fertility in the fields as well as on the mountain’s plant-gathering places is
ensured with a special ceremony that tells “the mountain that we appreciate the
abundance of water and that we need more. And they connect this with the clouds and
rain clouds” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 56.)
Tsibina is a prominent figure in the Laguna creation story as well as in oral
traditions about their migration, stories about deities such as Yellow Woman, the Hero
Twins, a protective serpent, and a myriad of other deities and spirits. These traditions
often mention specific locations that the Laguna people can still visit today as sites of
importance to the narratives and indicate places where they can take Laguna children to
recount these traditions in a direct and meaningful way. “Tsibina is one of the important
places that figure into stories, songs, and prayers that provide moral teaching and
instruction on how to live life as a Laguna Indian” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12,
page 73). Tsibina exists not only in the minds of the Laguna people, but functions as a
touchstone that informs them of who they are and what it means to be Laguna. Belonging
is an important aspect of Laguna culture. “It’s not who you are but what you belong to.
We belong to the mountain. We’re part of it; it is part of us” (Acoma and Others 2009:
Section 12, page 77).
Cajete argues that it is exactly these types of connections that are crucial to
identity formation for Native people. “This is the complex of the relationship, symbolism,
attitude, and interaction with the land that comprises the Pueblo theology of place”
(Cajete 1993a: 52). This deep kinship with the land as described by the Laguna people
will be a key to maintaining their identity into the future. Cajete argues that this kinship
with the land exists because “Indian people, through generations of living in America,
have formed and been formed by the land” (1993a: 50) and that it is this connection that
has determined how Pueblo people think about themselves—in short, their identity as a
group. If the Laguna people cannot access their shrines and leave their offerings, how
will the rain know to come down to water their fields? How will their children be able to
understand their place in the Laguna world without the stories and places that inform
them of who they are?
Navajo Nation (Diné)
The Navajo Nation calls this mountain Tsoo Dziɬ. The Navajo state they have
occupied these ancestral lands in excess of 500 years. Although the style and length of
the Navajo Nation’s Tribal Significance Statement differs from that submitted by the
puebloan tribes, (less narrative, shorter and more concise), it is no less important and
illustrates the great significance that Tsoo Dziɬ, the sacred mountain of the east has to the
Diné people. According to the Navajo Nation, this mountain is more recognizable to the
Diné than any other landform and is an important aspect of nearly all components of Diné
life. Tsoo Dziɬ was one of the first landmarks on the Diné homeland and was placed there
by the Holy People. Tsoo Dziɬ is also distinguished as providing the only access to the
sky world through an opening at its peak.
Many Diné ceremonies are deeply rooted in this mountain. It is the home of many
Diné Holy People, and is where ceremonial specialists come to ask for the help of these
deities. At its base, Tsoo Dziɬ provides a racetrack course where many ancient Diné
deities and spirits would race and today is a place where races occur that are important to
Diné ceremonies. Of all the many types of Diné ceremonies, at least half are in some way
connected to or performed on Tsoo Dziɬ. In Diné oral tradition, the Twin War Gods
received their weapons from their father the Sun and returned first to Tsoo Dziɬ before
venturing across the area within the four sacred mountains to slay the monsters plaguing
the ancient Diné people and make the land ready for Earth People.
Tsoo Dziɬ is central to Din culture and the people’s understandings about the
world. Not only does it figure prominently in their oral tradition, ceremonies, and
contemporary life, it is strongly associated with Changing Woman, one of the Din ’s
most beloved of their Holy People. Tsoo Dziɬ is critical to the Blessingway, one of the
tribe’s most significant and basic chantways. This ceremony is essential to Din life,
traditions, and identity and its continuance depends on access to the sacred mountain
Tsoo Dziɬ for the ceremonial prayers and materials necessary to support the Din ’s
continued existence.
Cajete argues that this ceremonial connection to ancestral lands is crucial to
maintaining a distinct Native identity. It is this dependence upon the ancestral landscape
for items such as ceremonial materials and to offer prayers to invoke the assistance of
holy people who reside there that feeds this connection. It is a way for people to
reconnect with their ceremonial landscapes and ensures their cultural survival (Cajete
1993a). In this way, Tsoo Dziɬ and the Diné coexist and influence each other in an ancient
and meaningful way that nourishes and sustains Diné identity.
Zuni Pueblo
The people of Zuni Pueblo call this mountain Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne
which they translate as “In the East Snow-Capped Mountain” and have lived on these
ancestral lands for thousands of years and include a cultural affiliation that dates back to
Paleoindian times. The people of Zuni Pueblo assert that Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne
is a living being, not only because of its past history as an active volcano, but because it
provides the nourishment and water needed by the Zuni people. Dewankwin Kyaba:chu
Yalanne is seen by the Zuni people as the heart of their ancestral lands and disturbing it
could have devastating consequences. The Zuni Pueblo see their relationship to this
mountain as based on kinship relations—Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne is a member of
their family.
Like the Diné, Zuni people see their history in this area as beginning with their
emergence into the fourth world during what would be considered Paleoindian times.
They see their ancestral landscape as a “promised land,” or “The Middle Place” and their
migrations from their place of emergence to Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne constitute a
search for this promised land. This mountain is the sacred home of the Rain Makers who
form the clouds and then provide life-giving moisture to the Zuni people. In the Zuni
Tribal Significance Statement, the Zuni make reference to a cyclical relationship with the
mountain—one that starts and ends with Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne.
To reinforce this relationship that the Zuni people have to this mountain, the tribe
asserts that “Zuni Medicine Societies, Rain Priests, Bow Priests, and Kiva groups all
journey to Mt. Taylor to collect plants, animals, and minerals for religious ceremonies
and to ask for blessings” (Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 98). Many of the
Zuni’s most important medicine societies including the Galaxy Society, the Sword
Swallower Society, and the Big Fire Society all have their origins on this mountain.
The mountain is also significant to the Zuni people because this area contains
their ancient archaeological sites and shrines as well as ancient Zuni burials. The Zuni
believe that this mountain is also where the spirits of these ancestors reside and that
disturbing them would affect the harmonious balance of the area in both the earthly and
spiritual worlds. The Zuni place such special emphasis on these places “because they
provide physical verification of Zuni traditional histories that recount the A:Shiwi [Zuni
people’s] journey to find the ‘Middle Place.’ These archaeological sites are the places
where Zuni ancestors settled, lived, raised families, and died during their migrations”
(Acoma and Others 2009: Section 12, page 100). The Zuni believe that by leaving their
offerings and prayers at these ancestral shrines, they are asking for blessings and
prosperity not just for the Zuni people, but for “all peoples of the world” (Acoma and
Others 2009: Section 12, page 100).
Cajete argues that people who have such an ancient connection to ancestral
landscapes, especially those with land-identity relationships that go back as far as Zuni’s
connection, have a special kinship with an area that blurs the boundaries between things
like mountains and humans. “The land has become an extension of Indian thought and
being, because, as one Pueblo elder states, ‘It is this place that holds our memories and
the bones of our people . . . this is the place that made us!’” (Cajete 1993a: 51).
Data Comparison
There are common themes that run through the case data studied. Acoma, Laguna
and Zuni all shared large amounts of information on topics of how Mount Taylor
contributes to their individual and community identities, how Mount Taylor figures
prominently in their creation and origin stories, and the importance placed on Mount
Taylor’s association with deities and spirit beings. Also prominent in the case study was
the importance placed on Mount Taylor as a source of ceremonial and ritual materials by
Acoma, Laguna, Navajo and Zuni. More than just a landmark for these tribes, Mount
Taylor is strongly associated with sacred directionality and the idea of the holistic nature
and interdependence of all things—human, animal, plant, and spiritual. In fact, there were
more similarities indicated on the Tribal Significance Statements among Acoma, Laguna
and Zuni than indicated by the other two tribes. However, there were also many
differences. Only Laguna mentioned the significance of Mount Taylor to themes
involving physical underground locations such as caves, the association with divination
and prophecy, death, rebirth and fertility. And only Laguna and Zuni mentioned Mount
Taylor’s association with the concept of world renewal in a ceremonial context.
The Navajo Nation, the only non-puebloan group in this case study, did share
many commonalities with the four other pueblo groups. For instance, the Navajo
expressed a strong association with Mount Taylor with their deities and spirit beings,
ancestral sites, the acquisition of ritual or sacred paraphernalia, prayers and offerings,
migration stories, sacred directionality and epic battles or epic stories. The Navajo Nation
did not expressly mention any specific place names other than the name for the mountain
itself, did not mention any association with religious or medicine societies, pilgrimage
activities, burials, shrines or directional colors—categories that were addressed by the
puebloan groups. However, the Navajo did place significance in the association with
Mount Taylor as important for world renewal ceremonies, as did the Zuni.
The categories that had significance for all five tribes were the following:
individual and community identity, creation and origin stories, deities and spirit beings,
oral tradition, kinship groups and clans, ancestral sites, prayers and offerings, weather
phenomenon, sacred waters, migration stories, sacred directionality, the holistic nature of
the area and the importance of the interdependence of all things, creation of sacred
geography, and association with songs. Each tribe gave examples of how all these
categories are important to their identities and how Mount Taylor fulfills these roles.
It is impossible to draw conclusions based on the absence of data between the
Navajo and pueblo groups since the length of each tribes’ Tribal Significance Statement
limits the amount of information that could be discussed and the Navajo and Hopi
statements were much shorter than that of the other three tribes. Conclusions can only be
made on the data that was presented.
Each of these five tribes has demonstrated links to their ancestral landscapes that
inform them of who they are as a people, distinct from all others, and in many ways
answers the larger philosophical questions of all people such as: “Where did we come
from?” “How did we get here?” “What makes our identity as a people unique?” “Where
are we going as a people?” and “How can we keep our traditions and identities alive for
the generations that follow?” For the five tribes in the case study, unfortunately they
have been forced to come to terms with this and quantify and qualify their positions on
these questions due to anticipated negative changes in their homelands that could change
the way their identities may be maintained in the future.
The Tribal Significance Statements submitted by these five tribes have allowed
the public to see, perhaps for the very first time, this mountain through their cultural
lenses and understand how these ancient homelands affect these tribes in a very real and
meaningful way. It is an incredible opportunity to study the very rich ways that these
tribes have formed and maintained their identities by their connections to their ancestral
homelands and what it might mean if these landscapes, or access to them, is impaired or
The purpose of this study was to investigate the ways in which Native identity is
informed by connections to ancient homelands and to understand the process of identity
formation, maintenance, and continuance within the context of the beliefs of these five
tribes. Questions about the deeper roles that the land plays in this tribal identity and how
tribal views of the land affect this identity were also considered. Ultimately, the
overarching goal of this research is to try to understand what could happen to tribal
identity if these ancestral lands are no longer available, as might be the case if uranium
mining and ranching interests prevail in the Mount Taylor court case that is currently on
appeal to the New Mexico State Supreme Court and is scheduled for oral arguments on
May 14, 2012 (Rayellen Resources, Inc. et al v. New Mexico Cultural Properties Review
Committee and Pueblo of Acoma et al, Case No 33,497).
It is perhaps relevant to discuss these issues in the context of certain current
events that have been unfolding during the writing of this thesis. After the emergency
temporary approval of the nomination of Mount Taylor by the New Mexico Cultural
Properties Review Committee, and uranium mining and ranching interests brought suit,
news reports surfaced that New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez was reported to have
pressured the Cultural Properties Review Committee Members to vote down the
nomination in favor of the mining companies (Sharpe 2011). Governor Martinez also
changed the function of the Cultural Properties Review Committee to be only a policy
setting role (State of New Mexico 2011) eliminating all other functions. At the federal
level, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, U. S. Forest Service placed a “Notice of Intent
to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement” in the Federal Register in December
2011 as a proposed action “to approve two Plans of Operations for exploratory uranium
drilling on the Cibola National Forest, Mount Taylor Ranger District” (Federal Register
2011: 76689). The notice states that they anticipate drilling 279 drill holes over a six year
time span with a draft Environmental Impact Statement expected in September 2012. All
these factors indicate that the conflicts between cultural and natural resources in the
Mount Taylor area are just beginning and are likely to continue long into the future.
Identity construction at Acoma Pueblo began over 1,000 years ago when two
sisters created the world and everything within it. By design, the Acoma world was
created with the interdependency of all things as a central concept. To the Acoma, this
means that they are dependent upon their ancestral lands just as these lands are dependent
upon them. The Acoma people were created by sacred beings and because they were
created upon a sacred landscape by those beings, they are also sacred in the sense that all
of creation is sacred. The Acoma maintain their identity by reconnecting with these
sacred lands in a relationship that extends back to time immemorial. By being stewards of
this ancient land and relying on the continued interdependence of all beings in this
landscape, the Acoma are also able to persist and will be able to continue their distinct
Acoma identity into the future. Using landscape features such as “spirit trails” and
mountain shrines, the Acoma people are able to interact with all spheres of existence—
spiritual, human, animal, plant, and keep their relationship with their mountain mother
In the Hopi Tribe, their identity as a people was born through a covenant with
their creator thousands of years ago. The Hopi took on a sacred obligation to be stewards
of the land and in return have been allowed to live near this sacred mountain since
ancient times. By communicating between the sacred and secular worlds that of the past
combined with the present, the Hopi maintain this identity and have created many clans
and religious societies which also have their roots in this ancestral landscape. Not all of
the Hopi clans have continued to the present day, but the Hopi understand that their
relationship to this land is a dynamic one. In order to ensure the survival of the Hopi and
thus their identity as a distinct people, the Hopi continue to fulfill their sacred covenant
each day through ceremonies and pilgrimages that intertwine their daily lives with this
sacred mountain.
The distinct identity of the Laguna people was pre-ordained when Grandmother
Spider created these lands for the Laguna before they emerged into this world. This
promised land is protected by the Laguna who sustain their identity through special
ceremonies that serve to reconnect them to their ancestral lands. By placing offerings at
special shrines and using sacred trails to access areas on the mountain, the Laguna are
able to secure prophecies that will help them to continue their identities into the future. At
the end of their lives, the Laguna believe that their spirits return to the mountain to
become the live-sustaining rain that will enable the Laguna people to persevere into the
The Navajo Nation (Diné) believe that their identity comes from their unique
relationship to this mountain as it was placed there for them by the Holy People. As
sacred people themselves, the Diné are afforded special access to a sky world through
this mountain. They maintain their unique identity through ceremonial specialists who
train for many years to be qualified to perform the ceremonies crucial to connecting the
Diné to their ancestral landscape. Through a rich oral tradition, the Diné use stories to tell
their children of their heritage and their connections to these lands and ensure that Diné
children will continue on into the world with their unique identity.
The Zuni people expressed connections that span the ages back to Paleoindian
times. Zuni people appreciate the mountain not only for its value as an ancestral
landscape, but as a living, breathing being. The Zuni see their identity connected to these
lands as a kinship—they are related to it. This area is their promised land and they take
their obligations toward it very seriously. The Zuni maintain their identity by a constant
relationship to these lands in the form of ceremonies and ancestral connections.
Archaeological sites and rock art serves as cultural identity or boundary markers to
reaffirm Zuni identity. When the Zuni die, they believe that their spirits remain in these
places and serve to maintain the harmonious balance of the entire world.
This study has the limitation that it only looks at examples of identity creation,
maintenance and continuance from the viewpoint of only five tribes. Each of these five
tribes is a member of a pueblo group, or in the case of the Navajo Nation, a group with
considerable time-depth near pueblo groups. In addition, this study is also severely
limited geographically and only takes into account Mount Taylor and the immediate
surrounding area. Other tribes and other geographic locations could produce extremely
different results. Additionally, because the Tribal Significance Statements were created
specifically for the nomination and then released to the public, some tribes were reticent
to disclose other information, especially sacred information, to outsiders. There may be
other information that was not disclosed that could change the results of this study.
However in order to uphold and respect tribal sovereignty, no effort was made to locate
this information if it was not provided by the tribe in the Tribal Significance Statements.
These communities and this landscape area were chosen for this study because of
the abundance of information available through the Tribal Significance Statements, the
availability of a regional pueblo theory of landscape and identity via Gregory Cajete
(Santa Clara), the immense time-depth that these groups have had on these ancestral
lands and the critical element of an unresolved court action that could severely affect
these groups. Unfortunately, many other tribal groups have not had the time-depth and
traditions connected to ancestral landscapes that these five tribes have had and
information about their identity construction, maintenance and continuance might be very
One final limitation of this study is that although non-Native sources were
consulted about the theoretical implications of land to identity, the theoretical framework
for this study was built using Native sources. Because this research was conducted using
a Native paradigm and the theories and commentaries of Native educators, writers, and
scientists were utilized to form the theoretical framework, a different result might be
expected if one were to replicate this study using a non-Native theoretical framework.
This thesis has examined the factors involved in identity formation, maintenance
and continuance in five Native societies that have had continuous contact with their
ancestral lands. Specific factors necessary for identity formation that were revealed in the
statements of these five tribes. Each tribe has an enduring belief that their ancestral
homelands were created for them at or before their time of emergence into this world.
They acknowledge that these lands contained a long pre-human past and that humans
were a part of the master plan. Nearly all of the tribes contend that their identity
maintenance is connected to their stewardship of these lands either by a sacred covenant
or by an inalienable concept of the interdependence of all things. All of the tribes
expressed emotional and kinship ties to these lands either through the mountain as their
mother, or as a ceremonial obligation. In particular, the continuance of all five tribes’
identities was based on their sustained, ceremonial ties to these lands and the idea that if
these ceremonies and access to these lands were to be interrupted, it would mean the
interruption of their identities as well and the erosion of their cultures.
The immense time-depth that these tribes have been connecting and reconnecting
to these lands has produced rich oral traditions that have enabled them to pass along their
tribal identities to the next generation. Tribal connections to land informs people about
who they are, at times influencing the very building blocks of their cultures—
architecture, songs, ritual, birth, death, and the afterlife. These lands sustain the tribes—
physically, spiritually, emotionally. There are also deeper ties—familial obligations that
include the kinship with the land, which is inextricably tied to the people who are
surrounded by a thousand generations of ancestral spirits who lived and died on these
lands. This informs tribal members about who they are, and where they are going. These
extreme time-depths relationships to the land are the deep kinship ties that blur the
boundaries between mountains and men.
All citations refer to the Application for Registration, New Mexico State Register
of Cultural Properties, Mount Taylor Cultural Property, Property Number 1939, received
May 22, 2009.
Section 1: Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statements Regarding Mount Taylor:
1. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 5:
Mt. Taylor provides essential orientation and information that explains where the
Acoma people come from, why they are here today, and where they will go in the
future. Tthis [sic] review of the origins of the Mountain - and the people
themselves - makes clear that the people and this TCP exist in fundamental
relationship [sic]. Acoma’s people establish their place within the world and
construct major aspects of their identity, both as a community and as individual
community members, in reference to Mt. Taylor.
2. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 6-7:
Named Kaweshtima (“a place of snow”), the Mountain was created by two sisters,
Nautsiti and Iatiku . . . The sisters were given baskets with seeds and small carved
animals and told that these items would help them complete the world. A
supernatural being taught the sisters what they needed to know to live in the
world. She taught them how to pray, to grow and prepare corn for food, to use
salt as a seasoning and about the interdependence of the earth, the plants, animals
and humans.
The Laguna, a western Keres pueblo adjacent to Acoma Pueblo with many
similarities to Acoma, say that the Mother showed the people how to breathe life
into objects, such as the small carvings in the baskets.
3. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 8:
The community’s oral traditions trace the long and arduous journey that some of
Acoma’s ancestors made on their migration southward in search of Haaku [the
Keresan word for Acoma]. As they reached the west side of Kaweshtima, the
people sat down on a blanket and could see the lands below. From this vantage
point on the mountain, the blanket spread out away from the peak . . . onto the
mesas and canyons below that Iatiku and Nautisi created when they made
Kaweshtima, the North Mountain . . . The people descended the Mountain and
moved south to enter the heart of their promised homeland. Simon Ortiz, the
Acoma poet and author, writes, “It [the valley of Haaku] must have been wealthy
with grass growing in the dark fertile soil nourished by the nearby volcanic
mountain slopes and a number of perennial springs gushing forth.”
4. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 7:
Iatiku next made the spirits of the seasons. First she made Shakak, the Spirit of
Winter. This Spirit is to give life to everything in the winter. Shakak is ugly and
ferocious so it does not live with the people, but on Kaweshtima. The other Spirits
of Direction were created in the same order as before – West, South and East.
Iatiku gave each Spirit a job and Shakak had the job of bringing snow.
Iatiku told the people that they were to depend on these spirits and must pray to
them. The Spirit of the North on Kaweshtima was to be the primary source for
moisture. Finally, other things were associated with each of the four mountains –
colors, clouds, lightning and rain, the prey animals, birds, ants, corn and other
plants, trees, stones or shells, and additional spirits . . . One of the clouds that
Acoma specifically associates with the North Mountain is heyaashi, “the kind of
airborne moisture most people would call fog or mist – that is, the cloud form that
is most proximate to the land itself and most likely to replicate in its motion the
shape of the land over which it moves.”
5. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 7:
Katchina are spirit people created by Iatiku for the people. The katchina have
homes in the West and the South, but Iatiku also gave them sacred chambers
within Kaweshtima and the West, South and East Mountains (“Mountains of
Cardinal Direction”) . . . As she continued her work, Iatiku created houses for the
people “resembling in shape the mesa and mountain homes of the season deities.”
6. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 7:
Kaweshtima also figures into the creation of the seasons at Acoma. Shakak, the
Spirit of Winter and the North lived at Kaweshtima. The seasons exist because
Shakak battled with the Spirit of Summer and the South. As reported in Tyler, the
Spirit of the South called together all of the birds and animals that live in sunny
climes; then, riding on a cloud, this spirit of Summer floated northward to
battle...The spirit of Summer used lightning as his weapons and Shakak, spirit of
Winter and the North, retreated. A truce was arranged, and the seasons were
divided between them.
7. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 7-8:
The lessons that Iatiku taught the people in the Acoma Origin story imparted the
knowledge of at least the following key aspects of Acoma culture: (1) Iatiku
created this world to sustain life; (2) the Spirits on Kaweshtima and the other
Mountains of Cardinal Direction would provide all that was needed for surviving,
for example, moisture from the North, if the people earned their living through
meeting their obligations to the Spirits of Direction and the Kachina; (3) these
spirits have human characteristics that have consequences for the people; (4)
plants, animals, humans and the earth’s features were all created the same way
and are all living; (5) there is a web of relationships among plants, animals,
humans and the earth’s features with each having a role in the survival of the
other; and (6) the ceremonial circuit begins at the North, at Kaweshtima.
8. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 8:
Acomas and archaeologists agree on one fact: Acoma has been there, if not
forever, for a very, very long time. Any discussion of the Acoma migration story
must begin with the knowledge that Acoma has been inhabited since before the
time of Christ . . . The meaning of the word Haaku – the Keresan spelling of
Acoma – is “a place that always was” or “a place already prepared” for them . . .
While much thought is given to prehistoric migration of people in North America,
Minge reports that [t]he Acoma Indians themselves question whether present
Acoma resulted entirely from migrations. They claim that they have always lived
on their mesa, and that they have always hospitably received wandering Tribes to
share their valley which, at one time, had plenty of water and was excellent for
9. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 8:
For Acoma, oral history reflects migration of people from Sipap, their place of
emergence, to Acoma and the coming together of different groups of people at
Acoma. Oral history tells us that people were already at Acoma when a large
group of new ones arrived. Swymee Sanchez gave the following statement,
“Acoma and Laguna Origin Legend”, to Florence Ellis and Alfred Dittert in 1957:
The Acomas originally came from Shipap and moved south from it after some
time to Kashkatstu ... When the leader reached the foot of the mesa he asked what
clan lived on top and whether his people could have permission to stay with them
on top of the mesa. The leader of the people on top of the rock said that his was
the Antelope clan and he wanted to know what kind of religion the new people
had, whether it was a kind that could help the Antelope clan [.] The leader of the
people from the north showed everything to the Antelope clan, their customs and
their religion, so the Antelope clan decided the religion of the new people was all
right and would help them and they gave their permission for the new people to
climb up and live there. From that time on these people lived at Acoma, but other
members of the Acoma Tribe were living on top of mesas north of Enchanted
Mesa. Everyone wanted to live on top of the mesa of Acoma, to be one people in
one group, and finally, in time, they did come to make their homes there and did
their farming year by year.
10. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 9:
Kaweshtima is the home of many Spiritual Beings, some of whom created the
lava flows known today as El Malpais, south and west of Horace Mesa. Acoma
stories tell of a Spiritual Being who may have lived at Kaweshtima, and who built
fires all over the Mountain to make the earth more fertile . . . The lava is the
evidence of the fires. This volcanic material does make the earth more fertile. In
appreciation for the Spiritual Being’s assistance, according to White, one Acoma
clan continues to commemorate this event with a ceremony called the “Lighting
of the Fires.”
11. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 9:
Not all the Spiritual Beings’ actions are beneficial. Boas . . . tells of one such
being sometimes called Kaupata, who had a malevolent role in the origins of the
El Malpais. In some accounts this Being, said to live at the North Mountain, is
described as a cheating gambler and killer. In retaliation for the frustration of a
scheme, this Being decided to destroy the earth by fire in the form of burning
“pitch” (i.e., lava) but is defeated by rain clouds that produce rain to neutralize the
fire . . . The burning stream of fire flows out of Kaupata’s home only as far east as
“the west gap” . . . at the base of Kaweshtima. An Acoma poet suggests that the El
Malpais lava beds are “the Gambler’s fault” and “the Monster’s blood” that
flowed during the Being’s violent demise.
12. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement, Section 12, page 9:
As Kaweshtima, the Mt. Taylor TCP is the setting for many smaller chapters in
Acoma’s oral history. Narratives about the many deeds of Yellow Woman are
common . . . These stories are female-centered and are always told from a
woman’s viewpoint. Yellow is a color that is often associated with Woman
among the Keres according to Allen . . . Given the association of the color yellow
with the North Mountain, the connection of Yellow Woman with Kaweshtima is
made explicit. Scholars see an association of Yellow Woman with the Moon in
older stories . . . and game animals . . . In “The Man Who Married the Moon,”
tells the following story about Yellow Woman . . . One of the
Storm Gods stole Yellow Woman and took her away to his home ‘in the heart of
Snow Mountain (Mount San Mateo [Mt. Taylor]) . . . Yellow Woman eventually
escapes and, according to Lummis, ‘becomes the mother of the Hero Twins’ . . .
Another story collected at Acoma by Boas . . . is called “Yellow-Woman and the
Turkeys.” The story tells how turkeys came to live on Kaweshtima to provide
meat and feathers for people.
13. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 10:
Another notable personage associated with Kaweshtima includes a Spiritual Being
identified by Boas . . . This Being, a male, goes to the Mountain to find a home
only to find that the Katchina and Storm Clouds already are living there. He
asks for a cave of his own and receives directions.
When he looks in, he sees from the entrance moss, beads made of teeth, shell
beads, medicine cups of white shell, a shaman’s bowl, four flints, also turquoise
earrings. He says that he will use all of these. He stays in this house and becomes
the being that gives teeth to children.
14. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 10:
Acoma Pueblo’s traditional narratives of its history of affiliation and interaction
with Kaweshtima throughout time immemorial provide compelling explanations
of how the people and their homeland came to be who and what they are today.
This mythology is rich with events (e.g., making the earth habitable, including the
creation of Kaweshtima as a living entity, populating the earth with plants,
animals and people, and the creation of houses in the image of mountains) and
personages (e.g., Iatiku, Nautisi, many Katsina, Kaupata and Yellow Woman,
among others) of significance in the Pueblo’s affiliation with the TCP [Traditional
Cultural Property].
These stories reveal the physical and ideational foundations upon which the
Acoma people comprehend that Acoma was prepared for them to use – the
promised home. These accounts also introduce major elements of the sacred
obligation that the Pueblo’s people accept as stewards of this landscape in
exchange for their inheritance. These understandings inform and guide how the
Pueblo has historically viewed, talked about, and acted upon its relationship with
15. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 10:
As the reference to the ‘Gambler’ by Ortiz . . illustrates, these same values and
ideas are present in oral and written testimony and literary works by Acoma
people today as they express the continuing significance of Kaweshtima in their
personal lives and in the life of the Pueblo. Continued use of these principles and
themes and the continued affiliation with Kaweshtima establishes this mountain
and its surroundings make up a cultural landscape that is a TCP [Traditional
Cultural Property].
Studies of other Pueblo cultural landscapes identify several principles and themes
about how these people interact physically and conceptually with their traditional
homelands . . . “The foremost principle in these landscape constructions is the
idea of spiritual ecology,” a concept introduced by Gregory Cajete . . . a Tewa
from Santa Clara Pueblo. Spiritual ecology is the result of being guided by
traditions in how to interact with the totality of a people’s environment: the land,
the water, the plants and animals, and one another. Not limited to people and
things that occupy a place, Cajete . . . emphasizes that because spiritual ecology is
based on a community’s tradition, it includes the way that people perceive the
reality of their world and themselves. This integration of people’s belief,
perception, and action within their landscape defines how people are to interact
responsibly with their environment in their daily lives to sustain their
16. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 10-11:
Acoma’s origin story readily illustrates spiritual ecology as an essential principle
for living. A Spiritual Being taught Iatiku and Nautisi of the relationships among
themselves, the corn to which they gave life and depended on for sustaining their
life, along with the other plants and the animals. But there is more: Iatiku taught
her children what they needed to do to earn their living through proper prayer and
offerings to the Spirits of the Cardinal Directions, Spirits of the Seasons, and the
katsina in their requests for assistance. The origin story and the migration story of
some of Acoma’s ancestors emphasize the principle that people are ultimately
responsible for their own well being based on their decision whether or not to live
in accord with the traditional system of belief, their defining community
17. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 11:
Again, Acoma Pueblo’s origin story reveals the community’s ageless commitment
to the tenet of ensoulment in defining their role and purpose within the world.
Iatiku and Nautisi, using thought, breath and words of prayer, breathed life in the
seeds and the stone carvings of all the different plants and animals and into other
living beings, including the mountains, that were then put in the world. At the
heart of their body of traditional knowledge, the Acoma people understand they
are inseparable from the land; it – the people, animals, plants, the earth and its
features – is all one living thing, one whole.
18. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 12:
Iatiku and Nautisi created life in all things using thought, breath and language of
prayer These narratives also confirm that the maintaining the gift of life depends
on the people’s appropriate and regular conduct of further prayer. Centeredness is
an especially prominent theme in Acoma’s oral history. The origin narratives
repeatedly articulate the need to define centeredness through the establishment of
rightful orientation with the invocation of the ceremonial circuit, which always
begins in the North with Kaweshtima. As will be discussed later, the
predominance of Acoma’s concept of center still persists. It does so, however, in
relation to the edge, which is, of course, center’s essential counterpart. The center
cannot be determined without reference to the edge and vice versa within a
scheme of directionality and rightful orientation . . . In the Indian Claims
Commission proceedings, the location of Acoma’s initial aboriginal lands claim
shows Haaku at the center of their homeland with the Mountains of Cardinal
Direction defining edges.
Just as the theme of center (along with its complement, edge), connectedness
appears prominently in Acoma’s traditional narratives. Connectedness is the key
ideal expressed in the nomination of the principle of spiritual ecology and
ensoulment: the people and the land are truly inseparable from one another. What
is more, the Mountains of Cardinal Direction include — and open onto — the
mesas that enclose and complete the peaks. Moreover, as we will see further
below, connectedness binds center with its edge in a system of intrinsic
The theme of movement also exists in Acoma’s origin story as identified in the
landscape construction of other Pueblo communities. At a surface level, Acoma’s
tradition keepers use movement in their narratives to refer to the migration of
some of their ancestors in search of their center, the promised homeland. The
stories though, connect this movement to prayer to the Spirit Beings. This is
consistent with the importance of the flow of prayer carrying breath and life’s
energy between the community where people reside and the spirit beings at the
edges of their conceptualized world.
19. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 12-13:
Since at least the early Spanish colonial period, visitors to Acoma have remarked
on the location, construction, and vistas of Sky City. During his travel to Acoma
in the late eighteenth century, Governor Don Juan Bautista de Anza wrote
“The pueblo is beautiful and pleasant, because of the view which it enjoys from
the elevation of its houses, its symmetrical construction, the spaciousness and
straightness of its streets, which running from east to west form three blocks as
long as any of the squares of Mexico.”
Missing from such statements is recognition that the characteristics that make the
community so inviting to the eye are the product of purposeful design choices. In
building Sky City, Acomas incorporated references both to the physical setting of
their homeland and to their community’s history of its origins.
The stepped houses of stone, adobe, and plaster tempered with straw conform to
the movement of the sun and the prevailing winds that characteristically originate
in the west . . . The long ranges of houses echo the lengthy, flat-topped mesas that
define the northern horizon . . . Kaweshtima, too, is a focal point in the view from
atop Sky City, with its peaks rising above the middle of the mesas to complete the
northern horizon. “The range is a towering, ever-present juxtaposition against the
blocky stone and adobe structures of the pueblos” . . . Sky City’s dwellings follow
the lesson that Iatiku taught her children about building houses resembling the
mesa and mountain homes of the Spirits of the Seasons.
Rina Swentzell . . . an architectural historian from Santa Clara Pueblo, writes
extensively about the ways in which traditional Pueblo architecture incorporates
landscape symbolism into its design. Acoma’s design of Sky City reveals notable
elaborations on these general landscape themes. As Sky City grew, the
incorporation of the two long, east-west trending avenues between the stretched
out house blocks evokes the Rio San Jose and Acoma valleys, which are bordered
by the elongated mesas that captured Scully’s . . . attention. The room-blocks’
construction, which rises in sequential steps from the plaza level to the upper
stories (formerly three levels but now just two), suggests the mesas that extend
southward from the slopes of Kaweshtima . . . The main plaza, oriented northsouth, defines a cross axis, and orients the village toward Kaweshtima . . . The
many short north-south alleys that subdivide the long room-blocks to connect the
avenues resemble the canyons that cut through the mesas. The passage that
partitions the northernmost room-block gives people a view of their North
Mountain even while they are in the plaza. This opening brings to mind Deetseyamah (“The North Door”). Ortiz explains that Deetseya-mah provides an “opening,
like a gateway, between two mesas” . . . toward Kaweshtima.
20. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 13-14:
In her discussion of kiva architecture generally among the Pueblos, Parsons . . .
long ago recognized that kivas exist in a fundamental symbolic relationship with
the Mountains of Cardinal Direction. Kivas and the cardinal mountains not only
are places of power, they are physical expressions of the themes of center and
edge within the communities’ landscapes. See Photograph 5, “Acoma from the
South” showing church and pueblo buildings on mesa with Mt. Taylor on the
horizon. When designing their kivas, the Acomas include several features that
reflect the association between the kiva and Kaweshtima.. The foremost
illustration of this association refers back to Acoma’s age-old understanding that
the creation of the Mountains of Cardinal Direction included mesas and canyons,
as well as the summits themselves (see above). The Acomas refer to their kiva
benches as “fog seats” upon which Spiritual Beings are invited to sit . . . The
complex of symbolism and understanding assigned to the use of the idea “fog
seat” to denote “kiva bench” calls to mind Acoma’s traditional association of
heyaashi (a diaphanous cloud or mist that conforms to the shape of the land over
which it moves [see above]) specifically with Kaweshtima. That is, after heyaashi
develops over Kaweshtima, it tends to settle on the mesas that encircle its great
girth. At Acoma, the kivas’ fog seats symbolize Kaweshtima’s bench-like mesas.
21. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 14:
Two other kiva features at Acoma warrant mention. First, the sipapus in Acoma
kivas, which Parsons calls “sunken altars,” . . . and the shrine atop Kaweshtima to
which Acoma makes pilgrimages, share important properties. Saile believes that
both kinds of openings are portals for communication with the Spiritual Beings in
the underworld . . . Acoma’s sipapus are excavated into the kivas’ floors and
represent center places within the Pueblo; the shrine atop Kaweshtima is dug into
the summit of the all-important North Mountain, which helps demarcate the
community’s conceptual periphery. The underworld, in turn, connects Acoma’s
center places and periphery to form a unified whole.
Parsons relates that Acoma’s kivas feature “another pit, representing the door to
the sacred Mountains, North, East, West, to Sun and Moon: . . . The placement of
this “door” in the kiva floor, as with the sipapu further emphasizes the traditional
landscape themes of center and connectedness in reaffirming the relationship
between Acoma Pueblo and Kaweshtima.
22. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 15:
Unlike Kaweshtima where Acoma’s people built ceremonial structures, relied
upon its stepped contours to define their rightful orientation and place in the
world, and transformed it into a sacred cultural landscape that retells the
inseparable history of the people and the land from the beginning of time, the San
Esteban del Rey Mission exhibits “no creature qualities . . . Instead, facing east
over the graves of the deceased, the mission emphasizes the Church’s domination
over the people and its proclaimed duty to save their souls into eternity.
23. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 15:
Even as the Franciscans strove to make their domination over Acoma absolute
through the building of the San Esteban del Rey Mission, the Acoma people
offered resistance. They rebuilt their houses on the north part of the mesa where
they maintained an unobstructed view of their North Mountain, the Acoma
ascribed to a plan that fulfilled their landscape understandings. The plan for the
mission was based on the Franciscans’ interpretation of Italian Humanist
architectural principles. Execution of this design, however, depended entirely on
Acoma’s traditional architectural expertise.
Forced labor for the mission’s construction resulted in the deaths of many Acoma
people. Nonetheless, to make this monument something in which they, too, could
find sanctuary and goodness, according to Acoma traditional history, the people
obtained the 35-foot-long (10.7-m-long) timbers used as the mission’s roof beams
from Kaweshtima’s slopes using traditional methods. The distance of upwards of
30 miles (48 km) is notable because ponderosa pine trees were available closer in
the high country to the west and southwest atop Cebolleta Mesa. As discussed
further below, the association of various plant, animals, and minerals with
Kaweshtima often is an important criterion in determining when people must
travel to obtain resources needed for artifacts, features, and activities possessing
high cultural significance. After felling the trees, the builders smoothed the cut
ends and carried the prepared beams back to Sky City, for “it would have been
sacrilege for them to touch the ground” . . . Selection of where to harvest the
timbers needed to support the church’s massive roof, preparing the cut logs for
use as vigas, and the mode of transporting the finished beams back to Sky City
conform to Acoma’s traditions for obtaining materials to be used in the
construction of sanctified buildings.
24. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 17:
The shrine on top of Kaweshtima’s highest summit . . . is the best known of the
many blessing places through which Acoma maintains an active relationship with
the TCP. In 1918, Parsons described the shrine as a large excavated hollow with
four well-marked trails: “one from Laguna, one from Taos, Santa Clara, etc., one
from Acoma, one from Zuñi” . . . She reported that the region’s Keres
communities refer to the shrine as a “lightning home.” Any “closing” of the
opening (through physical or metaphysical disturbances) can cause drought . . .
Much ritual activity, including blessings and offerings, therefore, is devoted to
maintain the opening as a portal of communication with the Spirit Beings.
25. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 17:
Sedgwick . . . confirmed the presence of well-worn trails from Acoma, as well as
Laguna and Zuni, to the summit of Mt. Taylor based on first-hand accounts of
several of her contemporaries who lived in Albuquerque but frequently visited
Mt. Taylor. Not only is the peak the closest source of timber and many resources
used in rituals to Acoma villages along the Rio San Jose, for some resources it is
the only source. The Mountain is also the setting where many characteristically
confidential places of ritual observances exist.
Available documents indicate that Acoma maintains a large number of trails
across the Mt. Taylor TCP in addition to the complex of pathways that ascend the
Mountain’s summit to enter the shrine on top . . . For example, White . . .
mentions the use of a pathway that descends Mt. Taylor and crosses Horace Mesa
in the “Lights the Fires” ceremony (see below). White . . . also states that
religious leaders make pilgrimages to various springs surrounding Mt. Taylor’s
flanks to collect water needed for rituals at the Pueblo. The documentation of the
archaeological remnants of some of Acoma’s old agricultural sites in Lobo
Canyon . . . Big Spring Canyon . . . and Water Canyon, including Cubero Pueblo
and its many associated farmsteads . . . suggest that the many gorges cutting into
Mt. Taylor’s slope comprised other important corridors for movement of Acomas
in and out of the TCP area.
Ethnographic reports indicate that a network of what might be called
metaphysical trails, referred to by some Native Americans as “spirit pathways”
also crisscross the TCP . . . Spirit pathways serve as the conduits over which
blessings travel back and forth between the natural and supernatural realms of the
cosmos. Parsons . . . states that the Acomas commonly make ritual observances to
represent such pathways for their blessing or the Spiritual Beings to follow.
26. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 19:
For Pueblo people generally, the artifacts, ash, and features observed at ancestral
archaeological sites are accumulations of material residues that people produced
in their everyday lives in times past . . . The life force invested in these surviving
traces continues to reside within these visible materials and locations. Moreover,
the goodness that their ancestors left at these old sites is available to sustain the
contemporary world. This latter point implies that, in Pueblo belief, old sites
continue to be occupied, in terms of breath and in healing (i.e., thought). Through
breath, center, emergence, movement, and connectedness, the Pueblos view their
ancestral archaeological sites as part of an ongoing transformational process
within which the current generations act.
27. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 19-21:
Kaweshtima, (its peak, slopes, mesas, and canyons) provides places important for
conducting many of Acoma’s rituals. Kaweshtima’s significance is heightened in
ceremonial songs and through paraphernalia used in many ritual performances.
Topics of pilgrimages, structure and content of ceremonial observances, and the
form and use of ritual paraphernalia are culturally sensitive. Rather than providing
a comprehensive enumeration of all references available in published sources, this
review identifies a few representative samples obtained in several widely known
“Lighting the Fires”
This ceremony commemorates the actions of a supernatural being, who is
associated with Kaweshtima and who built fires all over the Mountain to enhance
the earth’s fertility . . . The rite begins on top of Kaweshtima and continues along
a trail that crosses Horace Mesa to connect the McCarty’s area with Kaweshtima’s
summit. Participants then make their way to Sky City from McCarty’s.
Before ascending Kaweshtima to collect materials needed for community rituals,
Acomas offer blessings for permission . . . In making their intentions clear and
taking care to first request permission, the people will not be blamed any
disturbance, which might otherwise offend the Spiritual Beings and block the
trails and the portals of communication through which blessings flow back and
forth to sustain order and balance in the cosmos.
In some rites, the Acoma collect materials from the heights of Kaweshtima for
offerings to Shakak, the Spirit of Winter . . . Religious paraphernalia, representing
the Mountains of Cardinal Direction, including Kaweshtima, may be kept in
medicine pouches at the Acoma . . . At Acoma representations of the Mountains
of Cardinal Direction may be used in religious rites, with individual items “being
named for a particular mountain.”
Acoma traditional leaders make pilgrimages to sacred springs in the Mt. Taylor
district at intervals throughout the year to bring water back to the Pueblo . . .
Parsons stated that they pour this moisture into the reservoirs at Sky City so they
may not fail during the dry months . . . In this way, water from Kaweshtima’s
springs is used “to insure a plentiful supply of water for the crops and for drinking
during the year.”
One song, sung to Spiritual Beings associated with Kaweshtima begins:
Already this morning
The Shiwana have come out
With cloud they have come
Already this morning
The Shiwana have come out.
With fog they come
Rainbow, Lightning
From Snow Mountain.
An Acoma hunt song, which may be sung at the Pueblo during preparations for a
hunt or while actually in pursuit, begins:
On the northern edge
Lion hunt chief has come out.
With glittering paint
With yellow head feather tip waving
He has gone.
Bravely I will go
To get spruce
Acquiring blessings.
It is useful to add that this song continues to mention the other three other
Mountains of Cardinal Direction and their associated animals, colors, and plants.
In a rite intended to insure abundant game, Acoma Hunt Chiefs offer blessings to
make figures of game animals “come alive.” The song begins:
It comes alive
It comes alive, alive, alive
In the North Mountain
Lion comes alive
In the North Mountain comes alive,
With this the meat-eating animal
Will have the power to attract deer
Will have the power to attract antelope
Will have the power to be lucky (succeed).
The song continues, but it mentions the other three Mountains of Cardinal
Direction and substitutes the appropriate associated animals. Lastly, before
offering a final drink at conclusion of a rite, the Acoma might sing:
Yonder in the north,
Snow Mountain,
To your yellow-colored pool
To your medicine pool
With sacred vessel
I am going for a drink.
28. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 23:
Collecting plants for food undoubtedly was an important draw for the people of
Acoma to ascend Kaweshtima’s canyons, mesas, and slopes. For example, the 81
Pueblo sites documented on Horace Mesa affiliated with Acoma demonstrate a
general preference to wooded areas where piñon trees grow in abundance and
periodically offer rich crops of nuts . . . The mundane nature of economic plant
gathering activities and the community’s long-held decision of not sharing
privileged information with outsiders have contributed to an under recognition of
the importance that native flora played in the traditional lifeways of Acoma, . . .
Some plant gathering expeditions, such as those associated with the harvesting of
species used in making medicines or in ritual observances, are not for outsiders to
witness. Focused ethnographic study of Acoma has not concerned itself with
comprehensive study of plant gathering pursuits . . . and ethnobotanical
investigation of Acoma’s uses of plants has never systematically considered the
Pueblo’s relationships with Kaweshtima.
29. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 25:
Acoma people traditionally gathered juniper berries, acorns, and wild cherries
from Kaweshtima . . . These native plant resources formed an important part of
the Pueblo’s economy . . . Seasonally available foods not only offer nutritional
values and variety that complement a diet based on maize, they were of great
importance during times that the corn crops failed. Some native plant foods, such
as piñon nuts, also were important for trade . . . In comparatively recent historic
times, piñon nuts have been a source of cash income.
30. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, Page 25:
Kaweshtima is important for many products needed to make medicines and items
used in rituals. These topics have been beyond the permissible scope of
ethnographic and ethnobotanical inquiry (see above); nevertheless, several
published observations exist. First, Acoma tradition keepers gather herbs for use
in their community rites, including nominations for rain and curing . . . Second,
ceremonialists make offerings and gather soil, herbs, minerals, water, wood,
wildlife, and other materials from this Mountain, as well as plants. Materials from
the Mountain have special power by virtue of being part of it.
31. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, Page 25:
Acoma hunters pursued mule deer (Ococoileus hemionus), in the TCP, and still
hunt there today where permitted . . . As a general observation, Rands . . .
observes that hunting expeditions lasted as long as two or three weeks in the past,
depending on the scale of the hunts, the success of expeditions, and the need to
jerk meat before returning home. In addition to deer bone, archaeological studies
of pre-Columbian Acoma habitation sites yield turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) . . .
Both species occur at elevations between 7200 and 8500 feet (2195-2591 m) . . .
The Pueblo’s hunters also harvested wild goats on Kaweshtima’s lava beds . . .
Although published information is scanty, other game animals, which are
important for materials needed in Acoma’s ritual observances if not also for food,
exist. For example, Polk . . . reports that Acoma’s people obtained (unspecified)
birds from the top of Horace Mesa.
32. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 27-28:
Acomas gather branches of various trees, such as oak, maple, Douglas spruce, and
willow, for ritual paraphernalia on Kaweshtima . . . Expeditions for ceremonial
paraphernalia likely occur several times of the year, with people harvesting as
much of the desired plant products as they can carry . . . This activity has been
going on since time immemorial.
Unlike today when the importance of chokecherry trees is the fruit, in the past
Acoma hunters used “[t]he strong, supple, straight-grained cherry make
functional bows...until at least the first half of this [1900s] century.”
33. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 28:
Kaweshtima, both in Acoma oral traditions and in meteorological fact given its
rising topography, is associated with lightning. Through the multi-leveled
associations among lightning, rain and Kaweshtima, Acomas understand that
“lightning is sacred” . . . and capable of imbuing great power on the things it
strikes, including objects and people . . . Therefore, it is unsurprising that
lightning-struck trees in general, but especially those timbers growing on
Kaweshtima, are favored for making certain items of material culture, including
altars . . . cradle boards . . . and frames used in curing rites.”
Obsidian was an important resource in Acoma’s traditional material culture.
Bibo . . . states that Piedra de Azavache (Point No. O) is an outcrop of an intense,
jet-black obsidian. The Acoma recall that their ancestors quarried this material to
make arrowheads and knives. Also, in their report of the archaeological survey of
extensive of tracts of Horace Mesa, Wase and associates . . . found that obsidian
availability played a contributing role in determining the locations of the 81 preColumbian sites likely affiliated with Acoma.
When speaking about of Kaweshtima’s importance in Acoma material culture,
recall that the people constructed the roof of the San Esteban del Rey Mission
with ponderosa pine beams ritually harvested, prepared, and carried back from
Kaweshtima rather than alternate locations closer to Sky City . . . The association
of Kaweshtima’s power and goodness with the trees that grew on the peak’s
slopes was part of the decision-making process. With reference to their corpus of
traditional belief, Acoma’s people understood what they needed to do to properly
build structures associated with blessings and rituals, even those outside the
traditional belief system.
34. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 29:
We are part of this land. It is our permanent homeland. Our elders tell us we are
already underneath the land and we are part of it. This mountain... We call her
“our snow-covered mother mountain.” This is where young men go to pray and to
learn about themselves. So to have the children here and touching the earth here
[on Mt. Taylor] is very special and very sacred.
In my work, what we call our aboriginal territory of Acoma, which is a bigger
land base than what we have currently today, is bounded to the north by Mt.
Taylor. All these areas are places we go to protect our homeland (from) within.
[within the larger Acoma Cultural Province].
35. Pueblo of Acoma Significance Statement Section 12, page 29:
A specific example of Acoma’s continuing relationship with Kaweshtima is in
comments that Ernest Vallo shared with Cynthia Benedict, Forest Archaeologist,
Cibola National Forest . . . Vallo began by noting that Acoma traditional leaders
continue to visit the mesas surrounding the peak to collect materials used in
community observances. He also reported that there is a place near La Jara Mesa
where the reburial of human remains took place in August 2000 at the request of
the Pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, and the Hopi Tribe following Native American
Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) consultations. This location
was chosen by the Tribes because of proximity to the ancestral Puebloan villages
where the original burials were unearthed. Vallo cited this action as yet another
example to demonstrate the ongoing cultural ties and value of La Jara Mesa to the
Pueblo of Acoma.
Section 2: Hopi Tribe Significance Statements Regarding Mount Taylor:
36. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 37:
As cited in the Initial Study, which only includes Horace and Bibo Mesas, the
Hopi Tribe has established cultural associations with Mt. Taylor and
demonstrated that 28 Hopi deities and other religious personages . . . 26 Hopi and
10 Tewa clans . . . and a number of Hopi religious societies have close cultural
connections with Mt. Taylor. Other Hopi and Tewa clans having cultural
associations with Mt. Taylor are extinct.
37. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 37:
Hopi people entered into a sacred Covenant with the Earth Guardian in which it is
our responsibility to be preservers and protectors, or stewards of the Earth. In
accordance with that Covenant, some of our ancestors' clans migrated to and
settled on the lands around Mt. Taylor, and then migrated to Hopi.
38. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 37:
Mt. Taylor is among the most sacred landscapes for the Hopi people. These lands
are part of our ancestral lands. Mt. Taylor is a Traditional Cultural Property of the
Hopi Tribe. Hopi people were part of New Mexico before there was an Arizona,
and Hopi people were part of New Mexico before there was a New Mexico,
inhabiting places such as Aztec, Chaco, Santa Fe, and literally thousands of other
39. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 38:
To Hopi people the landscape is inhabited. The mountain is revered as a home of
the Katsinam, spiritual deities that are messengers between the people and the
spiritual domain to petition for rain for all people. Hopis are initiated into one of
two religious societies. These initiations are “rites of passage” for all Hopis as
they grow into adulthood and passages into other societies. The majestic peak
serves as a physical, emotional and spiritual link between the Hopis and our
40. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 38:
These lands contain the testimony of our ancestors' stewardship through
thousands of years, manifested in the prehistoric ruins, the rock ‘art’ and artifacts,
and the human remains of our ancestors, Hisatsinom, People of Long Ago, who
continue to inhabit them. Hopi people have returned to Mt. Taylor on pilgrimages
since time immemorial and continue to do so today. Tsiipiya, the clouds, our
fathers are calling us.
41. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 38:
We tell our history through our songs, ceremonies and oral traditions. Hopi people
believe that when we die, we become clouds. Mt. Taylor is known and
remembered in our songs, Mt. Taylor is known and remembered in our
ceremonies, and Mt. Taylor is known and remembered in our shrines. Tsiipiya,
the clouds, our fathers are calling us. The clouds, the spring, the shrine, up above,
there’s a mesa where they’re calling us from.
42. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 38:
The clouds over the Mountain, our fathers, are connected to the shrine on the
Mountain, where we place our offerings. After the Spanish cut the Hopi off from
access to the Mountain shortly after their arrival in the region, the Hopi
established shrines, named Tsiipiya, near the villages to perpetuate and
commemorate their traditional pilgrimages to the shrine on Tsiipiya. These
shrines continue to be used today.
43. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 38:
Our offerings at the shrine bring rain. The shrine and the rain are connected to the
spring. The Hopi life cycle is the water cycle. Hopi people and Mt. Taylor are
inseparable. The shrines connect to the universe. The spirit never dies. Tsiipiya,
the clouds, our fathers are calling us. Can you hear them?
44. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 38:
Paauwaqatsi. Water is life. For over a thousand years, the springs and waters of
Mt. Taylor have provided life to Hopi people and other people. The springs and
waters, farms and people are threatened now. In the near future, water will be
realized to be more valuable than oil.
45. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 39:
To Hopi people, the shrines and archaeological sites on the mountain are the
footprints of our ancestors and are the tangible and physical manifestation of their
fulfillment of a Covenant with Massaw, the Earth Guardian – to travel to the four
directions of the Continent and leave these footprints. The archaeological ruins,
pottery sherds, and human remains of our ancestors that cover Mt. Taylor are
tangible. To Hopi people, Palatpela or Palatutuwkwi is the red rock wall between
Grants and Gallup, Pamistupka is the valley in which Grants is located, and
Patusuntanga is the ice cave near Milan. These are tangible places.
46. Hopi Tribe Significance Statement Section 12, page 39:
Ceremonies and societies that have connections with religious personages and
clans associated with the Mt. Taylor area include all katsina ceremonies, the
Lalkont and Maraw women’s societies and ceremonies and the Yaya and
Somaikoli curing ceremonies. The Katsinam are as tangible to Hopis as Jesus is to
Christians. To the participant the natural is supernatural.
Section 3: Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statements Regarding Mount Taylor:
47. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 43:
Tsibina (Tse-pi’na) is also translated as ‘woman veiled in clouds’ . . . In this
usage, Mount Taylor is personified as a female spirit associated with the rain and
snow clouds that bring life-giving moisture to the people of the Pueblo of Laguna.
This meaning of the toponym references the prominent place Mount Taylor
occupies in the symbolic geography that Spider Woman created for the Laguna
Pueblo people. By carrying thoughts into action, Spider Woman, sometimes
referred to as Grandmother Spider, formed and named everything in the world.
She created the six sacred mountains, including the four mountains of the cardinal
directions, along with the mountains of the zenith and nadir. Mount Taylor was
placed first, so it is preeminent among the sacred peaks . . . Mount Taylor is the
“place people belong to,” the ‘mother’ where the deceased go to be reborn . . .
This sentiment was expressed to me in 2008, when a woman at Laguna Pueblo
told me “Mount Taylor is our Mother.”
48. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 44:
“There is no high mesa or mountain peak where one can stand and not
immediately be part of all that surrounds. Human identity is linked with all the
elements of Creation ...” Silko concluded that “The land, the sky, and all that is
within it—the landscape—includes human beings.” Tsibina—Mount Taylor—is
thus inseparable from the people who view the mountain at the Pueblo of
49. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 44:
According to Harold Tso . . . Tsibina has “always has been an important place for
the Laguna people … you might say from the time of beginning.” He noted that
there is archaeological evidence that traces the ancient movement of people in this
area from Chaco Canyon and other areas. “During the process of migration,” Mr.
Tso explained, “as it has been told over and over, that Mount Taylor has always
been designated, you’d say, as a geographic point recognized to where the people
migrated to, and by, and settled at. It was already recognized from the time of
beginning that there was such a place as Mount Taylor, as well as all the other
points in the four directions.”
50. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 44-45:
Tsibina anchors the cultural landscape of the Pueblo of Laguna, providing a
cultural identity for tribal members who grow up gazing at its ever-changing vista
as the sun, clouds, and seasons transform the appearance of the mountain. The
mountain is what the geographer Kevin Scott Blake . . . refers to as a “peak of
identity,” a tangible and towering landscape that embodies a distinctive set of
cultural beliefs and values, with people deriving an important part of their
personal identity from the mountain.
People “belong to” Mount Taylor, so that people and place are coterminous . . .
Tsibina, the Laguna Pueblo place name for Mount Taylor, is an essential cultural
element for recalling important cultural features, variously referring to the
forested uplands, the spiritual beings that dwell there, and the clouds associated
with the mountain.
51. Laguna Pueblo Significance Statement Section 12, page 45:
After Emergence, the spiritual Mother and Father sent the Laguna people in
search of Kawaika. Some ancestors migrated straight southward; others traveled
west to the San Francisco Peaks, and lived in other villages before them joined
their relatives at Laguna Pueblo. As they set out on migration, the Laguna
ancestors were told there would be a mountain and when they arrived at the lake
on the Rio San José, there they found Mount Taylor. The Follow-the-Leader
Dance performed during feast days reenacts the long migration of the Laguna
52. Laguna Pueblo Significance Statement Section 12, page 45-46:
Some members of the Pueblo of Laguna describe a migration route along the
eastern flanks of Mount Taylor. When they reached the cliff at Kwischi, the
people handed down their heavy packs and established a camp where the village
of Paguate is now located. Other people recount how their ancestors migrated
from Chaco Canyon towards Mount Taylor on their way to the Rio San José . . .
On this journey, they traversed the saddle on the northern side of Mount Taylor
on their way to Encinal Creek. The ancestors of the Pueblo of Laguna continued
to migrate, not recognizing the home that their spiritual Mother had designated for
them at Kawaika, a lake along the Rio San José. Bypassing the lake, the ancestors
continued southward towards the Gallinas and Magdelena Mountains. When they
arrived there, one of the leaders decided to take his people back to the lake.
The ancestors split into two groups. One group traveled back northward where
they saw Acoma Pueblo, and they stopped there for a time. The other group
migrated to Kawaika, where they built the village of Punyana on the west side of
the lake and raised crops using irrigation ditches . . . Archaeologists date the
founding of Punyana to the fourteenth century . . . The group that stopped at
Acoma Pueblo eventually rejoined their relatives at Punyana. A group of families
from the Rio Grande later joined these people, and the village was moved to a
knoll on the east side of the lake. Two-story masonry houses were constructed
around a plaza, where a basket of sacred objects was buried. In this manner,
Laguna Pueblo was founded before the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth
53. Laguna Pueblo Significance Statement Section 12, page 48:
Ken Day . . . along with many other Laguna Pueblo tribal members interviewed in
2008, said that as a traditional cultural property, “Mount Taylor has no
boundaries.” There is a spiritual connection between Tsibina and the other sacred
mountains ringing Laguna Pueblo land that makes it impossible to separate one
from another. The cultural beliefs and practices associated with Tsibina transcend
a single landform, imbuing the entire landscape with a sacredness that should not
be reduced by considering the component elements in isolation from one another.
54. Laguna Pueblo Significance Statement Section 12, page 50:
The Guardian Peaks are all distinctive landforms with Keresan names. For
instance, Cerro Alesna is shaped like an awl, and is known in Keresan as He’atsi
Kotsi. During the winter after a snowfall, Cerro de la Cerosa looks like the head
of a bear with a gaping mouth, and in Keresan is known as Kwaiya. Picacho Peak
is shaped like a buffalo or elephant, and in Keresan is known as Kai’tsa.
The spiritual concept of the Guardian Peaks is associated with high level religious
knowledge . . . and Laguna religious leaders take prayersticks and offerings to
these places . . . The peaks are associated with shrines and petroglyphs . . . The
Guardian Peaks along the eastern flank of Mount Taylor protect a serpent that
once lived on Tsibina . . . This serpent was provided by the spiritual Mother to
protect the Laguna people because she knew there was going to
be war and other violent threats.
55. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 53:
Tsibina is important to many religious societies at the Pueblo of Laguna,
including the Badger, Antelope, and Oak groups, and the War Captains . . . The
mountain is used yearly by the War Captains to present themselves to the spirits,
and they offer the names of the Society leaders so these men will be known by the
spirits. Harold Tso . . . discussed his tenure as a War Captain, describing how he
accompanied two religious leaders during ceremonies associated with
the new beginning in the spring. During this ceremony, the religious leaders left
early in the morning and walked part way to the top of Mount Taylor. Mr. Tso
noted similar pilgrimages are also made by other groups or individual tribal
members whenever there is a spiritual or cultural need. War Captains are elected
offices and serve one year terms, while the kiva and society leadership are
religious offices with lifetime terms . . . The head Kachina officers from Seama,
Paraje and Mesita, as well as Antelope leaders from these villages, visit Mount
Taylor during religious activities.
56. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 54:
There is a cultural reticence at the Pueblo of Laguna in identifying the specific
shrines used on Mount Taylor . . . Exposing their locations to non-Indians
threatens their physical and spiritual integrity. Nonetheless, many tribal members
discussed the Huchanitsa shrine that provides one of the main focal points for
religious activities on Tsibina. This “main shrine” is at the top of Mount Taylor,
east of La Mosca, where “you can see forever” . . . There is a natural “hole” or
“cave” at this shrine where prayer offerings are deposited, and Laguna people
believe that rain clouds emerge from this shrine . . . Anthropologist Fred Eggan
. . . described the use of this shrine by Flint and Kapina shamans, along with the
heads of the Kurena and Kashare sacred groups during the winter solstice
ceremony, when these groups traditionally went to the top of Mount Taylor to
consult the “prophetic hole.”
57. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 54:
All the cheani used to offer feather-sticks. Formerly after a four-day retreat they
made an annual summer pilgrimage to Mt. Taylor, the highest peak in the
conspicuous mountain range twenty miles northwest of Laguna and the highest
mountain peak in New Mexico. Nowadays the pilgrimage is made only in time of
drought. There is on Mt. Taylor a big hole called shiwanna gacheti (lightning
home). To it lead four well-marked trails, one from Laguna, one from Taos, Santa
Clara, etc., one from Acoma, one from Zuñi. Cloture [sic] of the hole is the cause
of drought, and so the cheani open it and offer feather-sticks. A few years ago
after they had offered their sticks on Mt. Taylor in a period of drought, before
their return to Laguna there was a heavy downpour of rain. On Mt. Taylor the
cheani also find herbs for their medicines. The cheani are medicine-men as well
as rain makers.
58. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 54:
In the 1920s, photographer-scholar Edward S. Curtis . . . described
“Tspinnakowaiyatyuma,” noting that the “Mount Taylor cave” is used by Laguna,
Acoma, Zuni, and Navaho. He documented that the people from the Pueblo of
Laguna plant prayersticks at this shrine and leave offerings of turquoise beads
when there has been a dry season. Curtis also commented that the shrine is used
for divination of the future.
59. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 54-55:
Anthropologist Franz Boas . . . documented that the head Kurena, Kashare, Flint
shaman, and Kapina shaman go to the top of Mount Taylor, accompanied by the
War Captains who take care of them. There they consult the “prophetic hole,”
which Boaz observed is also used by neighboring tribes. The shrine has trails
leading from it to Laguna, Acoma, Zuni, Jemez, and Navajo country. These
trails are kept clear for a distance of about twenty feet. The four shamans stay the
night and return the next day to tell what they have seen. Boas was told that years
ago the pit was covered with a skin painted with clouds of all colors. When the
shaman prayed, the pit opened by itself. In discussing the divination that occurs at
Huchanitsa, Boas . . . translates a Laguna text originally collected in the Keresan
And since that time we shall find out whether we shall be rich … when
you get there you will see everything just like daylight. Everything, how
the year will be and how the winter will be and also for the food, whether
the new year and the new winter will be different, that you will see, and
also new cultivated plants and clothing you will see and also whether you
will have good health or whether you will die and whether the people will
be healthy and whether the cattle will healthy and you will see anything
you think about, down in the Place of Divination. Therefore it was thus
named by our father Ïttcu'tyi and our mother Nauts’uty’i ‘.
60. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 55:
Anthropologist Bertha Dutton and Pueblo of Pueblo of Laguna tribal member
Miriam A. Marmon described the ritual use of Huchanitsa during the ceremony of
Placing Prayer Sticks, which takes place in early January after the new officers of
the Pueblo are installed . . . At this time, the War Captain cuts prayersticks, and
three or four men are sent to ‘Tz bí na (Mount Taylor)’ to gather ha cá ca, the fir
branches that are symbolic of eternal life. The evergreens are brought back to
pueblo, and boiled into a medicinal tea that serves as an emetic which is
consumed by the participants of the ceremony during a purification ritual that
lasts for four days. During the evenings the War Captain and his assistants deposit
prayersticks at shrines, including the shrine at the top of Mount Taylor. Each
morning, the War Captain prays in the village in an invocation for rain and
prosperity in the coming year.
61. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 55:
The Huchanitsa shrine on Tsibina is culturally associated with the rain that
sustains fertility and life. Rain and lightning occur together during summer
rainstorms, so the connection between Huchanitsa and lightning makes cultural
sense. In discussing lightning, Parsons . . . notes that lightning symbols, made by
the Shiwanna cheani as a proprietary medicine, are referred to as hocheni (“one
with authority”), a term that is also used to describe Mount Taylor’s place among
all mountains.
62. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 55-56:
Religious leaders at the Pueblo of Laguna described the continuing importance of
the Huchanitsa shrine. According to the Badger clan leaders at Laguna Pueblo,
“Huchanitsa is the main shrine. There is a hole here, about ten feet deep where
religious offerings are placed. Spirits take these religious offerings out through
‘windows’ in the shrine, and these offerings are taken to the four corners of the
earth. These spirits are invisible but they can be heard at the shrine” . . . Harold
Tso . . . explained that the shrine on Mount Taylor is important as a place to
forecast the future, “to look forward to the snow needed to replenish the aquifers
that feed springs and fill drainages that provide water for the Laguna people.”
Robert Mooney . . . described the hole at Huchanitsa as an “entrance into Mother
Earth,” noting that celestial movements are tied to this place. Albert Riley . . .
added that people still leave food offerings at the Huchanitsa shrine in small
ceramic vessels. The Kachina Society continues to use this shrine on a quarterly
basis. Roland Johnson . . . placed Huchanitsa in a regional context, elucidating
how it is part of a larger network of shrines. Mr. Johnson noted there are many
additional shrines to the east, southeast, and southwest of Tsibina. Even Laguna
Pueblo tribal members who have not visited the shrine at Huchanitsa know of its
existence, and understand the important role it plays in Laguna cultural practices
. . . Kiva leaders at the Pueblo of Laguna continue to clean out the Huchanitsa
shrine so that breezes can come out, and they plant new prayersticks there. These
kiva leaders use Mount Taylor in their prayers for rain during the planting season.
63: Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 56:
Victor Sarracino . . . described how “People go to Mount Taylor twice a year for
spiritual reasons that they still connect that mountain with fields—the growth of
plants—and everything else. Not only in the fields but out in the mountains, the
piñons, the herbs that we use. So they go up there the first of the year.” There is a
ceremony that takes place over four nights. The kiva leaders announce to the
people that they are going to the mountain to take the prayersticks and other
offerings “to tell the mountain that we appreciate the abundance of water and that
we need more. And they connect this with the clouds and rain clouds.”
64. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 57:
Boas . . . noted there are six Shiwana (Storm Clouds), and that one of these spirits,
Cuisiyai, resides on Mount Taylor, where he creates the spring rains. According
to Ellis . . . Shiwana are spirits of the dead who have been transformed into
supernatural Cloud Beings. The Cloud Beings are described by cardinal directions
and colors. To the west, on the top of Tsibina, sits a chief wearing a bluegreen
cloud mask. Blue butterflies flutter about him, and blue corn grows . . . The
Shiwana are thought to express themselves with lightning and thunder, and when
the ethnobotanist George Swank . . . conducted field work with Laguna people
during a thundershower on Mount Taylor in the 1930s, his consultant remarked,
‘The Shewana are talking.” Today, the Laguna people say that the Shiwana, or
rain clouds, are released by Mount Taylor.
65. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 57-58:
Boas . . . commented that the distinction between the supernatural powers known
as Shiwana, Kopishtaya, and Kachina is not well understood by anthropologists.
The Shiwana, visible as storm clouds, reside on the peaks of mountains, including
Mount Taylor. These clouds are the children of Sun Man, who awakens them
each day . . . The storm clouds give physical form to the ancestors who have
become the Kachina that bring rain. Some people say the Kopishtaya are
benevolent spiritual beings who dwell in the east . . . In discussing the relationship
between Kopishtaya and the mountains, including Mount Taylor, Albert Riley . . .
explained that,
We came from the north, and after our loved ones go we send them back
to the north. They call it Shipap, and that’s where they go. And after they
are cleansed and everything, then our Mother looks at how they acted, and
how their life occurred. If they were good, she brings them back, and those
are the people that protect us. After death, our loved ones dwell in these
areas which provide a home in the afterlife. The Mother and Father told
the spirits that dwell in the mountains to protect the Laguna people. After
death, the loved ones are sent back to Shipap. After they are cleansed,
Mother brings them back to the four sacred mountains.
We have deities in these areas to protect us—our sacred people, our
ancestors, our loved ones that have gone before us. They tell us that once
they are gone, they are there to protect us. Our Mother and Father put
them in these locations to protect us, and that is the reason that we hold
these mountains sacred, because that is where our loved ones are at, as
protectors … We take our offerings over there and pray to them to protect
66. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, Page 58:
Pueblo of Laguna religious leaders also noted that Tsibina is associated with
many different Kachina deities, including the rain and snow Kachina . . . Boas . . .
recounted the Laguna traditions about one of these Kachinas. In the narrative text
documented by Boas, when the kachina were living at Wenimatsi long ago,
Ts’i˙mo˙tc’unyi-Man, a Kachina, left Wenimatsi and traveled looking for a
mountain top where he could live. He came to Mount Taylor and traveled up the
eastern slope of the mountain. After a while he came to a hole, where he
encountered the Kopishtaya and Shiwana. Ts’i˙mo˙tc’unyi -Man asked them if
there was a cave anywhere on the top of the mountain. “Indeed, they said, go to
the northeast, on top Ts’i˙mo˙tc’unyi -Man went to the east and arrived at the
hole, where he looked in and saw ‘pretty things,’ with moss above. -Man said
‘Here I shall live,’ and Ts’i˙mo˙tc’unyi he went in. He went downward, and
below in the north he found hanging beads made from teeth, which took as his
bracelets. He looked to the west and found hanging shell beads, which he took as
his beads and put them on. He looked to south and found hanging medicine cups
made from white shell, and on the floor he found a shaman’s bowl and four flints
for beautifying the body. Ts’i˙mo˙tc’unyi -Man said he would use these. He
looked east and found turquoise earrings and different kinds of beads, which he
took as his own.”
67. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 58:
Mount Taylor is referred to in the Laguna origin accounts that explain the
creation of the world . . . In the beginning, Mother Nauts utyi lived in the lower
world. When it came time to create people, she had Old-Fire-Woman cut off her
long fishlike tail, which was then taken to the mountains of the four directions,
including Tsibina, the West Mountain. She then came up from the White World
through the Red World, Blue World, and Yellow World to arrive at Shipap, the
Place of Emergence, where people were created. Spider created rain, clouds,
lighting, thunder, and rainbow, and these were sent to the six directions, including
to West Mountain (Mount Taylor), where there was a pine tree.
68. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 58-59:
In the Laguna traditions that Boas . . . collected, “Ho˙tcaniTse” [Huchanitsa], the
place of divination on top of Mount Taylor, is said to have been established by the
spiritual Mother and Father, Ïtcutyi and Nauts tyi . As soon as the Kachina and
Shiwana were born, the Mother and Father told them to go from east to west to
bring them food and cultivated plants, carrying them up to the cave four times. At
the cave, the people should predict what kind of a year there would be and what
kind of a winter, and whether they would increase in number. The narrative
documented by Boas states: “Let us go and see on Mt. Taylor, there on top how
things will be, whether this year there may be life (i.e., rain).” In these traditions,
the Shiwana and Kopishtaya are also said to live on top of Mount Taylor:
Behold, every year there are clouds and there is rain on top of Mt. Taylor, “thus
will say the people, and therefore there in the cave on Mt. Taylor below you will
see what is predicted.” People who belong to the Shiwana and Kopishtaya groups
“will come up holding prayer-sticks and beads and pollen and sacred meal.”
69. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 59:
Mount Taylor is also the setting for traditional narratives about other personages
important in the past, such as Yellow-Woman . . . Yellow-Woman was chased by
Cliff Dweller to the southern and eastern edges of Tsibina, and then to Acoma
where she was slain. Masewi and Oyoyewi, the children of Yellow-Woman,
survived and found their grandfather, the Chief of Acoma.
70. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 59:
Another narrative featuring Yellow-woman explains the origins of wild turkeys
on Mount Taylor . . . In this tradition, Yellow-Woman finds her husband with her
sister, and decides to leave so they may marry. She calls her turkeys, and they
travel to the lake at Laguna Pueblo. Here she feeds the turkeys and sends them up
to Mount Taylor, where they feed on wild seeds. The woman disappears into the
lake, and the turkeys fly over, getting their wing feathers wet by foam, which
explains how the wing feathers became white. The turkeys then went up to the top
of Tsibina, where they now live.
71. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 59:
The deities Masewi and Oyoyewi have important cultural associations with
Mount Taylor . . . These twin heroes are represented at Laguna Pueblo by the War
Captains, the “out-of-town chiefs.” The War Captains take care of shamans and
accompany them on ceremonial visits to Mount Taylor, where the religious
leaders pray on the mountain in appreciation for the water provided in the form of
rain, streams, and springs. This water is essential in the irrigation of the crops that
traditionally sustained the Pueblo of Laguna.
72. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 59:
Boas . . . documented a narrative about Tsibina concerning Arrow-Youth, the
Witches and the Kachina, as told by Ko˙tyɛ in 1919. In this tradition, ArrowYouth went hunting and met Mountain Lion, who told him to cut yucca talks
[sic], willow, and cottonwood for prayersticks, and to gather the feathers needed
for those offerings. The prayersticks were placed in baskets with beads, cigarettes,
pollen, white earth, red ochre, cornmeal, and yellow and red sweet corn, and
these were taken to the top of Mount Taylor. Mountain Lion accepted the
offering, and gave Arrow-Youth two crooked canes to drive game down the
mountain to a village by Flower Mountain. There the people stood in the south
and east entrances to the village and the deer were driven into the west side.
Arrow-Youth killed one deer on each side of the plaza, and the people killed four
animals. The other deer were released from the north entrance and sent back to
Mount Taylor. After four days, the people continued their migration, ultimately
arriving at Laguna Pueblo.
73. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 59:
Albert Riley . . . shared a tradition he learned from his grandfather about a serpent
that lived on Mount Taylor, where it protected the Laguna people. This serpent
eventually moved to a new location near the Owl Hole, east of Laguna Pueblo.
From the vantage point of the Owl Hole, one can still see the trail the serpent
followed down the lower escarpment of Mount Taylor. This serpent is
commemorated on dance kilts used in Laguna ceremonies. In a related tradition,
there are subterranean crevices on Mount Taylor that are interconnected with the
Owl’s Home and other sacred places.
74. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 60:
The religious aspects of Tsibina discussed in this section of the report are
expressions of Laguna cultural beliefs that are central in the continuation of
traditional cultural practices. In the Laguna symbolic universe, Tsibina is the
mountain of the west, with cultural associations to the bear, shohona (hunt), the
color blue, pine trees, and the spring season . . . The ritual activities and religious
beliefs associated with Tsibina are important in passing the Laguna way of life
from one generation to the next. It is the historical importance of Tsibina in the
retention and transmission of traditional Laguna Pueblo culture that makes the
mountain a significant traditional cultural property.
75. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 63:
Albert Riley . . . described a special song about water that tells about how Laguna
ancestors brought water down irrigation ditches to their fields. The song contains
forty prayers that pertain to water sustaining life, how this water comes from the
sacred mountain, and how the ancestors help to keep the water flowing. This
ceremonial song underscores the deep and abiding cultural connections between
Tsibina, the ancestors, water, and the continuation of life at the Pueblo of
76. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 73:
Silko . . . also described how precise location and prominent geographical
descriptions of place are central in Laguna oral traditions. Laguna migration
traditions refer to specific places that can still be visited, including Mount Taylor
with its distinctive summit, adjoining mesas, springs, rocks, and trees. Although
the point of oral narratives is often symbolic or ritual rather than historical in a
narrow sense, the emergence recounts a process of ethnogenesis by which the
Laguna people gained their cultural identity. Talking about Mount Taylor
provides the Laguna people with a unique way of talking about history and
culture, and passing these from one generation to the next.
77. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 73:
As Swan . . . pointed out, “Laguna conceptions of ‘place’ start with a name,
Spider Woman's stamp of reality. They are enlivened by stories so that the
landscape and forces of nature become animated with a presence of their own.”
Tsibina is one of the important places that figure into stories, songs, and prayers
that provide moral teaching and instruction on how to live life as a Laguna Indian.
Talking about Yellow-woman, Ts’i˙mo˙tc’nyi-Man, Masewi and Oyoyewi,
Arrow- Youth, and the other culture heroes associated Tsibina is a way of talking
about the history of how the Laguna people came to occupy their land, and what
this means for the spiritual and cultural development of tribal members.
78. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 73-74:
Mount Taylor is important in teaching young children about the herbs and
medicines that are important part of tribal culture . . . Many tribal members, like
Albert Riley . . . take their family up to the top of Tsibina to discuss the
significance of the mountain, and to share the knowledge they learned from their
grandfathers and grandmothers. “They need to learn to respect the mountain,” Mr.
Riley stated. On these trips, Mr. Riley prays with his family, and offers prayer
feathers specially prepared for the trip. In this manner, Mr. Riley said, the
customs of the Pueblo of Laguna are handed down from one generation to the
79. Pueblo of Laguna Significance Statement Section 12, page 77:
Tsibina continues to be an essential part of the cultural identity of the Laguna
Pueblo. As one of the people I spoke with in 2008 explained, his grandmother told
him: “It’s not who you are but what you belong to. We belong to the mountain.
We’re part of it; it is part of us.”
Section 4: Navajo Nation Significance Statement Regarding Mount Taylor:
80. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 77-78:
Mount Taylor (Tsoo Dził in the Diné language) is a place of great traditional,
cultural, and historical significance to the Diné (Navajo) people. Its significance is
probably more widely known among Diné people than almost any other such
place; probably few if any Diné are not aware of its significance. According to
Din oral tradition, it has existed since the present earth’s surface came to be. It is
a fundamental supporter of the natural terrestrial and celestial environment that
supports human life. It is the home of many Holy People (deities) who control
forces of nature and is a place where humans with proper ceremonial training can
visit to enlist the help of these deities. It is a storehouse where humans with
proper ceremonial training can collect plants, animals, minerals, and soil for
traditional food, medicine, and ceremonial bundles. It is prominent in the
traditional narratives of the origins and histories of more than half of the two
dozen or so types of traditional Diné ceremonies. It is also the location of
archaeological sites that are significant in Diné history and is associated with
certain Diné who have been prominent in that history. Along with the other
directional mountains, it symbolizes the soveignty of Navajoland.
81. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 79:
The Din traditional history of the present earth’s surface began when Holy
People (immortal beings) and others emerged upon it from below, having escaped
an underworld flood. Mount Taylor was among the first landmarks that they
placed on the earth’s surface after the Emergence. Mt Taylor is one of the ‘Four
Sacred Mountains’ (the mountains of the cardinal directions) which, together with
two mountains of the center, define the extent of the area that became the
traditional Diné homeland. It is also the only place mentioned in Diné traditional
history that gives access to the sky world through an opening directly above the
82. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 79:
After spreading out upon the earth’s surface, individual humans traveled around
learning ceremonial knowledge from immortals and others. Mt Taylor is a place
where such people gained knowledge for many types of traditional Diné
ceremonies. Around the base are courses where such people gained knowledge by
ceremonial races with immortals and others. Of the approximately 2 dozen types
of Diné ceremonies known, at least half are associated in one way or another with
Mt Taylor.
83. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 79:
Monsters were also ravaging the people of the earth’s surface until the Monster
Slayer Brothers (“Twin War Gods”) got weapons from their father the Sun and
returned from his home to Mt Taylor, where they began the monster slaying.
After the monster slaying, the mother of the Monster Slayers, Changing Woman,
went west to the Pacific Ocean and created new humans to repopulate the earth’s
surface. These were the progenitors of fundamental Diné clans (kinship groups),
whose migration back to the land of the six mountains included incorporating
other groups and settling around Mt Taylor. This process of the fundamental clans
linking with others along their migration route resulted in the population from
which the Diné today are directly descended. Later, two children were transported
from somewhere in the general region around Mt Taylor to the home of Changing
Woman in the west, where she taught them the Blessingway and had them return
home to teach the ceremonies and the narratives of their origins to humans. The
narratives, songs and prayers of Blessingway repeatedly invoke each of the
directional mountains, including Mt Taylor. Since that time, Blessingway has
been the central type of ceremony in the Diné ceremonial system.
84. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 79-80:
Immortal beings have “homes” on Mt Taylor – places where they visit and where
humans can make offerings to communicate with them. Prominent in Diné
traditional histories are the Monster Slayer Brothers. Certain monsters that they
destroyed also left their remains in various places around Mt Taylor. Others with
homes on the mountain are immortals associated with eaglets, wind, bluebirds,
turkeys, snakes, thunder and lightning. Racers around the base of Mt Taylor
include Rainboy and the Great Frog whom he outran, and the Meal Sprinklers
who invited humans in surrounding communities (Diné and Pueblo) to the first
Mountaintopway ceremony. The deities who taught humans the Nightway
ceremonies (and whom Diné masked dancers in Nightway ceremonies embody)
have a home on Mt Taylor. Finally, as one of the directional mountains, Mt
Taylor is strongly associated with Blessingway and its originator, Changing
Woman, perhaps the Holy Person most beloved by Diné.
85. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 82:
Diné traditional history of human life in present Navajoland foregrounds the
history of the Blessingway ceremony, which is the central type of ceremony in
Navajo ceremonialism. This history begins with immortals (Holy People)
emerging from worlds below, placing landscape features on the earth’s surface,
setting the celestial bodies in motion, and establishing the core of what would
become the Diné Blessingway ceremonies . . . Six sacred mountains, the first
mountains set down, serve as directional markers for the earth’s surface and
support the celestial realm. Mt Taylor is the sacred mountain of the south.
86. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 82:
After organizing the earth’s surface, the Holy People, humans, animals, and plants
spread over it. Next came a time of turmoil, when monsters (alien gods)
decimated the builders of pre-Columbian archaeological sites in present
Navajoland, the Anasazis. The time of the monsters and turmoil ended with the
appearance on earth of the beloved Holy Person Changing Woman, whose two
sons were destined to kill off the monsters.
87. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 82:
The time of the Anasazis and the monster slaying was also when individual Diné
forebears, who lived among the Anasazis, traveled around present Navajoland
among the Holy People and Anasazis to learn the songs, prayers, raw materials,
paraphernalia, practices, and other knowledge that make up the various types of
Diné ceremonies still conducted today. Of the two dozen or so types of Diné
ceremonies known, at least half have some connection to Mt Taylor, including:
Blessingway, Enemyway, Enemy Monster Way (including Boys’ puberty
ceremonies), Shootingway (Male), Mountaintopway, Beautyway, Nightway,
Waterway, Hailway, Beadway, Eagleway, and Frenzyway.
88. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 82:
Some of these ceremonial histories tell of travel through sequences of landscape
features in the region around Mt Taylor. Their lines of travel from point to point
pass across or near Mt Taylor (see Section IV for specific places). For example, in
the Hailway history, much of which takes place in the world-famous preColumbian ceremonial compounds of Chaco Canyon, the course for a race
between Great Frog and Rainboy encircles Mt Taylor, with turning points in the
course marked by specific landmarks (see Section IV) . . . These travel stories and
other ceremonial origin stories also identify certain springs and landmarks on and
around Mt Taylor where materials used in the original ceremonies were collected
and where such materials are still collected for those types of ceremonies.
89. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 83:
When the two sons of Changing Woman, the future Monster Slayers, were
coming of age, they went on a quest to the home of their father, the Sun to get
weapons to kill off the monsters . . . He put them through deadly trials (prototypes
for human boys’ puberty ceremonies . . .), then took them up to the sky, where
they looked down through the skyhole above Mt Taylor at the earth’s surface and
named the sacred mountains they saw there. Then they descended through the
skyhole down the southwest slope of Mt Taylor to the home of the paramount
monster, Big God, near Bluewater. They killed him there and his blood made the
lava flows on the south and west sides of Mt Taylor. Then they found and killed
the rest of the monsters, one by one, at various places around Mt Taylor the San
Juan Basin.
90. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 83:
The clans are important kin groups that govern kinship and marriage relationships
among all Din . One belongs to the clan of one’s mother but also is
connected to the clans of one’s father, mother’s father, and father’s father. Some
of the clans – Bit’ahnii, Tódích’íí’nii, Tsin Sikaadnii, which include Water People
-- settled around the base of Mt Taylor . . . Haltsooí, a later clan, originated at a
settlement on Mt Taylor’s northwest side.
91. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 84:
The centrality of Blessingway in Diné tradition and the centrality of the four
sacred mountains in Blessingway makes Mount Taylor of paramount importance
in Din traditional life. Adding to the mountain’s significance are the specific
places on and around it that are associated with other types of ceremonies.
92. Navajo Nation Significance Statement Section 12, page 91:
As one of the directional sacred mountains, Mt Taylor is repeatedly invoked in
Blessingway songs and prayers as well as in the traditional history of
Blessingway’s origin and development, which occurred alongside that of the
present earth’s surface. Blessingway ceremonies are the most central of all Diné
ceremonies and even other types of ceremonies require Blessingway songs at the
end. Every Diné extended family is supposed to have a Blessingway ceremonial
bundle, the Mountain Soil Bundle, which must contain soil from the directional
sacred mountains and is used during Blessingway ceremonies sponsored by
families to maintain and restore harmonious and productive life.
Section 5: Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Regarding Mount Taylor:
93. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 94:
The perception of Mount Taylor by the Zuni as a living being is, in part, because
it is an active volcano, but also because it is a snow-capped mountain that
nourishes all of the plants and wildlife during spring runoff. The minerals and
subsurface substances of the mountain, the Zuni people believe, are the “meat” of
the mountain and contained within the meat is the mountain’s heart. Water is
conceptualized as the “blood” of the mountain. Any disturbance to the meat of
Mount Taylor has the possibility to disturb the heart which could cause the
mountain to become angry. If the mountain gets angry it might erupt. Thus,
Mount Taylor is viewed as a living entity by the Zuni, similar to a living human
being, and the relationship between the Zuni people and Mount Taylor is similar
to ones relationship to a family member.
94. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 94-95:
Mount Taylor has sustained the Zuni lifeways since the beginning of time, or
from the Zuni perspective since their emergence into this the fourth world. Since
then, Mount Taylor has been fundamental to the continuation and sustenance of
Zuni culture and lifeways. The Zuni people need Mount Taylor for the
continuation of their culture which requires the ability to obtain medicinal herbs
and plants, minerals, animals, and moisture for life. The importance of Mount
Taylor to the Zuni people was eloquently stated in a signed affidavit from the
Upts’ana:kwe Kiva group leaders which stated:
We believe that Mount Taylor (Dewankwin K’yaba:chu Yalanne) and its
surrounding lands have many sacred springs, streams, and land formations that
are sacred and important to our other Zuni religious organizations. Furthermore,
this mountain and it’s [sic] surrounding land areas is home to the mountain lion,
the bear, the deer, the elk, the turkey, the eagle and other animals, of the wild, that
are sacred totems to our other tribal religious organizations. Although we do not
have specific sacred shrines, springs or land at Mount Taylor (Dewankwin
K’yaba:chu Yalanne) and its surrounding lands, we believe that the mountain is
one of the sacred homes of the Rain Maker Spirits Beings (Uwanami) of the east
direction. Therefore, many of our kachina songs and prayers include language
beseeching those Rain Makers (Uwanami) from Mount Taylor (Dewankwin
K’yaba:chu Yalanne) to form their cumulonimbus clouds, then rise up into the
sky and come to the land of the Zuni people to bless their land with their new and
abundant moisture. Furthermore, many of our kachina songs also include
language that also beseech the deer, the bear, the eagle and mountain lion to
inform the Rain Makers that the land of the Zuni people need rain and to assist
them in bringing rain and snow to the land of the Zuni people.
95. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 96:
Thus, the Zunis believe they exist in a special relationship with the land. They are
dependent on it and the landscape is dependent on them . . . As Pandey . . . points
out there are selective Zuni sacred places (Mount Taylor being one such place)
that define territorial limits of the Zuni traditional land claim which are
considered sacred symbols that serve as cultural identity or boundary markers for
the Zuni people.
96. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 96:
Mount Taylor plays a significant and important role in the continuation of the
cultural identity of the Zuni people and it is precisely because of this important
role combined with the long historical relationship that the Zunis have maintained
with this mountain that makes Mount Taylor eligible for listing on the New
Mexico Register of Historic Places. Mount Taylor is historically significant
because it contains special places that reveal aspects of the Zuni culture’s origin,
development, and continuation through the form, features, and the ways these
special places are utilized. That is, Mount Taylor is inextricably tied to the Zuni
cultural landscape and the Zuni religion and culture. Mount Taylor itself is
considered by the Zuni people to be a living entity, a shrine, and a demarcation of
the eastern most extent of Zuni aboriginal lands. In addition, Mount Taylor
contains places where prayer offerings are made, medicinal herbs and
plants gathered, special wood for prayer sticks are collected, water collected from
sacred springs, minerals collected and numerous other activities that are vital to
the continuation of the Zuni culture. The identity of the individual Zuni, as well as
the collective Zuni community’s identity, is in part determined and reinforced by
their conceptualization of their place in relationship to Mount Taylor.
97. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 96-97:
According to the Zuni, their relationship to Mount Taylor and the broader
traditional landscape began at the time of emergence and has continued
uninterrupted until the present. The Zuni people believe that after they came into
the world from a spot, called Ribbon Falls, located deep within the Grand
Canyon, they searched many years, across what are now Arizona, Utah, Colorado,
and New Mexico, for the “Middle Place.” The place that they eventually found is
near the present pueblo and is believed to be the center of all six directions: north,
south, east, west, zenith, and nadir. Each of these directions is closely associated
with a color (yellow north, blue west, red south, white east, the multicolored
zenith, and the black nadir), plants, seasons, and animals as well as with Zuni
religious organizations . . . So the entire culture and being of the Zuni people are
tied inextricably to the landscape about them. If one were to ask a Zuni how long
this relationship to the landscape has been in existence, they would surely say,
since time immemorial. One only need to hear an accounting of the emergence
story to understand how these important places on the landscape received, in part,
their significance from the journey associated with finding the “Middle Place.”
98. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 98:
The places mentioned in the Zuni migration accounts are considered sacred by
contemporary Zuni; Mount Taylor is one such place. According to Ferguson and
Hart . . . the migration accounts “create a symbolic bond between the Zuni people
and their environment and provide an ‘historical’ context for their tribal customs
and organization.” Because of the important role that Mount Taylor plays in Zuni
oral history and migration narratives, the Zuni people consider the whole
mountain as sacred. Mount Taylor is also important because it is a place for
gathering and collecting medicinal herbs and plants and materials for ceremonial
99. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 98:
Mount Taylor is specifically referenced in Zuni ceremonial songs. For example,
Zuni Medicine societies have prayer chants that identify things that are important
to the Zuni on Mount Taylor, including families of trees, shrubs, cactus plants,
and water related plants. These chants also talk about the seeds that are part of
these plants that are located on Mount Taylor. These chants are an integral part of
an ongoing ceremony that is performed in late winter. One such chant belongs to
the Coyote Medicine Society that specifically mentions Mount Taylor which is
employed for releasing the deer in late winter.
100. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 98:
As mentioned earlier, Zuni Medicine Societies, Rain Priests, Bow Priests, and
Kiva groups all journey to Mt. Taylor to collect plants, animals, and minerals for
religious ceremonies and to ask for blessings. From a Zuni perspective, all shrines
are of religious significance and all plants, animals, and minerals are there for a
religious purpose and to benefit the Zuni people, including all other people of the
earth. The traditions of the Łe’wekwe (Sword Swallower Society), Newekwe
(Galaxy Society), and Make’lhanna:kwe (Big Fire Society) relate specifically to
Mount Taylor as a migration stop after leaving Chi:biya Yalanne (Sandia Peak)
and Bandelier (Shiba:bulima). Mount Taylor is also the location of a War God
shrine. War God shrines are placed in specific locations by the Zuni to guard the
Zuni land. The exact location of the War God shrine was not disclosed by the
attendant Bow Priests, who have first priority to Mount Taylor.
101. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 99:
The Zuni people make regular pilgrimages to Mount Taylor in order to collect
water, plants (mahogany, aspen and medicinal herbs), feathers of the blue jay,
woodpecker, red-shafted flicker, robin, oriole, hawk, and sparrow, and minerals
(obsidian, red ochre, hematite), and to conduct religious activities . . . Most of the
materials collected are used in religious ceremonies. Zuni visits to Mt. Taylor
have declined in recent years due to changes in land status; old trails still exist but
now cross private land parcels making use not possible.
102. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 100:
The Zuni people recognize their historical and cultural affinity to the
archaeological sites contained within the Mount Taylor area. They also perceive
these archaeological sites as sacred places because they contain shrines and the
remains of Zuni ancestors in the form of burials. Moreover, the Zuni believe that
these places are still spiritually inhabited by their ancestors and that their
preservation is vital to maintaining a harmonious balance with nature and the
spiritual world. The Zuni believe that physical disturbances to these sacred places
can cause an imbalance in the natural and spiritual worlds. In addition to their
spiritual and sacred qualities, archaeological sites also embody a historical
meaning to Zunis, because they provide physical verification of Zuni traditional
histories that recount the A:Shiwi journey to find the ‘Middle Place.’ These
archaeological sites are the places where Zuni ancestors settled, lived, raised
families, and died during their migrations.
103. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 102:
Additionally, there is a War God shrine located on Mount Taylor but the exact
location is unknown. The Galaxy Medicine Society, the Knife Society, and the
Bow Priests all have shrines on Mount Taylor. During field visits to the Mount
Taylor area, the Zunis identified a shrine on Horace Mesa that consisted of a
circular pile of vesicular basalt rocks measuring 1.5 m x 0.75 m. For the Zuni
people all the shrines on Mount Taylor are there to protect, bless, and grant
prosperity to the Zuni people and all peoples of the world.
104. Zuni Tribe’s Significance Statement Section 12, page 104:
There are many trails that connect Zuni to Mount Taylor. Prayers connect the
Zuni to these areas, especially Mt. Taylor. Trails to War God shrine on Mt. Taylor
contains sea shells and turquoise.
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