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The Southwest Tradition
The Southwest Tradition

During the past century, investigators have been solving one of the great
mysteries of the North American continent: Who built the spectacular,
prehistoric* cliff dwellings and other ancient structures scattered
throughout the American Southwest?

The key to this mystery, curiously enough, involves farming, and how this
simple activity fosters the growth of civilization. We now know that
agriculture first evolved in the world's harsh, hot, arid deserts, then
spread to more temperate climates -- not the other way around, as one might
expect. All civilizations first took root in the deserts of the world,
including the deserts of the American Southwest.

A century ago, few would believe that ancestors of the American Indians
could be responsible for the magnificent structures of the Desert Southwest.
Today, after a century of fieldwork in archeology, the best evidence
suggests that ancient farmers built these great civilizations and were the
grandparents of the present-day, Native American Pueblo people as well.

We know that, although farming was introduced into the southwestern deserts
as early 4000 years ago, hunting and gathering remained an important means
of acquiring food until about 500 BC, when the agricultural revolution
flourished with the regular cultivation of corn, beans and squash. The
evolution of corn (maize) itself was a critical element in this process. As
with everywhere else in the world, this led to a sedentary lifestyle, the
adoption of cooperative, organized social structures and, in turn, to the
formation of urban settlements including, in this case, spectacular cliff

The prehistoric peoples of the Four Corners region shared common archaic
roots, but different adaptations to regional variations in environment,
climate and resources, together with different levels of Mesoamerican
influence, resulted in formation of the three primary cultures known today
as the Southwest Tradition: the Mogollon, the Hohokam and the Anasazi. Other,
possibly related, prehistoric cultures interspersed in this region,
including the Sinagua, Salado and Hakataya.

The Southwest's arid desert climate has been very effective in preserving
many of the cities, towns and cultural remains of these prehistoric peoples.
Tree ring dating has provided very accurate dates from 500 BC to about 1500
AD. There are 28 federal areas -- existing or proposed -- in Arizona, Utah,
Colorado and New Mexico designed to protect and display this treasury of
spectacular artifacts. Thousands of other archeological sites are under the
protection of state and local entities throughout the Four Corners region.

* -- Prehistoric: Prior to written history; in this case, prior to the
arrival of the Spanish chroniclers in the Southwest. This term is now
favored over the pejorative pre-Columbian (before Columbus), which would
indicate a slighty different time frame.

100 B.C. -- 1600 A.D

The Anasazi are the most romanticized and the most studied of the
prehistoric Southwestern cultures. They seem to have lived in the most
beautiful locations and left thousands of stone houses, cliff dwellings and
goods behind.

They are believed to have initially emerged from the same archaic cultural
milieu as the other regional groups, migrating into the Four Corners area
around 100 B.C. Evidence of the Anasazi Culture exists from southwestern
Colorado and southeastern Utah, throughout northeastern Arizona and
northwestern New Mexico.

While in their formative stages, the Anasazi evolved from hunter-gatherers
to agriculturists, but they remained more reluctant than the Hohokam and
Mogollon to become sedentary until around 500 A.D., when their culture began
to evolve rapidly. They borrowed coiled pottery-making from the Mogollon, as
well as communal Great Kivas.

The Anasazi were dry farmers who relied on capturing unpredictable rainfall
for the growth of crops. After 1000 A.D. their culture reached its maximum
population and geographic distribution, due to more efficient farming
methods. They established trails and roads and created points from which
signals could be relayed, as a form of communication. They engaged in a
thriving trade, especially of their distinctive black-on-white pottery and

Their most obvious contribution was architectural -- their use of stone
masonry and adobe structures employed for communal living quarters, which
they created in cellular, contiguous fashion. At the height of their
culture, they occupied fewer locations in more densely populated areas,
employing large, well-planned, multi-storied pueblos with many plazas and
kivas. Their cliff dwellings remain the most spectacular examples of stone
masonry in North America.

However, the Anasazi culture , like the Hohokam and the Mogollon, began to
decline after 1300, and by 1600, they had completely abandoned the area.
Various theories attribute diminished resources, population increases,
lowered water tables, breakdown of social structure or raiding by enemies as
the cause of their demise. Their descendents inhabit 18 pueblos throughout
the Desert Southwest to this day.

Anasazi Archeological Sites
Anasazi Heritage Center, CO
Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM
Bandelier National Monument, NM
Butler Wash Overlook, UT
Black Mesa, AZ
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ
Chaco Culture National Historic Park, AZ
Chimney Rock Archeological Site, CO
Crow Canyon Arecheological Center, CO
El Morro National Monument, NM
Grand Canyon National Park. AZ
Kinishba Ruins, AZ
Lowry Ruins, CO
Homolvi Ruins State Park, AZ
Hovenweep National Monument, UT
Mesa Verde National Park, CO
Mule Canyon Ruins, UT
Navajo National Monument, AZ
Newspaper Rock Sate Historical Park, UT
Pecos National Monument, NM
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Salinas National Monument, NM
Salmon Ruin, NM
Ute Mountain Tribal Park, CO

of the Southwestern Deserts

Various Apache peoples (including the Navajo) came from the Far North to
settle the Plains and Southwest after AD 1000 in three desert regions (Great
Basin, Sonoran and Chihuahuan). The word Apache is most likely derived by
the Spanish from a Zuni word meaning "enemy."

Subsequently, many groups of Southwest peoples were labeled "Apache,"
resulting in a considerable array (40+) of "Apache" groups, often with
tragic consequences. The various groups usually hunted and gathered in the
more mountainous regions, but also practiced some gardening or trade for
cultivated plant products (CBS).

Today, the major Apache groups include the Jicarilla (New Mexico), the
Mescalero (New Mexico) and Western Apache (Arizona. 15 reservations). The
Chiricahua Apache were removed from their own reservation in 1876 and sent
to prison in 1886. Subsequently, some Chiricahua relocated to Oklahoma and
some joined the Mescalero Apache in southern New Mexico.

Today, Apache groups have been very successful in ranching and recreational
facilities; especially ski resorts in some of their beautiful mountain

The Chiricahua Apaches - Cochise & Geronimo

Mangas Coloradas

For generations the Apaches resisted white colonization of their homeland in
the Southwest (presently New Mexico and Arizona) by both Spaniards and North
Americans. In 1848, when gold was discovered in California, the Apaches were
further threatened by incursions of white fortune-seekers on their way to
the gold fields.

In an incident at a mining camp, Mangas Coloradas, chief of the Mimbreo
Chiricahua, was whipped, an act that resulted in his life-long enmity
against white men. Though his nephew Cochise had long resisted fighting
Americans, in 1861 he too, was betrayed by white men and turned against

Together, Mangas Coloradas and Cochise ravaged much southern New Mexico and
Arizona, until Mangas was wounded in 1862, captured and killed in January
1863, allegedly while trying to escape from Fort McLane, New Mexico. Upon
the death of his uncle, Cochise became principal chief of the Apaches.


Cochise had long worked as a woodcutter at the Apache Pass stagecoach
station of the Butterfield Overland line until 1861, when a raiding party
drove off cattle belonging to a white rancher and abducted the child of a
ranch hand. An inexperienced Army officer, Lt. George Bascom, arrived and
ordered Cochise and 5 other Apaches to appear for questioning. When they
denied guilt or complicity, Bascom ordered his men to seize and arrest the
Apaches. (Their claims of innocence were later substantiated.)

In the ensuing struggle, soldiers killed one Apache and subdued 4 others,
but Cochise, suffering 3 bullets wounds, escaped by cutting through the side
of a tent. He soon abducted a number of whites to exchange for the Apache
captives, but Bascom retaliated by hanging 6 Apaches, including relatives of
Cochise. This sequence of events is usually referred to as "The Bascom

Avenging these deaths, Cochise took to the warpath with his uncle, Mangas
Coloradas. During the following year, warfare by Apache bands was so fierce
that troops, settlers and traders all withdrew from the region. And upon the
recall of army forces to fight in the U.S. Civil War in 1861, Arizona was
practically abandoned to the Apaches.

In 1862, an army of 3,000 California volunteers under Gen. James Carleton
marched to Apache Pass to prevent Confederate attacks and put the Apaches to
flight with their howitzers. Although Mangas Coloradas was captured and
killed the following year, Cochise and 200 followers eluded capture for more
than 10 years by hiding out in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona, from which
they continued their raids, always fading back into their mountain

In 1871, command of the Department of Arizona was assumed by Gen. George
Crook, who succeeded in winning the allegiance of a number of Apaches as
scouts and bringing many others onto reservations. Cochise surrendered in
September, but, resisting the transfer of his people to the Tularosa
Reservation in New Mexico, escaped in the spring of 1872. He surrendered
again when the Chiricahua Reservation was established that summer, and there
he died June 8, 1874. Today, the southeastern most county of Arizona bears
his name; it includes Tombstone, Douglas and Bisbee, the county seat.


Geronimo, a Bedonkohe Apache leader of the Chiricahua Apache, led his
people's defense of their homeland against the U.S. military after the death
of Cochise.

In the early 1870s, Lieutenant Colonel George F. Crook, commander of the
Department of Arizona, had succeeded in establishing relative peace in the
territory. The management of his successors, however, was disastrous. In
1874, some 4,000 Apaches were forcibly moved by U.S. authorities to a
reservation at San Carlos, a barren wasteland in east-central Arizona.

Deprived of traditional tribal rights, short on rations and homesick, they
revolted. Spurred by Geronimo, hundreds of Apaches left the reservation to
resume their war against the whites.

In 1882, Crook was recalled to Arizona to conduct a campaign against the
Apaches. Geronimo surrendered in January 1884, but took flight from the San
Carlos reservation in May 1885, accompanied by 35 men, 8 boys and 101 women.

Crook, along with scouts Al Sieber, Tom Horn and Mickey Free (the white
child Cochise was falsely accused of abducting) set out in pursuit, and 10
months later, on March 27, 1886, Geronimo surrendered at Caon de Los
Embudos in Sonora, Mexico. Near the border, however, fearing that they would
be murdered once they crossed into U.S. territory, Geronimo and a small band
bolted. As a result, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles replaced Crook as
commander on April 2.

During this final campaign, at least 5,000 white soldiers and 500 Indian
auxiliaries were employed at various times in the capture of Geronimo's
small band. Five months and 1,645 miles later, Geronimo was tracked to his
camp in Mexico's Sonora mountains.

At a conference on Sept. 3, 1886, at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona, Miles
induced Geronimo to surrender once again, promising him that, after an
indefinite exile in Florida, he and his followers would be permitted to
return to Arizona.

The promise was never kept. Geronimo and his fellow prisoners were put to
hard labor, and it was May 1887 before he saw his family. Moved to Fort Sill
in the Oklahoma Territory in 1894, he at first attempted to "take the white
man's road."

He farmed and joined the Dutch Reformed Church, which expelled him because
of his inability to resist gambling. He never saw Arizona again, but by
special permission of the War Department, he was allowed to sell photographs
of himself and his handiwork at expositions. Before he died at Fort Sill,
Oklahoma, Feb. 17, 1909, he dictated to S.S. Barrett his autobiography,
"Geronimo: His Own Story."


The Navajo Nation (population 200,000) and Navajo reservation (28,000 square
miles) are the largest in the United States. The Navajo (Dine') Reservation
is in the Great Basin Desert region on the Colorado Plateau and occupies
most of the northeastern portion of Arizona, extends into northwest New
Mexico and a southern strip of Utah.

The Navajo and Apache peoples are recent arrivals (sometime after A.D. 1000)
into the Plains and Southwest; originating in the Far North/Subarctic. These
people adapted well to the desert environs, with the Navajo employing
hunting and gathering, farming (CBS) and sheepherding.

The Navajo learned pottery and weaving from the Pueblos, but adapted sheep's
wool to weaving and refined the art by creating large, spectacular blankets.
Navajo jewelers are also some of the most renowned in the Southwest.

During World War II, the Navajo language was one of the Native American
languages used to create cryptographic codes that were never broken. The
were designated Code Talkers.

of the Great Basin Desert

Paiute (Numa) people occupy the vast area of the Great Basin Desert regions
of Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona and Utah. The three cultural
divisions of Northern Paiute, Owens Valley Paiute and Southern Paiute were
further subdivided into smaller geographic groups. These people live on
approximately 30 reservations with 10,000 people enrolled.

The Paiute adapted to the high desert by hunting and gathering such
resources as pine nuts, roots, seeds, birds and fish. During autumn, the
Paiute people conducted communal hunts for jack rabbits and antelope. These
resources are dwindling in a misused desert environment and are a major
concern for the Paiutes.

Basketery is considered one of the most exquisite art forms of the Paiute

of the Great Basin Desert

The Ute people occupied the eastern area of the Great Basin Desert region
and the rocky Mountains of most of Utah, Colorado, southern Wyoming and
northern New Mexico. The Ute were divided into three basic groups ,which are
divided further into a total of 11 bands living on three reservations. The
three groups are the Northern Ute with 8 bands, the Southern Ute with 2
bands and the Mountain Ute with 1 band.

The Ute used the desert resources for hunting and gathering, but adopted
many cultural traits from the Southwest and Plains, including the Sun Dance.
The working of buckskin, basket, and elaborate beadwork is still popular and
used in traditional exchange of gifts as well as sold in gift shops.

of the Great Basin Desert

The Pueblo peoples live in the southern Great Basin Desert regions.
Traditionally, the Pueblo people were labeled by the Spanish as pueblo
(stone masonry town dwellers) in contrast to rancheria (brush/mud camp
dwellers). However, the Pueblo people are culturally diverse, but they all
farm corn, beans and squash (CBS).

Western Pueblos

The Western Pueblos live on high mesa tops in Arizona and New Mexico and
practice dry farming (dependent on rain). They also perform sacred dances
part of the year that seek the aid of ancient spirits. These dances are held
from December through June. During the second half of the year, Western
Pueblo people conduct social and thanksgiving dances.

The Western Pueblos include:

Hopi: 13 villages on 3 mesas (language: Aztec-Tanoan)
Acoma (AKO-ME): 3 villages; oldest village
Sky City (largest) is 365 feet above desert on a high mesa. (language:
Laguna (KA-WAIK): 6 villages; (language: Keresan)
Zuni (SHE-WE-NA): 1 main village; 2-3 seasonal settlements (language: Zuni)

Eastern Pueblos

The Eastern Pueblos live in 16 towns along the Rio Grande River of New
Mexico and practice irrigation farming (also corn, beans and squash), but do
not impersonate ancestral spirits directly. Instead, the Eastern Pueblo
conduct renewal and thanksgiving dances throughout the year.

The Eastern Pueblos primarily occupy one settlement or village. There are
two languages with Keresan and Tanoan (3 dialects):

Cochiti (Ko-'chits)
San Felipe (Koots-cha)
Santa Ana (Tamaya)
Santo Domingo (Khe-wa)
Zia (Tsia)
TIWI dialect
Isleta (Tuei)
Taos (Teotho)
Sandia (Na-fiat)
Picuris (We-lai)
TEWA dialect
San Juan (O'Kang)
Santa Clara (Ka-'p-geh)
San Ildefouso (Po-'sogeh)
Tesuque (Tet-sugeh)
Pojoaque (Po-joageh)
TOWA dialect
Jemez (Wala-towa)

Both Pueblo groups produce a variety of exquisite polychrome pottery and turquoise/silver jewelry.