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Pueblo Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Pueblo Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Pueblo language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Pueblo pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Pueblo Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Pueblo"? What does it mean?
Pueblo is pronounced "PWAY-bloh." This just means "town" or "village" in Spanish, and was originally used to refer to the Indian cliff dwellings and large adobe house complexes of the Southwestern Indian tribes. Today, the word "Pueblo" (with a capital P) is also used to refer to these tribes themselves. There are many different Pueblos and each has its own name, including the Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara, Taos, Tesuque, Ysleta del Sur, Zia, and Zuni. The Hopi Indians are also Pueblo people, but they are culturally more distinct from the others, have a separate government, and are usually considered as a different tribe.

Where do the Pueblo Indians live?
The Pueblo are natives of the Southwest deserts, particularly New Mexico. (The Hopi live in Arizona, while the Ysleta del Sur Tigua live in Texas.) Unlike many Native American tribes, the Pueblo Indians were never forced to leave their homelands and are still living there today.

How is the Pueblo Indian nation organized?
The nineteen Pueblos of New Mexico belong to a confederation called the All Indian Pueblo Council, which makes joint political decisions on behalf of all of them. Each Pueblo also has its own local government, with laws, police, and services just like a small country. However, the Pueblos are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, the Pueblo Indians had a theocratic government. That means that the head priest or cacique (pronounced kah-seek) was also the town chief. Today, each Pueblo still has its own cacique, but he is primarily a religious leader. Most Pueblos are now led by an elected governor and tribal council.

What language do the Pueblo Indians speak?
Almost all Pueblo people speak English today, but most of them also speak one of the native Pueblo languages. Though the Pueblo Indians all have closely related cultures, they do not all speak the same language. The Hopi language is a Uto-Aztecan language, distantly related to the language of the Aztecs. The Zuni language is a language isolate, not related to any other living language. Seven of the remaining Pueblos speak Keresan languages, and the other twelve speak Tanoan languages related to Kiowa. Speakers of these four language groups cannot understand each other at all. In the past, they needed to use interpreters to communicate with each other. Today, they use English for that purpose.

All four of these language groups are traditionally oral languages, which means they were not written down. Caciques and elders in some Keres and Tanoan-speaking Pueblos don't want their languages to be written down at all, while other Pueblos encourage children to read and write their traditional languages today. If you'd like to know an easy Pueblo word, "k'ema" (pronounced k-ay-mah) means "friend" in San Juan Tewa (one of the Tanoan languages from a Pueblo community that has published a written dictionary.)

What was Pueblo culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is the homepage of the All Pueblo Council. On their site you can find information about the Pueblo people in the past and today.

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How do Pueblo Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Pueblo children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. A Pueblo mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradle board on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Pueblo tribe?
Generally, Pueblo women were in charge of the home and family. Pueblo men were in charge of politics, agriculture and war. Women played important roles in Pueblo religion and clan governance, but caciques and warriors were traditionally always men. Both genders took part in storytelling, music and artwork, and traditional medicine.

What were Pueblo homes like in the past?
Pueblo people lived in adobe houses known as pueblos, which are multi-story house complexes made of adobe (clay and straw baked into hard bricks) and stone. Each adobe unit was home to one family, like a modern apartment. Pueblo people used ladders to reach the upstairs apartments. A Pueblo adobe house can contain dozens of units and was often home to an entire extended clan. Here are some pictures of Pueblo houses and other Indian homes.

Unlike most old-fashioned Indian shelters, traditional Pueblo houses are still used by many people today. In fact, some Pueblo people have been living in the same adobe house complex, such as Sky City, for dozens of generations. Other Pueblo families live in modern houses or apartment buildings, just like you.

What were Pueblo clothes like? Did the Pueblos wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Originally, Pueblo men didn't wear much clothing-- only breechcloths or short kilts. Pueblo women wore knee-length cotton dresses called mantas. A manta fastened at a woman's right shoulder, leaving her left shoulder bare. Missionaries didn't think this dress style was modest enough, so in the 1900's many Pueblo women started wearing blouses or shifts underneath their mantas. This style is still in use today. Men and women both wore deerskin moccasins on their feet. For dances and special occasions, women painted their moccasins white and wrapped white strips of deerskin called puttee around their shins as leggings. Here is a site with photographs of Pueblo clothing styles, and some photos and links about Native wear in general.

The Pueblos did not traditionally wear a feathered headdress like the Sioux. Pueblo men usually wore cloth headbands tied around their foreheads instead. For special ceremonies, Pueblo dancers sometimes wore painted masks or crowns of feathers. Both men and women wore their hair gathered into a figure-eight shaped bun called a chongo, but some Pueblo men preferred to cut their hair to shoulder length. Except for certain religious ceremonies, the Pueblos didn't paint their faces or bodies. But they are famous for their beautiful silver and turquoise ornaments, particularly their elaborate necklaces.

Today, many Pueblo people still wear moccasins or mantas, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear puttee or kilts on special occasions like a dance.

What was Pueblo transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Pueblo Indians weren't coastal people, and rarely traveled by river. Originally they just walked. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe, so the Pueblos used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry heavy loads. Here's a website with travois images. Once Europeans brought horses to America, the Pueblo Indians could travel more quickly than before.

What was Pueblo food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Pueblo Indians were expert farming people. They raised crops of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers, as well as cotton and tobacco. Pueblo men also hunted deer, antelope, and small game, while women gathered nuts, fruits, and herbs. Favorite Pueblo recipes included hominy, popcorn, baked beans, soups, and different types of cornbread. Here is a website with more information about the agriculture of Native Americans.

What were Pueblo weapons and tools like in the past?
Pueblo hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Pueblo men fired their bows or fought with spears and war clubs. Here is some more information on the history of Indian weapons. Pueblo tools included wooden hoes and rakes for farming, spindles and looms for weaving cotton (and later wool), and pump drills for boring holes in shell and turquoise beads.

What other Native Americans did the Pueblo tribe interact with?
The Zunis traded extensively with other tribes of the Southwest. Pueblo trade routes reached into Mexico and to the California coast, supplying Pueblo craftsmen with shells, coral, and turquoise for their jewelry. The Navajos and Comanches were favorite trading partners, though they often fought with each other as well. Other enemies of the Pueblo tribes included the Apache and Ute tribes, who frequently raided their territory, and the Spanish, who forced many Pueblo Indians into slavery and violently suppressed their religion.

What are Pueblo arts and crafts like?
Pueblo artists are famous for their beautiful Southwest Indian pottery and heishi jewelry. They also made baskets, stone carving, and colorful Native American rugs. All of these art forms are still flourishing today. Here is a good site on the art of Pueblo pottery.

What kinds of stories do the Pueblos tell?
There are lots of traditional Pueblo legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Pueblo Indian culture. Here is a Cochiti Pueblo story about a custody fight between Crow and Hawk. Here's a website where you can read more about Pueblo mythology.

What about Pueblo religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Pueblo life, and many people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Pueblo people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Keres Pueblo religion or this site about Indian religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Pueblo Stories and Storytellers, which is a nice collection of Cochiti Pueblo legends and artwork. Younger children may like The Boy Who Made Dragonfly, a picture book of a traditional Zuni Pueblo myth. Children of Clay is an illustrated biography of a modern Santa Clara Pueblo girl which makes a great introduction to Pueblo life today. If you want to know more about Pueblo culture and history, two good books are The Pueblo Native Americans and First Americans: The Pueblo. You can also browse through our reading list of the best American Indian books in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Pueblo Indian people and their languages!

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Learn More About The Pueblos

Pueblo Indian Tribe
An overview of the Pueblo people, their language and history.

Pueblo Language Resources
Pueblo language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Pueblo Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Pueblo tribe past and present.

Tewa Pueblo Words
Pueblo Indian vocabulary lists.

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