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Native American Religion
Native American Religion and Festivals

Based on archaeological evidence from Colorado, it’s possible that the earliest people practiced religion as far back as 8,000 to 9,000 B.C. in the hills around the Río Grande.

Pueblo religion was (and is) a part of everyday life, designed to keep life and nature in harmonious balance, to ensure success in hunting and warfare, and to honor deities. Many activities occurred in the kiva, a place where women and uninitiated children have generally not been allowed. Ceremonial dances included what is now known as the Corn Dance, which is held by all of the pueblos and is a form of prayer for rain, a bountiful harvest, and community well-being. Shrines and religious blessings were often placed in the mountains or near springs. Images on petroglyphs and in kiva murals offer interpretations, many of which have been recorded and published through the years. However, many pueblos prefer their members to not discuss details of their native religion with non-Indians or those outside the relevant clan.

After the arrival of the Spanish, priests tried to convert the Pueblo people to Christianity and even burned or destroyed kivas and tried to suppress native practices, even though this wasn’t condoned by the Crown. This was one factor in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The pueblos then enjoyed 12 years of religious freedom; with the Spanish reconquest in 1692, Pueblo religion went underground. Since that time, most Río Grande Pueblo ceremonies have been kept private. Today, their dances are generally closed to the public and no audio or visual documentation is allowed.

Over time many Pueblo People embraced Catholicism as a secondary religion. As a result, the remaining Tiwa pueblos in our area, Isleta and Sandia, observe holidays in honor of their patron saints, San Antonio and San Augustine, including feast days to which the public may be invited, and which often include dances that refer to both sets of beliefs.

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