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Native American Transportation & Communication
Native American Transportation
Until the arrival of Spanish explorers in 1540, transportation among Indian groups was by foot, although the Plains tribes used dogs pulling the travois as beasts of burden. By the time of Don Juan de Oñate’s arrival in 1598, some Pueblo people were using horses, mules, burros, oxen and oxcarts.

In the 1600s Pueblo herders escaped from the Spaniards, taking horses with them, and took refuge with Plains Apaches, who quickly appreciated the advantages of horses. Apaches quickly adapted the animals to their uses in transportation, hunting and raiding. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which drove the Spaniards from New Mexico, made horses much more accessible. Pueblo people traded thousands of Spanish horses to Plains tribes for buffalo robes and dried meat.


Around A.D. 1000, Pueblo People of the Tiwa language group migrated to the Río Grande Valley and split into the Northern and Southern Tiwa. By this time systems of formal government and religion had already developed, along with an oral tradition that equaled the written word in its power and effectiveness.

Because of the need to communicate with other villages and cultures, Pueblo people probably learned multiple languages. The nearby villages of Isleta, Sandia, Alameda and others learned to speak Tiwa, a subdialect of the Tanoan linguistic stock, as their native language as well as the related Towa and Tewa subdialects and the Keresan and Zunian languages spoken at other Pueblos. They also learned Plains Indian languages, and, after 1540, Spanish, which became a universal language used in trade.

One unique means of communication was used to launch the successful Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Popé, of San Juan Pueblo, made a cord of maguey fiber and tied knots in it, which indicated the number of days before the rebellion would begin. They passed the cord from pueblo to pueblo.

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