Chapter XXIV. Of What the United States Possesses in the Pueblo Indian—Being a Brief Summing Up


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THE Pueblo is something more than just an Indian. He is something more than picturesque. He represents a unique development among the aborigines of the United States —a native-born civilisation, or semi-civilisation, if you will, which, before the white man stumbled upon it, embodied a settled habitation with a distinctive architecture, a stable form of democratic government, a religious ritual free from human or animal sacrifices, the practice of monogamy, the equality of woman, an orderly pursuit of agriculture, well-developed arts, and the love of peace. He was our first apartment-house builder our first irrigationist, our first cotton-spinner,1


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and his wife was our first artist in ceramics. As the Pueblo was when history discovered him, so in essentials is he to-day. Between him and his neighbour, the Apache, for instance, there is as much difference, it has been well said, as between the Broadway merchant and the Bowery tough.

Thanks to the literary habits of his Spanish conquerors, we possess of the Pueblo a more complete historic record than of any other aborigine of the United States; and the labours of our own archæologists and ethnologists have very convincingly connected his ancestry with those fascinating monuments of a remote past, the ruined cliff dwellings of the Southwest. Under Spanish association, he added many amenities to his way of life;—the indispensable burro, for instance; iron tools and carts; horses, sheep, and cattle; wheat, grapes, and peaches. He acquiesced—though at first somewhat rebelliously—in being Roman-Catholicised, his complaisant nature hospitably harbouring the new religion along with the old, which he has never surrendered. To Spain, also, he owes his present land-titles; for the Spanish Indian policy was in the main one of humanity and common-sense, and recognising the Pueblo at something like his worth, secured to him by royal grant sufficient land to maintain him in his way of life. ‘‘It is fortunate,’’ says a caustic historian2 of the Pueblo, ‘‘that the Spaniard was his brother's keeper. Had the Pueblo enjoyed sixteenth-century acquaintance with the Saxon, we should be limited now to unearthing and articulating his bones.’’

Husking corn on a Zuñi housetop. Flush times for the burros.


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As a citizen, the Pueblo is peaceable, self-supporting, hospitable, honest, and merry-hearted, minding his own business. His wife, who is in no sense an inferior but his acknowledged equal, owns the home and is the trustee for the family of what the house contains. Old age is respected and its counsel courted. The children are obedient, well-behaved, and intensely beloved, not only by parents but by grandparents and all their kin;3 they are taught industry and obedience from the beginning of their years, the boys helping in the farming, wood-gathering, herding, and hunting;


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the girls in pottery-making, corn-grinding, cooking, and other domestic vocations. They are taught regard for one another, and the care of little folk of eight or ten over their younger brothers and sisters is a touching trait to be witnessed in any pueblo where white influence has not rooted out the aboriginal virtues.

The contemporary life of the Pueblos has been invaluable beyond words in throwing light upon the endeavours of our archæologists and ethnologists to explain the remarkable remains of pre-historic human life in our great Southwest. It further assists to an understanding, by the comparative method, of much that concerns the past of the human race as a whole; for it helps us, to use the apt phrase of John Fiske, ‘‘in getting down into the stone age of human thought.’’

‘‘Few Americans [says that same sterling historian] realise how highly our country is favoured in having within its limits such communities as those of the Moquis and Zuñis. Our land is certainly lacking in such features of human interest as the ruins of mediæval castles and Grecian temples. But we may be to some extent consoled when we reflect that, within our broad domain, we have surviving remnants of a state of society so old-fashioned as to make


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that of the Book of Genesis seem modern by comparison. In some respects the Moquis and Zuñis may be called half civilised; but their turn of thought is still very primitive. They are peaceful and self-respecting people: and in true refinement and behaviour are far superior to ourselves. We have still much to learn from them concerning ancient society, and we ought not to be in too great a hurry to civilise them, especially if they do not demand it of us.’’

The Pueblo, being human, has his faults and shortcomings, of course. There is room for his improvement, just as for yours and mine; but the genius which enabled him to work up to the plane of civilisation where Spain found him and left him, is still his, and is quite capable of solving his twentieth-century problems in the Pueblo way. Unlike the Reservation tribes, who have been crowded off their native land by the advance of white civilisation, the Pueblo's foot is still on his ancestral heath, and the heath is capable of supporting him in his aboriginal way of living, which to him is a happy way. The features of that existence form an interesting and instructive object-lesson in the simple life for which the soul of our complex


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time is crying out. His is the last of our indigenous races which it is now possible to preserve in anything approaching its native estate; and one would think it worth an effort to conserve it—to put up a "no trespass" sign on its lands and guard it from molestation. One would think that such a people might be suffered to live out its destiny in its own harmless way by this great republic, which has made much advertisement of itself as standing for the right of all men to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

What is really happening in the matter is outlined in the next chapter.


Notes

1. A species of cotton grew indigenously in parts of the Pueblo country, and before the introduction of sheep by the Spanish the cotton fibre was used in weaving garments.

2. C. F. Lummis in The Land of Poco Tiempo.

3. Compare this with what Mrs. Hugh Fraser says of Japanese childhood in her Letters from Japan: ‘‘Little children are called the treasure flowers of life, and that which ministers to their happiness is never considered trivial, but regarded as a necessary part of the family occupations.’’ This might have been written of the Pueblo little folks.

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