Introduction Patagonia Andes Amazon Mesoamerica / Caribbean


Objects Collection Notes
(George Heye’s Legacy)
Plains / Plateau Woodlands California / Great Basin Northwest Coast Arctic / Subarctic Contemporary Art

In the American Southwest, Pueblo peoples tell of their ancestors’ journeys through the region’s arid canyons and mesas. Ancient stories tie the present-day Pueblo peoples to their origins and ancestral lands, where Native people built and rebuilt stone or adobe dwellings, often occupied them for hundreds of years, and then moved on.

The earliest Pueblo material in the museum’s collection, dating to between 550 BC and AD 500, was recovered from caves at Grand Gulch. The beginnings of Pueblo pottery traditions can also be seen in materials found at Mesa Verde (AD 600–1300), well known for its spectacular cliff dwellings. Other important pieces were collected from Chaco Canyon (AD 800s–1100s), where ancestral Pueblo peoples built large, multistoried masonry buildings, the most impressive of which is Pueblo Bonito.

Regional centers arose throughout the Southwest. The first to emerge was the extensive site of villages and irrigation canals known as Hohokam (AD 200–1400), a culture regarded as ancestral by the Akimel O´odham and Tohono O´odham of Arizona. Farther south, Casas Grandes, with its ritual and trading center Paquimé, flourished from AD 1200 to 1450. Macaw parrots, native to the tropical lowlands of southern Mexico, were bred at Paquimé, hub of the precious-feather trade during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Vast quantities of shell beads found at Grand Gulch provide evidence that ancestral Pueblo peoples had links with the coast of Southern California very early on. Hohokam ball courts and cacao found on pottery from Pueblo Bonito suggest rituals shared between Mesoamerica and the Southwest.

Indians of the Southwest—Pueblo-speaking peoples, Diné, Apache, O´odham, Yuman, and Pais—maintained spheres of interaction within and beyond the region. Eventually these nations incorporated non-Native peoples and markets into their economic and political life. European wares appeared at Indian fairs in Taos, Pecos, and elsewhere, where southwestern textiles, pottery, turquoise, and maize had long been traded for Plains hides and dried meat.

Ancient trails linking the Southwest and Mesoamerica provided the route Europeans sought north from New Spain (Mexico). The most significant encounter took place on June 7, 1540. A:shiwi oral history describes how a small group of men on pilgrimage encountered soldiers led by the conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. The A:shiwi laid a line of corn meal on the earth, to communicate their religious purpose. The Spanish disregarded it and attacked the village of Hawikku.

Spanish exploitation of Indian labor and forced conversion to Christianity sparked the Pueblo uprising of 1680. During the revolt, Pueblos captured the largest herd of horses ever taken by North American Indians, laying the groundwork for a new Indian trade. Spanish attempts to establish Catholic missions are evident in the A:shiwi-made altar vessels shown here, which date to between 1629, when the Franciscan church was built at Hawikku, and the year of the Pueblo uprising.

American expansion into the region after 1846 is revealed in the Akimel O´odham calendar stick, which records the coming of the railroad in 1886, and the Chiricahua Apache deer hide painting, made by Naiche during the Chiricahuas’ 27-year captivity by the U.S. Army.

George Heye’s Legacy: The Southwest

Heye’s interest in southwestern materials was supported by Harmon W. Hendricks, a copper-industry magnate and trustee of the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation. One of Hendricks’ biggest contributions was financing the excavation of Hawikku, an ancestral village in New Mexico, where the A:shiwi (Zuni) first made contact with Europeans. The dig, which employed 39 Zuni workmen, was conducted from 1917 through 1921 and in 1923, and uncovered approximately 25,000 artifacts as well as human remains. It was one of the most extensive archaeological excavations of a single site in the United States up to that time.

Objects excavated by the Hendricks–Hodge expedition illuminate life in A:shiwi villages before and after the arrival of the Spanish. As such, the pieces provide unique insight into Native American history in the Southwest, and are of particular importance to the people of Zuni Pueblo. Since 2002, the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center at Zuni, New Mexico, has displayed objects from the Heye collection in a community-curated exhibition entitled, Hawikku: Echoes from Our Past. Among other issues, the exhibition recounts the arrival of anthropologists and ethnographers at Zuni Pueblo, as well as the excavation of Hawikku. Click here to read more...

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Map of the Southwest
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