PECOS PUEBLO PEOPLE THROUGH THE AGES
Stories of Time and Place
There’s a very special place in Northern New Mexico where the Pecos River emerges from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains into a beautiful, fertile valley. Clear and cool, the stream ripples over its shallow, rocky bed close to the eastern hills on its way to meet the Rio Grande far to the south in Texas.
To the west, the steep cliffs of Rowe Mesa tower over the valley. Horizontal bands of rock ledges interspersed with green vegetation glow rosy, orange, golden or tan in the changing light.
At the base of these cliffs, a small creek meanders along its way to join the Pecos River a little way downstream. Follow the cliff line to the south, and the ancient trail leads toward the Great Plains to the east. Follow it to the north toward the often snow capped mountains, and a gap to the west opens the way to Santa Fe and the pueblos along the Rio Grande.
People have passed through this valley for thousands of years. Some of them hunted the mammoths and giant bison, long extinct, leaving an occasional spear point to mark their passage. Others camped for a season, sometimes returning periodically to the fertile valley. Later, people settled permanently in pit houses, surface communities and the great Pecos Pueblo itself. Travelers, traders, armies, raiders and the great freight wagons of the Santa Fe Trail followed the rough roadway past the pueblo. And gradually, the small community of Pecos, surrounded by farms and ranches, took its present shape.
Much of the valley is now cared for as the Pecos National Historical Park. Its mission is “to preserve, protect and interpret” the resources of the area for all people. The core of the park is the narrow ridge on the western side of the valley where the humpy ruins of the pueblo and the red walls of the mission church dominate the view. The park also contains hundreds of other archaeological and historical sites, with more still being discovered.
As a park volunteer for five years, I guided hundreds of visitors along the Ruins Trail trying to help them visualize the life of the pueblo people and the influence of the mission church as they might have been. This book is my effort to expand on my stories of people who lived here over the centuries. Each focuses on the experiences of a young girl and some of her family members at times of change or crisis. A large bone bead, perhaps from a mammoth tusk, links the stories over the years.
The first three chapters visit with early inhabitants, temporary or permanent, separated by thousands of years. The middle five chapters feature moments in the life of the great pueblo at its height and in decline. The final two chapters focus on contemporary Pecos people and their relationship with their original homeland.
In many respects they are still here.