TRIBAL HISTORY “The Emergence”
In order to fully appreciate and understand the Pojoaque people and their cultural context, it is necessary to talk about some historical background on Pojoaque. In one account of general Tewa origins, all of the known Tewa people dispersed to their present villages from Pojoaque, thereby making Pojoaque the “mother” village for all of the historic Tewa people. It is likely that the ancestors of the Pojoaque people migrated into the general vicinity of the present Pueblo from the Four Corners region late in the first millennium, A.D. Their Anasazi ancestors built and occupied some of the cliff dwellings of the Mesa Verde area, and one or more of the large villages of the Montezuma Valley in southwestern Colorado. If such was the case, the Pojoaque people have historically confronted many threats to their survival long before we were able to discern their presence in the Rio Grande Valley.
There were periodic droughts, plagues of grasshoppers, pestilence, and the advent of the Navajo and Apache peoples into the Southwest some time in the 15th century, sustaining and unremitting raids of warfare. There were also likely encroachments by neighbors in times of general food shortages. Eventually, there was the great migration to the Rio Grande Valley itself.
All of these factors represented profound threats to the Pojoaque people’s continuity. The Pojoaque people endured despite these adversities is evident as we look at the cultural vitality reflected in the Pueblo today. It is against this background that the invasion and subsequent colonization by the Spanish beginning in the 1540 must be assessed. The Spaniards represented just one more threat to be met and overcome, and the people met it with the same pragmatism with which they met all past challenges. They took what they considered to be good from the encounter and they rejected that which they considered threatening to their cultural integrity. A bloody revolt was waged by all Pueblo peoples in 1680 over the subjects of greatest contention between the two peoples – religious persecution and cultural oppression.
Tribal government responsibilities have increased dramatically over time. The Governor and his staff are responsible for the administration of civil and Tribal law enforcement, social services, Tribal health, education, welfare and economic development programs. The Pueblo maintains a day care, early childhood development and Headstart center, public library, Wellness Center and Poeh Cultural Center and Museum.
The Pojoaque Tribal Government conforms with the provisions of the 1934 Indian Regulatory Art. It consists of a General Council comprised of all enrolled adult members and a Regular Tribal Council comprised of elected officials which include a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary, Treasurer and other Council members. The officials are elected for two-year terms. All enrolled Tribal members 18 years of age and above are eligible to vote in Council elections. The Pueblo maintains a separate Tribal Court and has adopted a civil and criminal code of conduct. The Tribal Government is developing ways to invest in its people, infrastructure, resources and the environment. Under the leadership of its Tribal Council, Pojoaque has embarked on an aggressive economic and business development plan to sustain its population.
The Pueblo maintains its own community water system (a certified Class III operation) as well as its own sewer system in the form of a total-retention lagoon station. Electric power is provided to the Pueblo by the Jemez Mountain Electric Cooperative, while the Gas Company of New Mexico provides natural gas service. Butane is provided through a local distributor. Health care is furnished through the HIS/PHS (Indian Health Services/Public Health Services) hospital in Santa Fe. Students in the Pueblo attend either the public school at Pojoaque, the Santa Fe Indian School, or the San Ildefonso Day School.
Pojoaque has used some of its revenues from gaming to donate money to the Pojoaque Valley school district. The money donated by Pojoaque Pueblo is being utilized for travel to academic and athletic activities. The emphasis on education is especially important to Pojoaque Pueblo, because it is the best way to grow and prosper its people.
When the Pojoaque Valley public school’s water storage system broke down and left the school without water for a few days, Pojoaque Pueblo donated the money to have it repaired.
Pojoaque Pueblo places high value on the preservation of its culture. Pojoaque is continuing in its regeneration of the Native American culture of New Mexico by using its gaming revenues in the construction of the Poeh Cultural Center. Pojoaque Pueblo is also taking an active role in the training of promising Native American artists. By teaching artists, the Pueblo feels it can promote Native American Art in the international art world.