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Accepting that we could not photograph individuals without permission, or take pictures inside their church and that we must respect forbidden areas, we entered the village along a dusty road that was the same rich terracotta colour as all the adobe buildings. Not a surprise this, as the adobe is a mix of the soil/clay they use.
It was a hot, sunny morning, few villagers were around and you felt as though they were keeping out of the way!
We began at the church; the original was built in 1690 by the Spanish when they brought Catholicism to the natives, but was destroyed during the 1680 Peublo revolt when all the pueblos in New Mexico rose up against them. Rebuilt only to be ruined again during the US war with Mexico, the ruins are now part of the cemetery. Today they still practise this faith tempered with their own beliefs in the 'new' church that stands facing the plaza.
It was an odd experience in that although you want to know all about their lives, you felt shy asking pertinent questions. We were given a guided tour by a young lady who lives in the pueblo and for all intents and purposes she looked like any other. Native dress is kept for ceremonies. There are just over 100 dwellers who have chosen to live as their people always have. - that means no electricity and no running water. Their adobe houses have been there for hundreds of years, passed down through the families, strict rules apply within the village walls where the Governor and Tribal Chief rule according to ancient unwritten laws. They have their own language, Tiwa, which has never been written down, when asked by another visitor if she would say something for us, she seemed reluctant, it was as if we had invaded her private space. Nevertheless she did oblige with a few words of greeting.
The plaza was quite large, surrounded by adobe buildings some of which are five stories high, entrances were by ladder only, via the roof as a precaution against intruders but today many have traditional doors. Standing against a brilliant blue sky they seemed to have withdrawn in the face of intruders once more, awaiting the moment when all was back to normal. In the centre stood an enormous pole, goodness knows how they erected it - it's used during festivals when the men race to the top to retrieve things put there. Malc couldn't put his arms all the way round either and it was quite shiny, so how they manage this is a mystery!!
The Red Willow people (Taos pueblo Indians) live their lives at one with the world and are intent on preserving that way of life.
The stream that runs through the village is their only source of water; it flows from the "Blue Lake' a sacred lake high in the mountains, which was taken from them to become part of the Carson national forest in the 1900's. The Indians have fought long and hard to regain their sacred lands, but it wasn't until the 70's that it was returned. Today proceeds from the Taos Casino which is just outside the village are being used to gradually buy back land as a buffer zone.
As a designated World Heritage site, some measure of preservation is assured, but just how long there will be native Indians living in the village, observing this primitive way of life has to be in question.
We were able to visit some of the houses where residents sell their traditional wares; Arthur a talented jeweller who had been taught by his father, warned us of those who did not sell their own creations - apparently the UPS van frequently delivers packages to some traders! Again you wonder just how long the traditions can survive.
However unlike many first nation people who were shunted onto reservations, the people of Taos pueblo have remained on their land and are trying to retain something of their traditional way of life. Meeting the modern world half way, raising revenue by allowing people in and selling their wares, but on their own terms.