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Often when people move, they take their “material culture” with them — styles of architecture, tools or pottery that can be tracked across a landscape, like a trail of breadcrumbs leading from one site to the next.
But the trail out of the Four Corners quickly peters out.
Always there is the drumming, accompanied by songs as staccato as the drumbeats themselves.
I watch with other guests on Arthur Cruz’s shaded front porch, absorbed in the music but understanding nothing of the lyrics.
Again and again, Tewa drummers, singers and dancers make their way around the kiva, a ceremonial building at the center of the pueblo.
Sometimes the dancers move like shambling buffalo; other times they imitate Comanche warriors from the east, hollering and whooping in feathered headdresses and bone breastplates.
They raised turkeys for feathers that were used in blankets and ceremonies, and mastered the art of growing corn, beans and squash in a landscape that receives around a foot of rain a year. By the 1280s, there’s no evidence that anyone remained in the region.
In some places, homes were abandoned as if their occupants had walked out the door one morning to tend the fields and never returned — pots left on earthen floors, intricately patterned mugs hanging from pegs on the wall.
Its rumble fills the pueblo, resonating off adobe walls, shimmering in the white-hot sun, guiding the moccasined feet of the dancers.
The Pueblo Revolt remains relevant to Cruz and other Tewa people because it illustrates how deftly they’ve withstood hundreds of years of colonization.
The Tewa are one of five linguistic groups that fall under the umbrella of Pueblo Native Americans, and like other Pueblo groups, they speak a distinct language and have a unique culture.
He lets his right arm fall with the weight of gravity, so measured that after hours of drumming and singing in 100-degree heat, he barely breaks a sweat.
After more than two decades of this, he still gets lost in the rhythm. John the Baptist, northern New Mexico’s Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo is filled with people — extended family, friends, Anglo and Hispanic visitors.
It’s only later that Cruz explains their significance.