Within the San Ildefonso Indian Reservation east of Los Alamos, New Mexico, a plug of dark stone rises above the banks of the Rio Grande. Named for the color of its volcanic rock, Black Mesa stands more than 6,000 feet above sea level. At its base lies the home of the San Ildefonso Pueblo, a native people who consider the landmark sacred.
The San Ildefonso Pueblo, like all Pueblo Indians are descendents of the Anasazi people. Climatic and social changes caused an outward migration from their cities on the Colorado Plateau, and they slowly drifted towards the Rio Grande and other hospitable locations.
Spanish priests established the San Ildefonso mission in 1617. The local Pueblo Indians became known as the San Ildefonso Pueblos, though the Tewa name for their home is Powhoge, which means “where the water runs through.”
After decades of mistreatment and virtual enslavement by the Spanish, the Pueblos banded together and rebelled. The surprise attack by more than 8,000 warriors successfully drove the Spanish out of New Mexico in 1680.
A dozen years later, the Spanish recaptured New Mexico; however, the San Ildefonso Pueblos retreated to the top of Black Mesa and continued to resist for several years. Although their freedom was short-lived, the rebellion forced the Spanish to treat the natives with more respect. They never again attempted to force their culture or religion onto the Pueblos.
Today, the Pueblos of the region continue to observe their traditions and sacred dances. Additionally, they produce a striking form of world renowned black-on-black pottery.
Researched, written, and narrated by Richard Adams, University of West Florida Public History program.