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Native American Indian Culture Trip in New Mexico

New Mexico is a frequented tourist destination because of the different tribes of American Indians or Native Americans who live and thrive in the place like the Pueblos. Their ancestors, the proud and mighty warriors, were the first to inhabit the area, thousands of years before the first European set foot in the land. We have all heard of stories of bravery and courage that their ancestors have shown in defending their lands against invaders, and how they fought gallantly despite one defeat after another. If there is one thing that Americans should be proud of, it is the legacy of these people.

In order to learn more about these valiant people, you can read your kids' school textbooks or go online and look for articles about them. Or, you can get the whole family and pack them in the car with snacks and a large family tent, and take what will probably be one of the most fun ways to learn about the American Indians in New Mexico - a family road trip.

Day 1: Albuquerque to Santa Fe

Depart from Albuquerque at 8 am, this should give you enough time to take in the views and enjoy the activities in the places you're about to visit.Take the I-40 road heading west. This will take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city to one of the best parts of western New Mexico.

The drive takes an hour or so, and leads to the Acoma Sky City Pueblo. This is known to be the oldest city in America which was continuously inhabited, and is thus listed as a National Historic Trust site. Here you can get a glimpse of the past lives of the Pueblo Indians who resided in the place. The Haak'u Museum is a great place to visit, where you'll learn more about the Native American Indians, their culture, their history and more. If you want to, you can take the Mesa-top Village Tour where you'll see adobe houses and the ancient streets where the Native American Indians walked.

After an hour or so in the place, you can drive to the next destination - the Petroglyph National Monument.

From Acoma Sky City, get back to I-40 and head east, towards Albuquerque. However, before reaching the city, take the turn at NM-345, and drive to Unser Blvd. The road will take you to the Petroglyph National Monument. The place is like a desert dotted with huge boulders. Here you will see an amazing horde of rock drawings and sketches, over 15,000 of them etched on small and gigantic boulders alike. Some of the figures depict animal and human life forms, and others are somewhat unrecognizable, whether it is because of weathering, or because they are truly something mysterious, only the Pueblos who drew them hundreds of years ago can tell. After an hour at the Petroglyph National Monument, it's time to head to camp.

Rinconada Canyon Petroglyphs. Photo by Daniel Mayer (Mav) on Wikimedia

Take the road going to Santa Fe, another city in Mexico famous for adobe Pueblo dwellings. However, instead of going to the city, continue driving south in I-25, and you'll eventually reach the Santa Fe KOA. Located in the pine-filled high desert of Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this is a great place to enjoy the night American Indian style - with burning fires and barbeques and campfire stories with the kids. Since you'll most probably be getting there somewhat late in the afternoon, be sure to have everything ready already since you won't have time to go back to town and do some shopping (although there is a convenience store in the campgrounds.) An easy to set up tent is a must as well, along with ample supplies of food and snacks and bedtime American Indian Stories.

Day 2: Santa Fe

After the night at camp, drive back to the Santa Fe. The city is such a wonderful place to learn more about the Pueblo people, because there are so many things here built by these people. Drive around the city and get to see these wonderful places:

  • From the campground head north to Camino Lejo for a visit to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.
  • From there, drive north to Canyon Road and drop by El Zaguan, an authentic adobe structure built in the 1800s.
  • After El Zaguan, drive to the city centre, first stopping at Barrio de Analco - a village of adobe houses where The Pueblos used to live - in East De Vargas Street. In the same street, just a few minutes away is the Oldest House in America.
  • Drive northbound to the Palace of the Governorson Palace Avenue.
  • From there go east to Barrio Guadalupe in Guadalupe Street, another barrio filled with genuine adobe structures.

The 'Pueblo'. Photo by Daniel Schwen (commons.wikimedia.org)

If you noticed, we keep mentioning adobe structures. Well, first of all, adobe is a sort of brick made from a mix of clay and mud and other stuff, and these are what the above buildings mentioned are made of. So what's special about that? Hmm, nothing perhaps - unless you count the fact that despite rain, wind storm and other elements, most of these structures have remained standing for hundreds of years!

Of course, there are other places and things to see and do in Santa Fe, but after the above mentioned visits, it's about time you head back to camp.

You can of course go back to Santa Fe KOA, or you can try another campground, the Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground with their wooded camping sites.

Day 3: Santa Fe to Albuquerque

After going around the camp, you can take the road back north, headed to Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Here you'll see astounding rock formations formed by volcanic explosions millions and millions of years ago. The site was also known to be the home of a large group of Pueblo Indians in the 14th and 15th centuries, and although they are no longer here today, their descendants have taken residents in the nearby surrounding areas, so there should be a chance for you to interact with one of them. When in season, you'll get to see various birds flying in the sky, from red-tailed hawks and Violet green swallows, and if you're lucky, you may even spot a Golden Eagle soaring high above. Mammals big and small have also made this place their home, like elks, coyotes, rabbits and squirrels.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. Photo by BLM Photo (commons.wikimedia.org)

After a tour of the place, get back on the road and drive to Jemez Pueblo, which takes about an hour or so. The place is where you'll find various Native American Indian Reservations, like those of the Navajos and Tohajilees and Ramah Navalos. Unfortunately, the villages are closed to the public, a request made by the American Indians and honoured by the government as a sign of respect. The Walatowa Visitor Center though, is open to the public and still worth a visit. Their museum is a great way of knowing the history and culture of the Towa tribes and others.

From Jemez Pueblo, drive south to Bernalilio and head to the Coronado National Monument. The place displays murals and kivas or ceremonial chambers excavated back in the 1930s. The ruins held some of the most prized pre-Columbian Art samples, which can now be seen at the Visitor's Center. Aside from those, you'll also see some historic Puebloan and Spanish artifacts dug from the place. After this, drive back to Albuquerque which is only less than 30 minutes away.

The American Indians have gone through a lot over the centuries, from invasions to discrimination and more. However, a better understanding of these people, their culture and their way of living has bridged the gaps between them and the other people living in the area. This is what this trip is mainly about.

It is not always about the interesting exhibits in museums, nor is it about the fun activities in the Pueblo districts. It is not only about family tenting by the campfire nor admiring ruins and remains. Rather, it is about learning and understanding more about the American Indians who have lived here long before us, and respecting their culture and traditions, just as much as we would want them to respect ours.



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