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6 ways to learn about New Mexico’s Pueblos

The ouside of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Photo courtesy IPCC

New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos are deeply woven into the state’s identity. They are also an important economic driver for tourism. A 2019 report from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that the Pueblos brought $608.2 million into the state and that Native Americans owned nearly 6% of all businesses in New Mexico.

Besides visiting one of our state’s 19 Pueblos, here are a few ways to enrich your travels in New Mexico with educational experiences, hands-on classes, and events.

1. Stay at a Pueblo-owned resort

Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino

Photo courtesy Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder

Several luxury resorts in New Mexico are owned and operated by Pueblos. North of Santa Fe, the Pojoaque Pueblo manages the Hilton and Homewood Suites hotels at the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort & CasinoRates start at $197 per night.

While it’s not on a Pueblo, the Inn of the Mountain Gods is located on the Mescalero Apache reservation. Rates start at $119.

2. Enjoy food and drink at Pueblo-owned places

Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay of Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. Photo by Brandon Soder

Pueblo-owned restaurants throughout New Mexico serve delicious cuisine. Laguna Burger, with several locations in the state, is known for its green chile burgers, and Tiwa Kitchen in Taos uses blue corn frybread in its signature Tiwa Taco. Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. in Albuquerque is the country’s first Native American woman–owned brewery. For its Denim Tux American Pilsner, the brewery sources New Mexico blue corn that is roasted in mills at the Tamaya mill, which is on the Santa Ana Pueblo.

Insider tip: The Indian Pueblo Kitchen at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has some of the best blue corn-battered onion rings around.

3. Explore national parks and monuments

Garden

Photo courtesy IPCC

At Bandelier National Monument, you can see the evidence of Ancestral Pueblo people’s lives dating back more than 11,000 years, when they carved homes into volcanic tuff and planted corn, beans, and squash in surrounding fields ($15 entrance fee).

Bandelier National Monument

Photo by Traveller70 - stock.adobe.com

Several parks and monuments, including Bandelier, offer newly updated tours via cellphone apps. Pro tip: Download the apps on your phone before entering the park, when reception may not be ideal.

Other sites include Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (free) near Silver City and Chaco Culture National Historic Park ($15 entrance fee).

4. Attend a Feast Day

Dancing

Photo courtesy IPCC

A uniquely New Mexico tradition is participating in Feast Day. Aligned with Catholic holidays commemorating patron saints and bountiful harvests, feast days epitomize the church and Pueblo communities coming together in celebration.

“Typical festivities include dancing as a form of prayer asking for blessings and giving thanks for rain and the harvest,” said Michael Canfield, president and CEO of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) in Albuquerque. “Everyone is welcome. I think sometimes people are leery of going to a feast day because they think they’re intruding on a religious event. It’s a great culinary experience. It’s a great cultural experience. The community is opening their arms—we’ll feed you, we’ll entertain you with cultural events, and we’ll give you opportunities to purchase art and food.”

5. Take a hands-on traditional baking lesson

Zuni Bread

Photo courtesy New Mexico TRUE

At the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (formerly known as the San Juan Pueblo), a Heritage Inspirations tour invites guests to learn how to make traditional bread inside a dome-shaped adobe Horno oven. After the meal, visit Los Luceros Historical Site to see historic buildings, including an 1860s-era hacienda and a Victorian guesthouse. Starting at $275 per person.

6. Embark on a Feast & Float tour

In Pilar, visitors can go on a guided raft journey on the Rio Grande with a Native American interpretive guide who shares Pueblo history along the journey. After the float, enjoy a meal prepared by a local Pueblo family. The menu includes traditional foods such as red chile stew, blue corn posole, calabacitas, fry bread, Indian pie, and Indian tea. Tickets, $102.

Resources for learning about New Mexico’s indigenous history and traditions

Start with a visit to Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Rotating exhibits, hands-on activities, and the on-site Indian Pueblo Kitchen provide insights into New Mexico’s rich past. Admission, $12.

At the Jemez Pueblo’s Walatowa History Museum at the Visitors Center, learn about Towa culture and traditions. Free.

Continue your journey with visits to the Institute of American Indian Arts (admission, $12), home to about 9,000 contemporary indigenous works of art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (admission, $12), and the Poeh Cultural Center and Museum (admission, $10), all in Santa Fe.

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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