The Pueblo of Santa Ana is one of the seven Keres-speaking Pueblos that currently inhabit the state of New Mexico. The ruins of the homes of the current inhabitants’ ancestors can be found in what is now Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. Archaeological data and pueblo oral history suggest that the ancestors of the Tamayame (the name for the people of Santa Ana in Keres) migrated out of the Mesa Verde region in the 1200s.
Tamayame oral history says their ancestors came into this world from an underworld place known as Shipapa and traveled extensively, always moving south. They journeyed far and wide, pausing only long enough to regain their strength until they reached Kashe Katrukya (Mesa Verde). After many years of traveling, they stopped there to settle for the first time. At Mesa Verde, the Tamayame built the foundations of their way of life in the upper world.
Mesa Verde Pueblos
Tamayame migration narrative corresponds well with the archaeological reconstruction of the peopling of the New World and Ancestral Puebloan prehistory. Archaeologists believe that the earliest immigrants of North America were migratory hunters and gatherers who moved south from the present-day Bering Strait. Once they entered the American Southwest, they continued to follow a hunting-and-gathering lifestyle until they began to farm sometime around 200 BC.
The earliest ancestral communities were composed of a few clustered “pithouses.” These homes were constructed by first excavating a moderately deep pit, then adding upper walls and roofs of logs and covering them with brush and dirt. Through time these villages grew, and people began constructing aboveground, multistory, multiroom complexes in the open or within sheltered canyon walls. We know these complexes as pueblos.
According to Tamayame oral history, after living for several generations in the Mesa Verde region, the people left the area, moving south and east. Archaeologists suggest that this abandonment was in response to a variety of factors, including a severe regional drought and a possible fuel shortage. This suggestion is based on a study of ancient tree rings recovered from the area’s pueblos and cliff dwellings.
After leaving the Mesa Verde region, the Tamayame migrated into Chaco Canyon, the area that formed the core of their society between the late twelfth century AD and the early fourteenth. Here they constructed several large, interconnected communities with pueblos made of shaped sandstone building stones and large subterranean religious structures known as kivas. These communities flourished for several centuries until shifts in regional precipitation and other factors once again resulted in migration towards the Rio Grande area.
After traveling for some time, the Tamayame reached the eastern slope of the Sandia Mountains, northeast of present-day Albuquerque. Here the people settled in what is currently known as Paak’u. This location, surrounded by mountain peaks, was where the Tamayame built their village of buildings arranged around a central plaza.
The hunters, farmers, craftsmen, and potters of Paak’u were not isolated. To the east were the villages of the Galisteo basin. The settlements of the Rio Grande were also not far away. The people of Paak’u met these and more distant neighbors, with whom they established extensive trade networks. Although Paak’u was far from any ocean, the residents made beads and ornaments from the seashells that came from the West Coast of Mexico, and their trade networks extended onto the Great Plains.
The settlement at Paak’u prospered for more than a century. By the 1300s Paak’u featured storerooms, workrooms, and special rooms set aside for ceremonial use. Some leaders instructed residents to seek new fields and farmlands, as the region had a short growing season and undependable rainfall. These Tamayame explorers traveled from Paak’u first to the north, then west, and finally to the south and east. By the time they returned to Paak’u, the community had outgrown the area and the Tamayame decided to relocate to the rich lands along the Rio Grande, where some of the Tamayame had begun to build small farming villages. Paak’u was completely abandoned by the late 1300s or early 1400s.
For the Tamayame, the journey still had not come to an end. The people settled for a time in the farming villages along the Rio Grande but then, according to oral history, a group of Tamayame traveled west to the south bank of the Rio Jemez, where they founded a village known as Kwiiste Haa Tamaya. From this village, the people eventually crossed the Rio Jemez and traveled north to the place where, after centuries of traveling, the journey ended. There, beside the river and beneath a broad mesa, the Tamayame found their new homeland, the place they call Tamaya and where they continued to farm, hunt, and gather; make pottery; raise families; and follow their traditional ways. With the coming of the Spanish in the 1500s and the introduction of Catholicism, the pueblo acquired the name Santa Ana in accord with the patron saint assigned to the community by the Catholic clergy and the Spanish colonial government. The people constructed an adobe Catholic Church at Tamaya in the late 1500s.
Today the people of Santa Ana occupy three modern communities along the Rio Grande: Ranchitos, Rebahene, and Chicale; however, almost all families still maintain another residence within the ancestral village of Tamaya. This village is listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Tamaya is composed of interconnected adobe residences, a historic adobe church (Santa Ana de Tamaya), corrals, a plaza, and several ceremonial structures; the community is not electrified. Many tribal members are bilingual and proudly speak the Keres language.
Despite maintaining many traditional aspects and core values of their culture, the people of Santa Ana are economically progressive. The pueblo grows blue corn and operates a blue cornmeal processing facility, a casino, an economic development corporation, a vineyard, a native nursery, the Tamaya Hyatt Resort and Spa, two golf courses, a regional soccer complex, and several restaurants and gas stations. These endeavors have allowed the pueblo to meet the educational, health-care, and other infrastructure needs of their communities. The community of Tamaya is generally closed to outsiders; however, the church is open to the public on Christmas, Easter, Saint John’s Day (June 24), Saint James’s Day (July 25), Saint Peter’s Day (June 29), and Saint Ann’s Day celebration (July 26).
The Santa Ana Pueblo follow a traditional form of government. Major decisions are made collectively by the tribal council, which is composed of the male heads of all households. Council is chaired by the governor and lieutenant governor, who are appointed for a one-year term. Other secular leaders include fiscales (church administrators) and the mayordomo (irrigation manager). Traditional religion remains strong in the pueblo and is led by a cacique who in conjunction with the war chief, assistant war chief, and society leaders maintains order and oversees the ceremonial activities of the community. Despite centuries of oppression, the Tamayame remain a proud and vibrant people who value their traditions, honor their past, embrace the present, and plan for the future.