Based on archaeological evidence from Colorado,
it’s possible that the earliest people practiced
religion as far back as 8,000 to 9,000 B.C. in the
hills around the Río Grande.
Pueblo religion was (and is) a part of everyday
life, designed to keep life and nature in harmonious
balance, to ensure success in hunting and warfare,
and to honor deities. Many activities occurred in
the kiva, a place where women and uninitiated
children have generally not been allowed. Ceremonial
dances included what is now known as the Corn Dance,
which is held by all of the pueblos and is a form of
prayer for rain, a bountiful harvest, and community
well-being. Shrines and religious blessings were
often placed in the mountains or near springs.
Images on petroglyphs and in kiva murals offer
interpretations, many of which have been recorded
and published through the years. However, many
pueblos prefer their members to not discuss details
of their native religion with non-Indians or those
outside the relevant clan.
After the arrival of the Spanish, priests tried
to convert the Pueblo people to Christianity and
even burned or destroyed kivas and tried to suppress
native practices, even though this wasn’t condoned
by the Crown. This was one factor in the Pueblo
Revolt of 1680. The pueblos then enjoyed 12 years of
religious freedom; with the Spanish reconquest in
1692, Pueblo religion went underground. Since that
time, most Río Grande Pueblo ceremonies have been
kept private. Today, their dances are generally
closed to the public and no audio or visual
documentation is allowed.
Over time many Pueblo People embraced Catholicism
as a secondary religion. As a result, the remaining
Tiwa pueblos in our area, Isleta and Sandia, observe
holidays in honor of their patron saints, San
Antonio and San Augustine, including feast days to
which the public may be invited, and which often
include dances that refer to both sets of beliefs.