“From Mesa Verde to Santa Fe: Continuity and Change in the Pueblo World” is Opportunity of a Lifetime for Educators

NEH 2016 270x206

The story of the Native American experience—particularly the story of Pueblo people and culture—tends to be told in the past tense.

But the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are looking to change how the history and culture of Pueblo people is taught in the classroom—not as an unexamined footnote in a history textbook, but as a living, thriving culture with continuous threads that stretch back well over 1,000 years.

From Mesa Verde to Santa Fe: Continuity and Change in the Pueblo World is a three-week NEH Summer Institute program for educators (grades K-12) that will examine continuity and change over 1,000 years of Pueblo history from both Euroamerican and Puebloan perspectives.

The project team for this program—which includes some of the most well-respected archaeologists, anthropologists, Native scholars, oral historians, and educators working in the American Southwest today—will help provide a multi-disciplinary approach and understanding to the history and culture of Pueblo people, and show how the ancient past still informs modern Pueblo life today.

"If you only go by the written word, you're only getting about two percent of the past, and you're getting a very biased perspective," says Shirley Powell, Ph.D., Director of Sponsored Projects at Crow Canyon. "This program, a combination of archaeology and oral history, has the opportunity to present a much fuller range of Native history in the Southwest."

The history covered in the program begins in the late 13th century A.D., with the depopulation of the Mesa Verde region—the ancestral homeland of many present-day Pueblo peoples whose communities are now located in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. The institute will tackle many questions about Pueblo history, including why people left the Mesa Verde region in the late 13th century, where they went, and what happened when they arrived in the northern Rio Grande area of present-day New Mexico.

"This is a huge span of history over the course of three weeks across a spectacular landscape with some incredible scholars," says Kathy Stemmler, Ed.D., Sponsored Projects Manager at Crow Canyon.

The program, which will run from June 30-July 20, will include multiple days at Mesa Verde National Park and Pueblo and colonial Spanish communities in northern New Mexico, as well as several days on the Crow Canyon campus in Cortez, Colorado.

Participants will piece together the story of the Pueblo people through a combination of archaeology, ethnohistory, and oral history. The institute will highlight not only this fascinating history, but how different interpretations of this information from the perspectives of both Pueblo scholars and Western scientists interact to produce different data, and ultimately different reconstructions of the past. These differing reconstructions of the past not only shape our understanding of the Pueblo world, but also how it's presented in modern classrooms.

"The scope and depth of the knowledge that's going to be presented, along with the access to the archaeologists, Native scholars, and people from the field of ethnohistory is pretty special," says Powell. "You might have to go to college for two or three years to have that sort of access."

Crow Canyon and the NEH have a long and fruitful history of innovative and successful institute programs that have made a direct impact on how educators present Pueblo history—and Native American history in general—to the students in their classrooms.

"I teach 5th grade history and language arts," said one previous participant. "Our curriculum revolves around Native Americans, and by attending this program I now know that my approach to the material is going to be very different. Teaching history from various perspectives will make the learning experience richer for students and help them develop a better understanding of diverse cultures and the importance of telling their history authentically."

Another teacher commented that their instruction was more complete for the time she spent at the institute.

"I appreciate that in order to understand any historical event or time period one must seek to understand the perspective of all of the people involved," she said. "I strive, every day, to help my students learn this. The new awareness that I have achieved as a result of this workshop, provides me with another perspective to share with my students."

If you're an elementary or secondary-school teacher (or if you know a teacher) click here for more information on how you can be a part of From Mesa Verde to Santa Fe: Continuity and Change in the Pueblo World.