Go to Table of Contents.
About This Publication
List of Tables
List of Illustrations
Introduction to the Site
Research Design
Castle Rock Pueblo in a Regional Context
Settlement Organization
Population Estimates
Faunal Remains
Plant Evidence
Rock Art
The Final Days of Castle Rock Pueblo
Oral History
A Native American Perspective

A Native American Perspective

by Marie A. Reyna

Archaeologists view ancestral Pueblo societies in southwestern Colorado through the interpretation of archaeological sites and their relationships to the Pueblo people of Arizona and New Mexico. This view does not always include the idea that, in this particular region of the world, Pueblo culture and Pueblo history are ongoing. A living past continues to present itself in the everyday world of today's contemporary Pueblo community.

Historical records, in the form of archaeological data, tell us of a period in Pueblo history that begins and moves forward through time in a manner that shows evolution, process, and a strong knowledge of astrological and celestial information. These ancestral Pueblo cultures were able to adapt to and transform their environment, creating a highly organized society that provided for the complex needs of its communities. This can be seen in the locations and the architectural styles of the buildings, which show a regard for defense, water, and sustenance.

However, what the archaeological data do not tell us is the connection between the ancestral Pueblo people of southwestern Colorado and the contemporary Pueblo people of today. As modern Pueblo people, our world view is one in which we acknowledge those who have come before us and all that they have provided for us. Our ancestors provided for us so that we may exist today and provide for our descendants in future generations. We do not view the relationship between past and present as one of "that was then and this is now." We as Pueblo people see the relationship between past and present as one that has been constant and continuous for many generations. The past, present, and future are not separated; they are continuous.

Pueblo people have manipulated their environment since the beginning of time, adapting to changes in the environment or, when necessary, migrating, as the Pueblo people did in their migration from southwestern Colorado. Pueblo adaptability is a trait that can be seen, even today, in Pueblo communities.

The personal connection that I feel between myself and the archaeological sites in southwestern Colorado is based on information that has been handed down to me by my relatives. Such information in particular was given to me when visiting ancestral Pueblo communities. Through prayers and offering to the spirits that inhabit and protect these sites, we pay homage to the sacredness of each site. The manner in which Pueblo people present themselves to this spiritual world depends largely on how they view themselves in their own Pueblo world.

The oral history of Pueblo people varies from one pueblo to the next, but one theme that is consistent throughout is that ancestral Pueblo people migrated from southwestern Colorado to New Mexico and Arizona and beyond. This consistency shows the vastness of the Pueblo world and the interconnectedness of Pueblo communities from the beginning of time and through time as we know it today. As we travel into the future, the connectedness will remain the same. We were in the past, we are today, and we will be tomorrow and forever Pueblo. It is this interconnectedness across time that binds us to the past in a way that we are spiritually uplifted because of our rich heritage. Pueblo people acknowledge their ancestors from the southwestern Colorado region in prayer, song, and ceremonies. Most importantly we are reminded of our heritage in the creation and migration stories that are passed along orally from one generation to the next. These stories tell of the history of the contemporary Pueblo peoples of New Mexico and Arizona and their connectedness with their ancestral communities in southwestern Colorado.

My impressions of Castle Rock Pueblo are mixed. When I first went there, I had a "feeling" of something heavy. After offering prayers and acknowledgment, there was a feeling of openness, yet I could still feel some sort of heaviness lingering. I was told of a written account of a battle that had taken place at Castle Rock and that the people on both sides of the battle suffered many casualties. There was even some mention in the account that during this battle the blood of those who fought flowed like water over the rocks. Whether or not this story is true is not as important to me as the feelings that kept coming to me as I walked around Castle Rock and listened to the Crow Canyon research staff members explain what was found in the excavations there. An overwhelming feeling of despair seemed to penetrate my thoughts. Was this battle so horrific that, even today, the cries of those who died echo within me? I found it eerie and somewhat uncomfortable, and at the same time frightening. There seemed to be so much information coming at me that I wanted to move away—to make sure that the feelings I was experiencing were real. I offered prayers for those who are there. It is quite possible that the written account of a battle at Castle Rock, which is attributed to a Hopi elder, is true. When I look at Castle Rock itself, it seems to memorialize the battle by continuing to seep "blood" from its cliff faces—perhaps as a reminder of man's inhumanity to man and the death and destruction that comes about from human conflict. The site seemed cold—frozen in time—as if death has not yet been released.

There are very different features at Castle Rock that impressed me. One is the etching on the cliff face of an image of a battle scene with two warriors back-to-back defending themselves. Perhaps this alludes to the intensity of the battle or to the battle itself. The second feature is the location of the site itself. Even though there are higher bluffs and mountains nearby, Castle Rock's location seems to focus on a water source. In an arroyo near the site, there are dams and directional barriers that harnessed water, a very precious commodity for survival. The third feature that keeps me thinking is the line of boulders at one edge of the site. The boulders are massive, but what purpose did they serve? Were they a means of defense? Careful thought and planning are clearly visible in the pattern set by the line of boulders. Just how they were used I can only continue to imagine. Perhaps someday we'll know. The fourth feature of interest to me is the D-shaped "kiva" room, which is different from structures at other sites I've seen. I feel that D-shaped structures most likely will appear in other sites, and that it would be interesting to note location, position, and time period in future sites to help interpret the purpose or function. In addition there is a "square kiva" at Castle Rock Pueblo, and there are "square kivas" found in other sites as well. For these, too, it may be important to note the location, position, and time period in order to determine a pattern. Styles change for many reasons—sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of error. Perhaps "square kivas" happened because someone could not read the "blueprint." Or perhaps one day someone said, "Why not just make the walls square?" However, purpose and function are important in Pueblo life. Perhaps, future exploration and research may shed light on these uniquely shaped structures and their possible functions.

Architecturally, I think that the basic layouts of ancestral Pueblo villages are very similar. They seem to have been oriented on the basis of celestial observations, but they also utilize the natural rock formations for defense or as a source of water. I feel that the towers had multiple purposes, both as defense structures and as observatories. They would have allowed one to view large areas, communicate between villages, and perhaps observe the celestial bodies.

I cannot say if there exists an oral historical account of Castle Rock Pueblo within my Taos Pueblo oral history. However, during the times when Pueblo people lived in southwestern Colorado, there were many things happening. For example, there are stories of battles between giants and different tribes. Some stories are based on facts; others are based on accounts passed down orally through the centuries. In those times, many of the events involved a higher order of spiritual power. We may be looking at the results of events in the past that were influenced by higher-order spiritual powers within these communities.

As far as analyzing data and interpreting archaeological accounts, such as the conflict at Castle Rock Pueblo, the fact remains that we Pueblo people have been involved in conflicts throughout our history—sometimes within our own pueblos, sometimes with raiding parties from other groups. Conflict is not unique to Pueblo society; it is the result of human interaction with others. Stories of conflict can be found throughout Pueblo oral history, whether the conflicts involved fighting giants or a raiding party or a dispute between neighbors. Conflict naturally occurs in any society where resources such as food, water, or farmland are limited. It can also develop when villages grow or where an influx of new people in a region creates a stage for confrontation. We are, after all, human, and human beings have been known to do some of the most inhuman things to other humans. Pueblo people are no different. War is ugly and unpleasant, even if it is done for your own survival, for the defense of your own people, or your way of life. Warriors and war societies have existed since the beginning of time. Yet, finding evidence of warfare in ancestral sites may to some seem appalling. However, I feel that people in any society may be drawn into conflict if they believe it is necessary for the protection, security, and survival of themselves and their families. Such conflicts can escalate and lead to widespread death and destruction.

I think daily life was very much the same in the past as it is now for Pueblo people. Attention was paid to community, crops, and crop rotation. The basic food staples, such as beans, squash, and corn, were grown. People manipulated their environments to meet the needs of the villages. Overall there was a connectedness between villages that can be seen in their placement. Our ancestors cooperated and used natural resources to build and maintain a complex society that today still leaves us in awe!

The Pueblo people of southwestern Colorado created their world based on cultural and religious beliefs that remain intact for many contemporary Pueblo people. These traditions stand as a testament to the greatness of the ancestral Pueblo people who came before us. We acknowledge their importance to our very presence, and we accept our responsibility to continue the legacy of the Pueblo people far into the future. The oral histories of our living past guide us into the future.

History is never completely accurate. There are so many factors that affect the way things happen. Writing history is like assembling a puzzle. Though it may look like all the pieces of the puzzle are there, you can be sure that some important pieces are missing. The puzzle of Pueblo history is lacking many pieces, and the puzzle may never really be completed. The puzzle of southwestern Colorado can only begin to be put together when the contemporary Pueblo history is included.

Recently there has been a move in archaeological research to include Native American Pueblo history and Native American perspectives. This may give insight into understanding Pueblo history in southwestern Colorado. However, I feel that the most important story is that of the power of the Pueblo people to survive and flourish through good times and bad. The Pueblo people acquired strength through ceremonies and prayers, and they combined that strength with their own knowledge and ability to live in the harsh environments of the American Southwest. Our Pueblo ancestors had a highly organized and well-developed culture, and they were able to manipulate, and adapt to, a constantly changing environment. The contemporary Pueblo societies today stand as a testament to the success of the ancestral Pueblo people.

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