Hold on to what is good,
Even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I’ll be gone away from you. -A Pueblo Indian Prayer-
The name Laguna is Spanish (meaning “lake”) and derives from the lake on their reservation. A dam in the San José River caused the formation of the lake. The real name of the tribe is Kawaik in their language. Laguna is the best known of all the pueblos to the traveler, as the main line of the Santa Fé Railroad, until very recently, passed directly through the lower edge of the town, and a full view of the entire pueblo was afforded to the passengers. It is sixty-four miles west from Isleta (another pueblo) and seventy-nine from Albuquerque along the railroad.
Laguna is one of the pueblos whose whole history is known to us, as it was founded in 1699. Shortly before that time Indians from Acoma had settled near where Laguna is situated, for farming purposes, and on account of the fine hunting for deer and antelope in the vicinity.
They were joined by residents of Zia, Zuñi, and other neighboring pueblos and were permanently established as a settlement about the time of the visit of Governor Cubero in July, 1699. At one time it contained no less than nineteen distinct clans, but many of these are now extinct.
The Pueblo Indians were left alone for twelve years, then sporatic battles continued until 1847, with several major uprisings. In 1853 the Pueblo Indians were hit with a smallpox epidemic. Their pueblo lands were finally secured under old Spanish grants confirmed by an Act of Congress in 1858.
In about about 1870, three young men, all surveyors, who came together to Laguna settled permanently in the town, and married Pueblo Indian girls.
These men engaged in almost constant official surveys. Each of them in turn has been governor of the pueblo. Their houses were clustered around the old depot, just below the pueblo, and were surrounded by fruit and shade trees. Colonel Walter G. Marmon died a few years ago, leaving an interesting family, and Colonel Robert G. Marmon and Major George H. Pradt remain where they settled years ago. They greatly influenced the Laguna Indians to become more progressive in their lives. However, there were some people who preferred the “old” customs.
When the new progressive element began to assert itself there were sharp disputes between them and the conservatives, and a number of the latter emigrated to Isleta. The progressives had strength enough to bring about the abandonment of the old ceremonial dances, and on the death of the cacique prevented the election of a successor, so that the pueblo has been without a head to its ancestral religion for a number of years.
These changes, and the scattering of the people in search of better agricultural land, have loosened the hold of the old faith and the multiplicity of different clans into which the people were divided is gradually dying out.
More than two hundred of the younger generation of both sexes are graduates from Carlisle and other schools, and many of the men are employed by the railroad company in work of various kinds; this has introduced a considerable knowledge of English, while the older generation spoke only the Queres language, either here or at Acoma. In this the people differed from those of the pueblos in the Rio Grande Valley where everyone speaks Spanish as well as his native tongue.
Except for the Hopi of Arizona and about one-half the people of Laguna, most of the pueblo Indians are still under Catholic influence and at least nominally Catholic, although a majority adhere to their ancient rites. The Presbyterians came to Laguna about 1876. Although very few of the elderly Pueblos speak any English, a large number speak Spanish fluently.
Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion
1. What does the name Laguna mean?
2. Is this the real name of the tribe? If not, what is the real name?
3. According to the reading, when was the Laguna pueblo founded?
4. In 1858 what epidemic attacked the Laguna Indians?
5. What is the dominant religion of the Laguna Indians?
6. What is the main language spoken among the tribe?
Laguna Culture and Economy Today
Livestock grazing was a traditional occupation, but because one of the world’s richest uranium fields is located on the reservation, many men became miners. As an off-shoot of this activity, a large number of men learned mechanical skills and found employment outside the Pueblo.
In the 1970′s, the traditional craft of pottery making was re-established. Fine work in red, yellow and orange geometric designs, similar to Acoma work, was created by a number of artists. Painters and jewelry makers have begun to work again in the ancient crafts, but they are bringing a modern note in the innovative designs and techniques which set their work apart from many other Indian craftsmen.
The feast of St. Joseph, celebrated on March 19th and on September 19th ,brings crowds of people of other tribes as well as Anglos and Hispanics – many of whom come for trading in handiwork and crops, but also for a spirited carnival and a number of sporting events. The most important of these is baseball. Laguna Pueblo has five semi-pro baseball teams which play against Isleta, Cochiti and various other teams in the area. The All-Indian Tournament held at Laguna in September is one of the major events of any season.
Laguna is the center of one of the most prosperous and progressive of the Pueblo Indian communities. The Laguna people value intellectual activity and education, so a scholarship program has led to many well-educated Lagunas, including authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko, and Paula Gunn Allen. Uranium mining on Pueblo of Laguna land has contributed to scholarship programs as well as to skilled labor learning among Laguna members. While many Native Americans love basketball, Lagunas and other Pueblos enjoy baseball. Like many Pueblos, the Laguna people are skilled in pottery. The Laguna Construction Company, a construction company owned by the Pueblo of Laguna, is one of the largest U.S. contractors in Iraq, with reconstruction contracts worth more than $300 million since 2004. In addition to its headquarters at the pueblo, Laguna Industries, Inc. maintains offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Antonio and Houston, Texas; Baghdad, Iraq, and Amman, Jordan. In 2007, Laguna Construction employed 75 people, most of whom belong to the pueblo.
The Pueblo of Laguna has a well-established Tribal Law system.
The Acoma Pueblo and Pueblo of Laguna have many ties, including location, and language. Primary and middle-school education is provided by the Laguna Department of Education,which also operates Early Childhood program and adult education programs. The high school is shared with nearby Acoma Pueblo.
Pueblo Myth: The Mother Moon
And do you know why it is that the Moon has but one eye? It is a short story, but one of the most poetic and beautiful in all the pretty folklore of the Pueblos.
P’áh-hlee-oh, the Moon-Maiden, was the Tée-wahn Eve 1–the first and loveliest woman in all the world. She had neither father nor mother, sister nor brother; and in her fair form were the seeds of all humanity–of all life and love and goodness. The Trues, who are the unseen spirits that are above all, made T’hoor-íd-deh, the Sun, who was to be father of all things; and because he was alone, they made for him a companion, the first to be of maids, the first to be a wife. From them began the world and all that is in it; and all their children were strong and good. Very happy were the Father-all and the Mother-all, as they watched their happy brood. He guarded them by day and she by night–only there was no night, for then the Moon had two eyes, and saw as clearly as the Sun, and with glance as bright. It was all as one long day of golden light. The birds flew always, the flowers never shut, the young people danced and sang, and none knew how to rest.
But at last the Trues thought better. For the endless light grew heavy to the world’s young eyes that knew no tender lids of night. And the Trues said:
“It is not well, for so there is no sleep, and the world is very tired. We must not keep the Sun and Moon seeing alike. Let us put out one of his eyes, that there may be darkness for half the time, and then his children can rest.” And they called T’hoor-íd-deh and P’áh-hlee-oh before them to say what must be done.
But when she heard that, the Moon-Mother wept for her strong and handsome husband, and cried:
“No! No! Take my eyes, for my children, but do not blind the Sun! He is the father, the provider–and how shall he watch against harm, or how find us game without his bright eyes? Blind me, and keep him all-seeing.”
And the Trues said: “It is well, daughter.” And so they took away one of her eyes, so that she could never see again so well. Then night came upon the tired earth, and the flowers and birds and people slept their first sleep, and it was very good. But she who first had the love of children, and paid for them with pain as mother’s pay, she did not grow ugly by her sacrifice. Nay, she is lovelier than ever, and we all love her to this day. For the Trues are good to her, and gave her in place of the bloom of girlhood the beauty that is only in the faces of mothers.
So mother-pale above us
She bends, her watch to keep,
Who of her sight dear-bought the night
To give her children sleep.
Pueblo Prayer: Pearls of Wisdom
Myth, The Mother Moon, By Charles Lummis, from Pueblo Indian Folk Stories (1910) p.46