Anasazi Tribe

“May my ears be open to hear the sounds Of voices near and far. May I listen well to hear the sounds Of nature’s spoken words. And may I never close my ears To the voice of others’ hearts”.-~Prayers From the Ancient Ones~

Anasazi petroglyphs- Reproduction


Anasazi /Hisatsinom

A note about the name Anasazi: The word Anasází is Navajo for “Ancient Enemy”. The Hopi who call themselves descendants of the Anasazi, changed the name of their ancestors from Anasazi to the “Hisatsinom”, which means the “Ancient Ones”.

However, in many texts and among researchers, the name Anasazi has become the generic term for the early Pueblo sites and peoples. Also, even though the Hopi prefer the term (Hisatsinom) it is not shared by the Acoma, Zuni, and other Pueblo People who also claim to be descendants from the Ancient Ones. Unfortunately, the Anasazi had no written language, and nothing is known of the name by which they actually called themselves.

To avoid confusion, and for the purpose of familiarity and brevity, we (respectfully) have chosen to use the standard archaeological term “Anasazi”.

(*) BC and AD: B.C. stands for Before Christ, and means before the birth of Jesus Christ.

A.D. stands for the Latin phrase Anno Domine, which is translated as In the year of (the/Our) Lord.

The Beginning…

Historians have different opinions as to when the Anasazi emerged as a distinct culture.  Although a variety of sources were used to gather information written here, the primary reference used was mainly from the Anasazi Timeline (sources are listed at the end of this article).   Some believe the history of the Anasazi began  6500 – 1200 (*) B.C. in what is known as the Archaic period. It marks the pre-Anasazi culture,  with the arrival of small groups of  desert nomads in the Four Corners region  (the intersection of present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado).

Their existence was peaceful, and depended on primitive farming of cultivated plants such as corn, beans, squash and  cotton. Their diet also included wild berries, nuts, with very limited hunting. During this time, the Anasazi lived in caves  which provided them with shelter.  According to archaeologists, the Anasazi had few enemies during this time.

The period from 1200 B.C. – *A.D. 50 is known as the Basketmaker II (early) culture.  The term is derived  from the fact that these people wove baskets, but did not make true pottery. The baskets were woven from willow and some fibrous plant material, and, if used for water, were lined with piñon gum, a type of pine sap, to waterproof them.

The period from  A.D. 50 – 500 is known as  the Basketmaker II (late) period. During this time, dwelling construction is evident in the form of  shallow pithouses, and storage bins.

The  A.D. 500 – 750 is referred to as the Basketmaker III period. The Anasazi built deeper pithouses (some were three to five feet below ground) and developed some above-ground rooms, and  surface storage pits. The bow and arrow were  replaced with the atlatl and spear. Plain gray and some black-on-white pottery is made. Cultivation of beans begins.

The next stage of Anasazi history was the Pueblo I period, from 750-900  At this point, the Anasazi began to slowly replace their pithouses with above-ground dwellings made from crude masonry. Their pottery  is plain with some  black-on-white, and and black-on-red designs.

It was during the following phase, 900-1150, the Pueblo II period, when the Anasazi began to build great kivas, or communal rooms for ceremonial purposes in their villages. Their population increased, and it was during this period that small Anasazi villages began to spread throughout the southwest.

The Pueblo III period, 1150-1350 finds the Anasazi beginning to build the cliff dwellings for which they are most well-known. Many buildings in these villages under the cliffs were several stories tall. These villages were in places that were easily defensible, suggesting that the Anasazi had perhaps acquired enemies they did not have in earlier periods.

It was also during 1300 that most of the traditional Anasazi villages in the Four Corners area are completely abandoned, while the eastern sites continued to flourish and expand. The reasons for these occurrences are still unknown.

During the Pueblo IV period, from 1350 – 1600  the Anasazi moved further south near the homes of the Hopis and Zunis. Many Anasazi  cliff dwellings (or pueblos) became much larger, often housing thousands of people. The pottery — once plain, or just black and white — is now red, orange, and yellow.  There is more evidence of  Katchinas and the beliefs that surround them.

The Pueblo V period extends from 1600 to the present.  During the first part of this era the Spanish military, church and civil domination and rule of the Pueblos drove the Pueblo religion underground. The number of Pueblos shrank from more than 100 (observed in 1539) to a mere 20.

Today, there are more than 60,000 Pueblo Indians living in the Southwest. The three main groups are the Hopi in Antelope Mesa, Arizona,  the Tanoan and Keresan pueblos on the upper Rio Grande, and the Zuñi in New Mexico. Some of the people farm the land and raise sheep and cattle, some have professions such as doctors, teachers, artists, writers, and politicians. Many of the people continue to participate in Pueblo ceremonies. In the end, the resilient and resourceful Pueblo Indians  have continued to maintain their thousands-of-years-old culture.

Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

1. What does Hisatsinom mean?

2. Do the historians agree on when the Anasazi emerged?

3. How did the Anasazi get their food?

4. Why is the period from 1200 B.C. -A.D. 50 known as the Basketmaker II culture?

5. What type of shelters did the Anasazi  build during the Basketmaker III period?

6. What are the three main groups of Pueblo Indians living today? Describe the life style of the various groups today.

The Legend of  Kokopelli

Because the Hopi were the tribe from whom the Spanish explorers first learned of the god Kokopelli, their name is the one most commonly used.

Kokopelli dates back over 3,000 years ago, when the first petroglyphs were carved in the Southwest.   Known as a fertility god, prankster, healer and story teller, Kokopelli has been a source of wonder throughout the country for centuries.  Although his true origins are unknown, this traveling, flute-playing Casanova is a sacred figure to many Southwestern Native Americans.

There are many myths of the famous Kokopelli. One of them is that he traveled from village to village bringing the changing of winter to spring, melting the snow, and bringing about rain for a successful harvest. It is also said that the hunch on his back depicted the sacks of seeds and songs he carried. Legend also has it that the flute playing also symbolized the transition of winter to spring. Kokopelli’s flute is said to be heard in the spring’s breeze, while bringing warmth. It is also said that he was the source of human conception. Legend has it that everyone in the village would sing and dance throughout the night when they heard Kokopelli play his flute. The next morning, every maiden in the village would be with child. Whatever the true meaning of Kokopelli is, he has been a source of music making and dancing, and spreading joy to those around him. Even today, Kokopelli, with his hunchback and flute, is always welcome in our homes.


Anasazi Prayers

Anasazi Timeline

Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum

The Anasazi Heritage Center

Chaco Canyon

Mesa Verde National Park

Glossary of  Words for the Anasazi