Rain Water Basin, Acoma

Rain Water Basin, Acoma.

An Indian pueblo is really a honeycomb of adobe cells, built up in terraces. The outer walls, being the most exposed, are the highest, and from them toward the centre of the village, projecting stories descend in such a way that the balcony of one series of rooms forms a roof for the next below it. Finally, in the heart of the pueblo is an open area where horses are coralled. When the space on the summit of the mesa is sufficient, these apartment dwellings may be increased indefinitely by adding cells to the original mass, till it is six or seven stories high, and may contain one hundred, five hundred, or even a thousand persons, according to the size of the tribe. Formerly there were no doorways in the lowest stories; but in these peaceful days they are now introduced occasionally by Indian architects. Where they do not exist, the only means of entering the ground-floor rooms is by climbing a ladder from the courtyard to the first terrace, and thence descending by another ladder through a hole in the roof. The upper stories, being safer from attack, are more liberally supplied with doors and windows, the latter being sometimes glazed with plates of mica. At present, panes of glass are also used, though they were pointed out to us as special luxuries. At night, and in times of danger, the ladders in these pueblos used always to be drawn up after the last climbers had used them; since these industrious and sedentary Indians were ever liable to raids from their nomadic enemies, who coveted their stores of food and the few treasures they had gradually accumulated. This precaution on the part of the Pueblos again reminds us that human nature, in its primitive devices for self-protection, is everywhere very much the same. Thus, there is no connection between the Swiss Lake Dwellers and the Indians of New Mexico; yet as the latter, on retiring to their houses, draw up their ladders after them, so the old occupants of the villages built on piles in the Swiss lakes pulled after them at night the bridges which connected them with the land.

The Courtyard Of Acoma

The Courtyard Of Acoma.

House Of A Pueblo Chief

House Of A Pueblo Chief.

A Group Of Pueblo Indians

A Group Of Pueblo Indians.

A Pueblo Town

A Pueblo Town.

One can well imagine that the people of Acoma do not spend many of their waking hours in their apartments. In this warm climate, with its superb air and almost rainless sky, every one lives as much as possible out of doors, and a true child of the sun always prefers the canopy of heaven to any other covering, and would rather eat on his doorstep and sleep on his flat roof, than to dine at a sumptuous table or recline on a comfortable bed. Nature seems to be peculiarly kind and indulgent to the people of warm climates. They need not only less clothing but less food, and it is only when we travel in the tropics that we realize on how little sustenance man can exist. A few dates, a cup of coffee, and a bit of bread appear to satisfy the appetites of most Aridians, whether they are Indians or Arabs. In the North, food, clothing, and fire are necessities of life; but to the people of the South the sun suffices for a furnace, fruits give sufficient nourishment, and clothing is a chance acquaintance. Yet life is full of compensation. Where Nature is too indulgent, her favorites grow shiftless; and the greatest amount of indoor luxury and comfort is always found where Nature seems so hostile that man is forced to fight with her for life.

Characteristic Pueblo Houses

Characteristic Pueblo Houses.

Most of the cells which we examined in the many-chambered honeycomb of Acoma had very little furniture except a primitive table and a few stools, made out of blocks of wood or trunks of trees. Across one corner of each room was, usually, stretched a cord on which the articles of the family wardrobe had been thrown promiscuously. The ornaments visible were usually bows and arrows, rifles, Navajo blankets, and leather pouches, hung on wooden pegs. Of beds I could find none; for Indians sleep by preference on blankets, skins, or coarse-wool mattresses spread every night upon the floor. When we consider that the forty millions of Japan, even in their comparatively high degree of civilization, still sleep in much the same way, we realize how unnecessary bedsteads are to the majority of the human race. In a few rooms I discovered wooden statuettes of saints, one or two crucifixes, and some cheap prints, which were evidently regarded with great veneration. The floors, which were not of wood, but of smooth adobe nearly as hard as asphalt, were in every instance remarkably clean.