The adobe buildings on top of this 365′ rock mesa, halfway between Albuquerque and Gallup, New Mexico, have been occupied by the Acoma tribe for several thousand years. The tribe had moved to the top of the mesa to avoid contact with other, less peaceful tribes. But nothing prepared them for the Spanish Conquestidor Francisco Vasquez de Coronado who stopped by in 1540. He describes the town on top of the Mesa as one of the “strongest places he had seen.”
At first the contact was peaceful but by 1598 war erupted. In the end, 600 Indians were killed, 500 were imprisoned and all men over 25 had their right foot amputated. Then came the Spanish priests who imposed the Catholic religion on them, and the forced labor of building a 6000 square-foot church, with 60′ ponderosa logs brought by hand from the mountains of northern New Mexico. They did good work; The San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church is now a National Trust Historic Site.
Today, the majority of tribal members live in villages below the Mesa but return to the top on weekends for tribal and religious ceremonies.
Visitors may tour Acoma on tribal led tours. Call the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum for information.