The Santo Domingo Native American people call their pueblo Kiuw or Kewa. Pueblo is a word for village which
comes from Spanish. They live in homes with many levels, like our apartments, except that their buildings are
made of adobe. The Santo Domingo Indian Pueblo is located on the east bank of the Rio Grande River in New
The Pueblo people of Santo Domingo are noted as traders and jewelry-makers; true to long-standing traditions,
Santo Domingo Indian artisans are best known for their skill at grinding, drilling, and stringing beads of shell and
turquoise heishi bead necklaces.
One of the more conservative pueblo communities' Santo Domingo is home to a sizable population of individuals
involved in the Indian jewelry industry. Over the centuries, many men from the pueblo worked the nearby
Cerrillos mines. Santo Domingo facility with turquoise can be seen in hand-rubbed or hand-rolled strands of fine
beads; contemporary Santo Domingo Indian artists have elevated stone and metal bead-making to an art.
Within the context of a relatively stable existence, the people devoted increasing amounts of time and attention
to religion, arts, and crafts. Keresans have been traced to an area around Chaco Canyon north to Mesa Verde. In
the 1200s, the Keresans abandoned their traditional canyon homelands in response to climatic and social
upheavals. A century or two of migrations ensued, followed in general by the slow reemergence of their culture in
the historic pueblos.
The original Santo Domingo people lived in at least two villages called Gipuy, several miles north of the present
location. These sites were eventually destroyed by ﬂooding, and the people established a village called Kiwa,
about a mile west of the present pueblo.
In traditional Pueblo culture, religion and life are inseparable. To be in harmony with all of nature is the Pueblo
ideal and way of life. The sun is seen as the representative of the Creator.
Sacred mountains in each direction, plus the sun above and the earth below, deﬁne and balance the Pueblo world.
Many Pueblo religious ceremonies revolve around the weather and are devoted to ensuring adequate rainfall. To
this end, Pueblo Indians evoke the power of katsinas, sacred beings who live in mountains and other holy places,
in ritual and dance.
All Santo Domingo men belonged to katsina societies. Santo Domingo Pueblo contained two circular kivas, religious
chambers that symbolize the place of original emergence into this world, and their associated societies, Squash
In addition to the natural boundaries, Pueblo Indians have created a society that deﬁnes their world by providing
balanced, reciprocal relationships within which people connect and harmonize with each other, the natural world,
and time itself.
According to tradition, the head of each pueblo is the religious leader, or cacique, whose primary
responsibility it is to watch the sun and thereby determine the dates of ceremonies. Much ceremonialism is also
based on medicine societies, and shamans used supernatural powers for curing, weather control, and ensuring the
One mechanism that works to keep Pueblo societies coherent is a pervasive aversion to individualistic behavior.
Children were raised with gentle guidance and a minimum of discipline. Pueblo Indians were generally monogamous,
and divorce was relatively rare.
The dead were prepared ceremonially and quickly buried with clothes, beads, food, and other items; their
possessions were destroyed, and they were said to become katsinas in the land of the dead. A vigil of four days
and nights was generally observed. Matrilineal clans also existed at Santo Domingo, although their functions
Various other more or less secret societies including medicine, hunters, clown, warriors, and katsina (associated
with the two patrilineal kiva groups, Squash and Turquoise) acted to hold the pueblo together. The societies are
said to have gained power from supernatural animals, through fetishes and ﬁgurines.
Santo Domingo societies were traditionally so strong that other pueblos came to them if theirs needed
revitalization. Most traditional customs remained relatively intact at Santo Domingo well into the 1940s. In
modern times photography by outsiders is discouraged. Copyright 2012
Verzuh, V. K. A River Apart: The Pottery of Cochiti & Santo Domingo Pueblos. 2008.
White, L. A. The pueblo of Santo Domingo, New Mexico. 1974.