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2018-10-04 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 47 – Cubero, New Mexico and Sky City Pueblo at Acoma

This morning we headed out to see the Pueblo at Acoma, called Sky City…

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Acoma Pueblo is an Indian pueblo approximately 60 miles west of Albuquerque.  Four villages make up Acoma Pueblo: Sky City (Old Acoma), Acomita, Anzac, and McCartys.   Today we are visiting Sky City – Old Acoma, a National Historic Landmark.

The Acoma people have continuously occupied this general area for over 2,000 years, making this one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States (along with Hopi, Zuni, and Taos pueblos). 

The Acoma people say that the Sky City Pueblo was established in the 11th century, with stone buildings as early as 1144 on the Mesa indicating as such, due to their unique lack of Adobe in their construction, proving their antiquity.  These old buildings are native stone with mud mortar, covered with a straw-and-mud plaster.

The Pueblo is situated on a 365-foot mesa, surrounded by a (relatively) fertile valley.  The isolation and location of the Pueblo has sheltered the community for more than 1,200 years.  They sought to avoid conflict with the neighboring Navajo and Apache peoples.

In 1540, Coronado’s expedition became the first non-native visitors to Acoma.  While their first encounters were not particularly friendly, they did share food; Coronado’s men left on friendly terms.

Their next encounter was not so friendly.  Hostilities ensued when the Spanish Conquistidors attacked Acoma, resulting in many lives being lost on both sides.  The Spanish called for reinforcements, and they ended up taking many men and women as prisoners; they were deemed to be quilty of these hostilities and they were sentenced to 25 years of slavery.  In addition, the men each had their right foot cut off.  The Acoma lived under the Spanish rule until 1598.  This dark period of Acoma is known as the Acoma Massacre.

However, the survivors of the Acoma Massacre rebuilt their community between 1599–1620… Between 1629 and 1641 Father Juan Ramirez oversaw construction of the San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church.  The Acoma were ordered to build the church, moving 20,000 tons of adobe, straw, sandstone, and mud to the mesa for the church walls.  Ponderosa pine was brought in by community members from Mount Taylor, over 40 miles away.  The 6,000 square feet church has an altar flanked by 60 feet high wood pillars. These are hand carved in red and white designs representing Christian and Indigenous beliefs.  The Acoma know their ancestors’ hands built this structure, and they consider it a cultural treasure to this day.  In contrast to what we saw in Zuni, the Acoma have kept this church in good repair over the years.

In 1680 the Pueblo Revolt took place, with Acoma cooperating with the other Pueblos in planning, organizing, and fighting against the Spanish.  The revolt brought refugees from other pueblos to Acoma.  Those who eventually left Acoma moved elsewhere to form Laguna Pueblo near by.

During the nineteenth century, the Acoma people, while trying to uphold traditional life, also adopted aspects of the once-rejected Spanish culture and religion.  By the 1880s, railroads brought increased numbers of settlers and ended the pueblos’ isolation.

In the 1920s, the All Indian Pueblo Council gathered for the first time in more than 300 years. Responding to congressional interest in appropriating Pueblo lands, the U.S. Congress passed the Pueblo Lands Act in 1924.  Despite successes in retaining their land, the Acoma had difficulty during the 20th century trying to preserve their cultural traditions.  Protestant missionaries established schools in the area, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs forced Acoma and other Indian children into boarding schools.  By 1922, most children from the community were in boarding schools, where they were forced to use English and to practice Christianity.  Several generations became cut off from their own culture and language, with harsh effects on their families and societies.

Today, about 300 two- and three-story houses stand on the mesa, with exterior ladders used to access the upper levels where residents live.  Access to the mesa is by a road blasted into the rock face during the 1950s.  Approximately 75 or so families live permanently on the mesa, with the population increasing on the weekends as family members come to visit and tourists, some 55,000 annually, visit for the day.

Acoma Sky City Pueblo has no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal.  A reservation surrounds the mesa, totaling 600 square miles.  Tribal members live both on the reservation and outside it.  Contemporary Acoma culture remains relatively closed, however.  According to the 2000 United States census, about 5,000 people identify themselves as Acoma.

We drove about 20 miles across back country roads to get to Sky City.  All along the route we saw ruins of ancient buildings, all built of native stone and all in various stages of disrepair.  Some were next to brand new houses, and some were over run with weeds…  We have not seen this landscape before…

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We met in the Acoma Visitors Center.  It is the best piece of architecture we have seen on this trip.  The front of the building, and the interiors, are very contemporary, although traditional forms are used in modern ways.  Around the back is a ceremonial plaza, where the design is much more traditional.  It was a treat to see a building this nice here…

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OK, so it wasn’t perfect…

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We boarded a bus and were driven to the top of the mesa, where our tour began.  We saw St. Stephen’s Church, and the adjoining cemetery.  No pictures are allowed inside the church or in the cemetery.

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Note that the vigas are not only authentic and functional, but the ends are carved, and the beams are hand-hewn to be rectangular, not round…

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Scuppers, hand-carved from one piece of wood…

img_9505The buildings atop the mesa range from some original 12th century buildings, plus buildings from the 1500s and 1600s.  They have been added onto over the years, so we can see buildings with parts built from the 1940s, 1960s, and 1980s also… It was VERY interesting.

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Mud and straw “plaster” covers the ancient stone… It needs to be re-done about every 5-7 years…

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Some structures are in the process of restoration and/or reconstruction.  According to one of our caravaners who has been here several time in the past 10 years, the Pueblo is looking better and better every year.  The money from the casino is being spent to improve the Pueblo…

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They do cover the vigas now with sheet metal…

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You read above how there is no running water or sewer.  Water is brought up to the mesa in tank trucks.  Most houses have propane for heat, cooking, and/or lights.  Wood is also used for cooking and heating.  As for sanitary facilities:  The mesa is surrounded with two-story, solar powered, waterless and composting outhouses…

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We walked through the oldest part of the Pueblo.  These houses were originally built in the 1100s and the 1200s, although they have been remodeled and expanded many times over the years.  The original houses were three stories – on the ground floor there were no doors and windows.  The ground floor was accessed via internal stairs or ladders, and the area was used for storage.  The second level was accessed by a ladder from the ground to the second floor.  The living quarters were located on the second floor, with the roof of the ground floor storage areas used as a terrace.  The third floor contained the cooking facilities.  Since heat is generated here, and hot air rises, having the cooking areas on the top floor kept the other areas of the house cooler.  This arrangement allowed security, in that ladders could be drawn up to the “terrace” to prevent intruders from accessing the house…

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As any good architect knows, in desert climates in the northern hemisphere houses should be oriented to the south for maximum control of, protection from, and use of solar heat gain from the sun.  Here we see a world famous architect demonstrate a south-facing front porch…

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The mesa offers many fine views of the surrounding valleys and other rock formations…

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There is a mesa a few miles away from Sky City, which was the original site of the Acoma Pueblo.  They had only been living there a few years when a violent lightning storm destroyed the only access to the mesa.  Fortunately for most of the Acoma, they were away tending their fields and hunting game.  Unfortunately for the two women atop the mesa, they were trapped. Rather than starve to death, they jumped to their deaths… The Acoma have never been back to the mesa since, and they rebuilt their Pueblo at the location where we now stand…

One of the traditional ovens being fire-up…

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At the end of the tour, the lazy people headed for the bus.  We hearty types walked down steps carved into the rock in the 12th century, sometimes needing to use the hand-holds cut into the walls of stone.  It was a great trek!  Until the 1950s this was the only way to get to and from the Pueblo…

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We returned to the visitors center, had a New Mexican lunch of tacos and enchiladas, Christmas style… We drove back to The Villa…

In the evening we held our LAST drivers meeting.  Tomorrow we convoy the 60 miles or so to Albuquerque to park at the Balloon Fiesta… The fiesta starts Friday and runs for nine days.  We will be staying four nights, leaving Tuesday.

Since we must be ready to go tomorrow at 8:00 am, we did much of our hitching up after the drivers meeting.  Lynda cooked a pizza for dinner…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-02 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 45 – Gallup, New Mexico – and the Zuni Pueblo…

The caravan traveled to the Pueblo of Zuni today…

We arrived at the Visitors Center and had the usual confusion as to where to park 15 or 20 pick-up trucks…

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Once we were all at the visitors center we all left.  We drove about one mile to a typical house in the Zuni village… Note the exterior appears to be unfinished – exposed concrete block, unprotected particle board, no paint…

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But inside we found a very modern house; there was a modern kitchen and a room large enough to feed lunch to 60 people!

They served us salad, bread baked in their traditional adobe ovens, posolle (a beef soup or stew), and our choice of peach cobbler or apple pie for dessert.  Very nice!

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After lunch we returned to the visitors center where we heard the history of the Zuni people.  He condensed it to only 10 hours (or so it seemed… It was actually about 1 1/2 hours…)

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The speaker was a native to Zuni, who had an interest in the history and archaeology and anthropology of his people.  He left Zuni after high school to attend Stanford; he returned to become the local expert in all things Zuni.  He has excavated parts of the pueblo 70 feet down to find remnants of the ancient village…

We then drove back again to the center of the Middle Village, and we learned more of the history of the pueblo…

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As I mentioned a few days ago, the Spanish built the church – Our Lady of Guadalupe – in 1620, only to see it destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.  It lay in ruins until it was rebuilt in 1960, but today it is in sad shape.  Plans are underway for a full restoration…

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Note the overgrown cemetery in the church yard…

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The Spanish left in about 1800 as the American frontiersmen started arriving in the west.  However, the frontiersmen showed little interest in Zuni, and the Zuni continued to live totally alone and isolated for over 100 years.  The “modern era” caught up with them in the early 1900s and the community continued to thrive, although in their traditional, non-modern ways.

These buildings were built from the 1940 – 1960 and they continue to be added to today.  This is “modern” wood frame construction, with ancient stones taken from other ruined buildings, made into veneer, and installed on the wood frame.  This courtyard, as I said before, is used for religious ceremonies… The roofs and the courtyard will hold over 2,000 people during these ceremonies…

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The history we heard here in the village was much more interesting than what we heard in the visitors center, and we left with new knowledge of the Zuni people.

This evening we had a drivers meeting, sharing ice cream, an Airstream tradition…

img_9457 And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-30 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 43 – Gallup, New Mexico – Hot Air Balloons and the Zuni Pueblo…

Today is the day!  Hot Air Balloons!

We drove in the dark to meet at Red Rock State Park, just east of Gallup.  We met up with the balloon pilots and their crews.  There will be 6 balloons going up today.  Weather conditions are perfect!

We drove around to the launch site, in the first of several canyons we would be seeing today.  Then the work of setting up the balloons begins.

The basket is assembled, and the burners are installed and tested…

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The balloon is inflated with a large, loud fan…

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The the burners are fired and the air in the balloon is heated…

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As the air in the balloon gets warmer the balloon rises…

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We all climb in the basket and away we go!

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As we ascended we could look down on the ground crew and the chase vehicles.  These people will follow us along our route and pick us up when we land – wherever that might be…

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Riding in a hot air balloon is an ethereal experience.  Everything is VERY slow.  It is silent, except when the pilot hits the valve to fire the burner to add more heat.  There is no steering wheel and there are no brakes – the balloon simply follows the wind… There are some vents in the balloon to let the pilot release air, and this allows him to rotate and adjust the balloon’s trajectory.

So we flew over five canyons, soaring over the plateaus and dropping deep into the canyon, then back up again…

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Part of the fun is flying along with other balloons…

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This is the official balloon of the State of New Mexico…

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Looking up into the hot air…

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After about five miles and one hour or so the first balloon lands…

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Our chase crew has arrived…

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As the others are starting to deflate and pack up we are still searching for a place to land…

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And we are on the ground!  This is our pilot, Jeff.  He has over 30 years experience flying balloons, and he set us down flawlessly!

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As the balloon deflates we all pitch in to pack it up…

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The basket is disassembled…

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The burners are stowed…

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And we returned to the original meeting spot.  We had a traditional ceremony and we shared a little champagne to celebrate our flight…

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And, with that, our ballooning was over.  On to other adventures…

After such an exhilarating morning, we celebrated by having breakfast at the Railroad Cafe – in a remodeled mid-70s era Der Weinerschnitel.

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And then we headed south about 45 miles to the Pueblo of Zuni

When Lynda retired from Valley Christian High School in June, 2017, another colleague, Tim Becksvoort also left.  But Tim didn’t retire – he moved, with his wife and three children to Zuni, NM, to become Principal of the Zuni Christian Mission School.  We set out today to visit the Becksvoorts and the Pueblo of Zuni…

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In 1897, Andrew and Effa Vander Wagen established a permanent mission in Zuni on behalf of the Christian Reformed Church.  Their passion and love for their Indian brothers and sisters made a lasting impression on all they touched.  They became fluent in the Zuni language and persevered in spite of physical threats to their lives.

The breakthrough for the fledgling Mission came when the Vander Wagens (with their infant children) refused to leave Zuni during a serious smallpox epidemic.  Instead of fleeing, as did the officials at Bureau of Indian Affairs, who were responsible for medical care in Zuni, the young couple went door to door caring for and administering medicine to their Zuni neighbors.  In that and later acts of mercy, the Vander Wagens pioneered the then-revolutionary mission concept that in order to minister to people’s spiritual needs one must also be willing to demonstrate Christ’s compassion and care for their physical needs.  With that groundwork laid, the first ordained missionaries were assigned to the Zuni Christian Reformed Mission in 1906.

In 1908, so that the missionary children might have Christian schooling, Miss Nellie DeJong came to Zuni as their teacher.  Along with the missionary children, four Zuni children were also enrolled.  From that humble beginning, the school expanded rapidly and soon claimed an important role in building relationships in the community, in educating the children and in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the children and their families.

Although the church and school have been housed in the same location within the Pueblo since its inception, there have been many changes in the facilities.  A major setback occurred in 1971 when a devastating fire raged through the Mission, completely destroying the church and school.  Portable classrooms were brought in and “temporary” facilities were constructed.  Forty years later, an amazing venture to rebuild the entire mission campus was begun.  Today there is a beautiful new school, a worship center for the church, residences for up to six families of staff members, a playground, and a gymnasium.

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The school is located across the river from central Zuni, the oldest part of the pueblo, “Middle Earth”, as they call it.  However, the village has, over the past 100 years, grown and now surrounds the school and church.

The Becksvoorts live in this very nice two-story apartment…

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We had lunch with the Becksvoort family, chatted with their three children, and walked around the “Middle Earth”…

The A:shiwi have lived here “forever”.   When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in about 1620 they gave the natives the name of Zuni… The Spanish built a church:  Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It was destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the Spanish left and fled to Santa Fe when the American frontiersmen started coming through in about 1800 as part of America’s western migration.   The church was rebuilt in 1960, but, due to benign neglect, it has significantly deteriorated, making it uninhabitable today…

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The church even has vigas, which are, of course, rotting…

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We walked about the newer (1960s) buildings (with vigas…), and saw one of the Zunis’ ceremonial courtyards, and their traditional adobe ovens, used mostly to bake bread…

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(We will come back to Zuni in a few days with the caravan; we will have a native meal with the Zuni people and an official tour… Stay tuned…)

We returned to the RV park in the late afternoon, and enjoyed happy hours with our fellow Airstreamers…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-16 Westbound; The Badlands of South Dakota…

We left the Ingalls homestead at about 8:00 am.  It was raining, and cold.  And windy. Really cold. About 45 degrees with a wind chill factor making it feel like, oh, I don’t know – maybe , like 5?

We drove slowly through town and stopped at the De Smet Cemetary.  We found the family plot where most of the Ingalls family are buried:

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And we are back on the road.  And it is still raining.  Harder and harder.  It rained for about two hours until the sky finally began to lighten.

The countryside was beautiful:

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We stopped to take in the threatening black clouds over the Wide Missouri River:

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The drive was uneventful, along two lane back roads.  When you visit places such as De Smet you spend a lot of time on two lane back roads.  We eventually merged with the interstate and continued west towards the South Dakota Badlands.  We took the “Badlands Loop”, a 35 mile long road through Badlands National Park:

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We took time to take a selfie:

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These formations are the remains of an ancient salt water sea.  These rocks are sedimentary sandstone that have been eroding for a long, long time… The formations are striking…

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We were able to see some funny looking animals; turns out they are female pronghorn antelope:

 

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And a Bison:

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We stopped for a late lunch at Wall Drugs, in Wall, SD.  Really excellent buffalo hot dogs! Then we walked around the tourist attraction that is Wall Drugs.  I took a moment to ride the Jackalope:

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Wall Drugs is even a bigger waste of time than The House on the Rock…

So we move on.  We arrive at Crooked Creek RV Park, in Hill City, near Mt. Rushmore. We were given a nice pull-through site, with good power to run the furnace (it will approach freezing overnight…) and we able to get satellite TV and internet access.  It is Saturday, and there is College football!

Texas lost!  CAL beat Ole Miss!  LSU lost!  A good night all around.

Happy Hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

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