We took this early morning journey in our semi to visit a culture center. It is a little cold, windy, but stunningly beautiful, as we pull up to the Sky City Culture Center and Haak’u Museum in Sky City, NM. The sunrise combined with the golds, oranges, and reds of the mesas transfixes you by their beauty. I push myself out of our truck fighting the wind but still enjoying the scenery. This land and the Acoma Pueblo people have been here for a very long time.
As we walk up to the Sky City Culture Center and the Haak’u Museum, we realize this is just the beginning. We will learn about the Acoma people’s origins, battles, and burials. To do so we took a tour through the museum and then up to their living village on top of the mesa.
Acoma Pueblo People Origins
In their beliefs, their origin began when their ancestors emerged from Shipapu the middle of the underworld. Once they ascended they moved away from Shipapu and now they believe it is somewhere to the north.
The Acoma people migrated to this land and built their village atop of a sheer cliff, and farmed the surrounding flat lands.
As we were touring Sky City village, the tour guide was sharing this history with us. According to the Pueblo of Acoma website (www.puebloofacoma.org) Archeologists agree that the village has been continuously occupied from at least A.D.1200. During this same tour, we learned that all of their history was passed on by word of mouth.
Battles That Came
After moving from the Culture Center and museum the tour bus takes us up to the top of the mesa. As the bus climbed the steep hill we could see how this once was a place not easily attainable. Early on they used this sheer cliff as protection from attacks, during those times, there was only one set of steep stairs leading up to the village on top of the mesa.
Once we arrived at the top, the tour guide goes on to give us some history about the pueblo and the battle that took place here. Around mid 1500’s the Acoma people were visited by the Spaniards, the Acoma people came down from there cliff to greet them and their interactions with one another went well. Then in the late 1500’s the Spanish colonization of the Acoma People began. This attempt of colonization with Don Juan de Onate turned into a bloody 3 day battle. The Acoma people suffered the loss. The Spaniards burnt their village and put many of the Acoma people into slavery. Once the battle was over the rebuilding of the pueblo began. During the time of Spain’s rule the San Esteban del Rey Mission was built, and the Catholic religion was introduced. In the late 1600’s the Acoma Pueblo people took back their village.
When the tour guide lead us around in front of the San Esteban del Rey Mission,and the burial ground we could not help but to admire the beauty and construction of the mission.But as we looked out across the land from this site we found ourselves at peace. We were told the story of the sacrifices that were made to build both. And then we were also told about the uniqueness this graveyard. It is 5 layers deep and this 5th layer of burials will be the last.
Leaving the Site
As my husband and I leave this centuries old place, with all is beauty and heartfelt history. I can not help but to admire the Acoma people to keep such a wonderful village atop of a mesa alive with their community and rich history.
So my suggestion is this, whether you are doing a Route 66 road trip or wanting to learn a little history or just explore the area. Stop by and visit the culture center, museum, and take the tour in New Mexico I40 exit 102.
The San Esteban del Rey Mission and Pueblo are National Historical Landmarks and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information about visiting Sky City Culture Center and Haak’u Museum visit their website (www.acomaskycity.org) or call ph# 1-800-747-0181.