Trail of the Ancients winds through the ancestral homelands of the current-day Pueblo people

& History
Along the Trail

Preserve America: Explore and Enjoy Our Natural Heritage
Materials in this section of the website developed with support from a Preserve America grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service
The Culture Continues

The spectacular mountains, mesas, and canyons of Mesa Verde Country® have been home to American Indian communities for thousands of years.

The Mesa Verde Area represents the ancestral homeland of the current-day Pueblo people, whose nations are now located in Arizona and New Mexico. These Pueblo people are descendants of an indigenous American Indian culture that has established itself over many centuries.

Around AD 1280, the Pueblo People migrated from the Mesa Verde area in Colorado to New Mexico and Arizona. Some groups founded new settlements; others may have dispersed or joined relatives in southern villages. Oral histories recount a series of migrations en route to a new homeland, and many stories relate the reason for leaving this area was simply that "it was time."

Many changes took place from AD 1300 to1600. Some groups settled together as clans, and some may have adopted new languages. Villages became larger and more enclosed than before. Katsinas became central to Pueblo ceremonial life. Three centuries later, Spanish explorers found Pueblo people living in the same regions as today—an arc stretching from the Hopi villages in Arizona to the Pueblos along the upper Rio Grande in New Mexico. These people are represented by the Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, Zuni and The Hopi Tribe.

Today the history and vibrancy of these people live on in their traditions, dances and artistic expressions. Trading posts and festivals, including the Mesa Verde Country® Indian Arts and Culture Festival, provide visitors an opportunity to view traditional dances and experience the timeless artistic traditions of weaving, pottery, jewelry making and other art forms. Although many artists are still quite traditional, some artists are diverting from tradition and exploring new mediums.

Another way to experience the life of today's Pueblo people is to visit their tribal cultural centers and museums, or to observe one of their annual Feast Days, where visitors may view the reverent dances and songs offered on those days. Feast Days bring tribal members together to renew their culture, language and native religion.

American Indian lands in or near Mesa Verde Country® today include those of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Southern Ute Tribe, and the Navajo Nation, who share the landscape of the Ancestral Puebloan people. All of these indigenous peoples are connected to their past because they consider relationships to their ancestors to be sacred. Please visit all archaeological sites and current day American Indian lands with respect.

Etiquette when visiting Tribal Lands and Pueblos