Granted, it’s been a long, strange trip as the New World introduced settlers and pioneers who collided with indigenous populations. But, here we are, and in New Mexico it is a distinct privilege to be able to participate in pueblo events as welcomed guests. A little bit of knowledge of customs and cultural sensitivity will go a long way to ensure your experience of the pueblos, and the community’s experience of you, is mutually respectable.
Here are a few tips:
- Check in first with the main tribal office. It’s here you will find out about protocol, off-limit areas, and if photography is ok – often it is not.
- When tribal members are dancing, singing, or partaking in any kind of ceremony, it’s a form of prayer. So, just as people don’t clap when you are done lighting the menorah or finishing up your daimoku chant, please don’t clap when a song or dance has ended. Save any questions you have for a more informal moment after the ceremony. Don’t walk across the dance area or between the dancers, singers, or drummers.
- During ceremonies, if seating is limited, offer your place to any elder or tribal members.
- Don’t bring your pets. Call in advance if you have a service dog to see if policy allows for them.
- Families live in the pueblo houses, so use the same courtesies you would in your own neighborhood. Don’t move up close to look into windows or walk into buildings uninvited, stalker.
- If you have an invitation to eat in someone’s home, don’t refuse. The foodie in you will thank you. Cross your fingers there is mutton and fry bread.
- Never ever remove pottery shards, and if you ever are unsure about where you can go or what you can visit, just ask. Every tribal member knows – so do the children.
- Never bring alcohol.
Postcard reference image from the The Tichnor Brothers Collection of the Boston Public Library