Santa Fe, NM

National Native American Heritage Month in New Mexico

Diane Hatz - Whole Healthy Group

In order to celebrate and honor the culture, traditions and ancestry of Indigenous people, November is National Native American Heritage Month. In New Mexico, there are 23 tribes - nineteen Pueblos, three Apache tribes, and the Navajo Nation.
© Diane Hatz

One way to honor Native Americans is to visit historical sites in order to learn more about the rich past of Native Americans in the state. Three trips not far from Santa Fe or Albuquerque are Tsankawi, Chaco Canyon, and Petroglyph National Monument.


Archeological evidence suggests that Indians settled the area near Los Alamos and not far from Santa Fe in the 12th century. Tsankawi was a village built by Ancestral Pueblo people in the 15th century as the communities grew larger.

Some nearby pueblos, including the San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Clara Pueblo, Pojoaque Pueblo and Tesuque Pueblo, trace ancestral ties to Tsankawi and other nearby sites.

As part of Bandelier National Monument, visitors can hike the 1.5 mile trail used by these ancestral people. The path is not suitable for everyone as hikers must go up and down ladders and at times walk in narrow ruts up to two feet deep made from heavy use over the centuries.
Rutted trail walked for many hundreds of years at Tsankawi© Diane Hatz

It is also not a place to visit in bad weather because of exposure on the mesa, though the views are beautiful. Those afraid of heights must also take caution.

In addition to stunning views, visitors can see petroglyphs close up and might come across ancient pottery shards scattered on the ground. Much of the site has not been excavated.

To visit Tsankawi, take State Highway 4 toward Bandelier. Just before the stoplight that heads toward Los Alamos, the parking can be found on the left.
The Tsankawi trail has ladders that must be climbed both up and down© Diane Hatz

Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is much older than Tsankawi. The first evidence of human occupation in the Canyon is dated to 900 B.C.

Small house sites were constructed by 700 A.D., and from 850 to 1250 A.D. the area was a major Puebloan urban center. It housed some of the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century. Some researchers believe that 12 of the 14 complexes on the site are aligned astronomically.

Chaco Canyon is located in a remote area between Albuquerque and Farmington so can be challenging to get to, but the historical significance of the area makes the trip well worth the drive.

Petroglyph National Monument

For those who would like a trip closer to Albuquerque, the Petroglyph National Monument covers 17 miles on the west side of the city and showcases one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America dating from 400 - 700 years ago.

The Monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources, including an estimated 24,000 images carved by Ancestral Pueblo people and early Spanish settlers as well as five dormant fissure volcanoes.

Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather to visit a Native American site and celebrate the rich culture and history of the 23 tribes who were the first inhabitants of the state.

You can find more information about Native American history and culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

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Using my 20+ years experience to share info on health, wellness and food, as well as art & culture, in Santa Fe and the New Mexico area.

Santa Fe, NM

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