On top of the world

On Friday the 22nd, the day before we started toward Kansas, St. Johns took us to see Acoma Sky City and I highly recommend it. Centuries ago, the Native Americans chose the mesa to be their home.

acoma sign

Perched up on a tall bluff, the inhabitants felt safe from intruders. Everything they needed had to be hand carried up a stairway of rocks, sometimes just hand and foot holds.

hand holds

The only water supply was three cisterns and if rainwater or snowmelt wasn’t enough, the women would have to take their pots to a place about 5 miles away. The filled pots were then carried on top of their heads back up the stairway. The cisterns are no longer used for drinking water and household use but apparently the children still like to play there.

cistern

Today, there is still no water, electricity or sewers on the mesa, where I think about 60 families live year round. Construction workers brought up the first porta-potties. They are equipped with solar lighting, so our guide told us that you can get a real surprise when you open the door in the middle of the night and the lights come on!

portajohn

Those are not the only options, however. I would imagine that tourists probably were responsible for the advent of newer models, still solar powered.

modern outhouse

Some things have not changed, though. Women on the mesa still bake their bread in the mud ovens like their mothers used. Pottery, though, is fired in kilns down below in the other modern communities of the people.

bread oven

The earliest houses were constructed of rocks that were broken up by hand. Later, straw and mud were used and the latest were adobe brick. Some of the houses showed the entire progression in different levels or additions. This house is the oldest three story house on the mesa and three stories is as high as they are allowed to build.

oldest three story

The doors on the lowest level are very short but were tall enough for the early inhabitants. Later when the taller Spaniards invaded, they made the people build taller doors, many times on the next level above.

short door

Along with the history of the doors, we found the evolution of windows interesting. The earliest “windows” were sheets of mica which was not transparent but did allow sunlight into the dark dwellings.

mica window

Most of the houses have been upgraded, though. These windows are early wood framed ones but some even went so far as to put in aluminum framed windows.

modern windows

Along the tour, we got to check out the wares of several vendors. Some did beadwork, others pottery. One family was selling banana bread, another cookies and multiple generations were involved. This gentleman just seemed to embody the spirit of the early inhabitants.

Indian man

Religion is very important to the people. The large Catholic mission building is still standing (here in the background) but is used only about once a year. Pictures of the inside were not allowed.

acoma church

The tribal religion was and is practiced in the kiva, accessible only by the white ladder. Only the men of the community are allowed inside, which struck me as strange since it is a matriarchal society! Our guide told us that she couldn’t tell us what went on inside, because she had never been there.

kiva

I love hearing the stories of early Americans. We often think the white pioneers were very brave to face the hardships they did while settling the West, but the Native Americans did it all first and with even less.

Saturday morning we started back toward Kansas and today we FINALLY reached our acre outside Sedgwick. The Kansas wind did its best to scare us off, starting a couple of hours west. Turning back to the north once we reached Wichita was a welcome relief! Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow doesn’t have a schedule. There’s lots that needs to be done, but at a slower pace and whenever we decide to get up.

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