The History And Culture Behind The Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe
In Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, the Santa Clara Pueblo is home to the Native American Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe. The Santa Clara Pueblo is famous for producing stunning pieces of Native American pottery, and its potters continue to maintain this tradition today. In this article, we will dive deeper into the history of the Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe, discuss the history of the pottery that they produce, and explain why pottery from the Santa Clara Pueblo is so distinctive.
The History of the Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe
Travel 25 miles north of Santa Fe, and you will find the Santa Clara Pueblo on the west bank of the Rio Grande. The Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe is believed to have been established in the 1200s and previously lived at the Puye Cliff Dwellings until the 1500s. At this time, drought forced the Santa Clara people to move away from the Puye Cliff Dwellings. The tribe settled in their current dwelling in around 1550AD, located approximately 10 miles from the Puye Cliff Dwellings, which remain under the control of the Santa Clara Pueblo. The Puye Cliff Dwellings are a designated National Historic Landmark referred to as the Puye Ruins.
The Santa Clara Pueblo is well-known for its stunning natural scenery and is a setting that attracts many visitors. Tours of the Pueblo and the Puye Cliff Dwellings are available to visitors interested in exploring this Native American reservation set within breath-taking scenery.
The Santa Clara people have successfully preserved many of their traditions while also utilizing aspects of modern life. Historically, the Santa Clara Tribe made use of their large land base, and agriculture was the principal industry. In more recent times, agriculture features less heavily in employment in the pueblo. Tourism now plays a significant role in bringing money and jobs to the Santa Clara Pueblo, while traditional arts and crafts also continue to contribute to the economy.
The History of Santa Clara Pueblo Pottery
Like many Native American tribes, the Santa Clara Pueblo has a strong connection to arts and crafts, which is a tradition ingrained in its culture. Textiles, weaving, and embroidery are important arts and crafts completed by the Santa Clara people. However, the tribe is probably best known for its centuries-long tradition of making pottery.
The roots of the Santa Clara Pueblo pottery date back to the 1880s, which was when local potters began to make pieces to sell to tourists. Before this time, the pottery produced by the Santa Clara people was simply used at home for personal use. Given the popularity of Santa Clara Pueblo Pottering in modern times, it is hard to believe that at one point in time, the tradition of pottery making almost died out. The revival of the traditional northern Rio Grande Pueblo pottery style began in 1919. The revival was led by Maria Martinez, a potter from the San Ildefonso Pueblo. This arts revival reached the Santa Clara Pueblo in the 1930s and continued to develop during the 1940s. Today, contemporary potters continue creating pots in the traditional way, following in the footsteps of their ancestors who went before them.
Many of Santa Clara’s most notable residents and tribal members are potters, sculptors, and ceramic artists, which highlights how important arts and crafts, especially pottery are to the Santa Clara Pueblo and its people.
Santa Clara Pueblo Pottery Traditions
Today, Santa Clara Pueblo pottery is highly collectible and sought after. There are many contemporary potters that work to keep this ancient art form alive and continue to create pottery following the traditional methods.
The traditional techniques used in the creation of Santa Clara Pueblo pottery are what make it unique and give it its distinctive charm. Many potters will travel to the same place to collect their clay by hand and then search for the pumice that they will add to the clay to give it strength. Smooth stones that are passed down through the generations are often still used to smooth and shape the clay to the desired finish. Sgraffito etchings are a traditional choice of decoration for Santa Clara pottery. Sgraffito etchings are finely scratched designs carved into the surface of the pot. Contemporary potter Christine Nieto’s pieces are perfect examples of sgraffito etchings.
Santa Clara pottery is traditionally either red or black, and the same clay is used for both. The firing process determines the end color of the piece. Blackware is created by smothering the fire, causing the clay to oxidize and giving it a distinctive black coloring.
The black-on-black carved pottery is perhaps the most instantly recognizable example of Santa Clara pottery and was developed by mother and daughter Sarafina Gutierrez Tafoya and Margaret Tafoya. Potters, including Vickie Martinez-Tafoya, continue the Santa Clara tradition of producing deep-carved blackware and redware pottery.
The traditional Santa Clara pottery style remains popular and local potters embrace traditional materials and techniques as they reimagine the distinctive appearance of Santa Clara Pueblo pottery and develop new designs. Some contemporary Santa Clara potters, such as Jason Garcia, use traditional techniques to create modern, experimental pieces as this ancient art form continues to evolve.
Santa Clara Pueblo Pottery at C & D Gifts
If you are looking for a wide selection of reasonably priced Native American pottery for sale, you have come to the right place. Here at C & D Gifts Native American Art LLC, we are passionate about Native American pottery and have the greatest respect for this ancient art form. Over the years, we have built relationships with Santa Clara Pueblo potters to enable them to sell their creations and for their beauty to be appreciated throughout the world.
Our product range comprises both antique Native American pottery for sale and contemporary pieces, so there is something for every taste and budget. Our selection of Santa Clara Pueblo pottery includes the finest examples of both traditional and contemporary pottery from the pueblo from the best Santa Clara potters. Check out our range today to discover the best Santa Clara Pueblo pottery.