Subscribe to far-flung places
Sign up here
and receive email alerts when this blog is updated.

 Add to your RSS reader

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A glimpse of pueblo culture on Three King's Day

Many of the 19 Native American pueblos in the state of New Mexico welcome visitors (with some restrictions) to witness everyday pueblo life and even special ceremonies. Three King's Day, which falls each year on January 6, is also know as the Feast of the Epiphany, the traditional Catholic celebration of the three wise men's visit to the baby Jesus. The pueblos use the holiday to inaugurate newly elected officials.

I was fortunate enough to witness the Buffalo Dance at Taos Pueblo, which is part of their Three King's Day celebration. The only pueblo listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Taos has a well-preserved multi-story village, which looks much the same as it has for hundreds of years. With the sound of beating drums and chanting, watching a traditional ceremony, like the Buffalo Dance, transports spectators back through the centuries.

A processional of drummers, dancers and chiefs made their way through the village, stopping to perform in front of residents' homes. As dancers approaches, the pueblo's women would call out in a very high-pitched trill. It was an awesome sound when heard in unison from different spots around me.

Cameras are not permitted at the event, so I had to pay close attention to the details. Most of the male dancers wore entire Buffalo heads (cured and used throughout the participant's lifetime). They wore a variety of kilts adorned with a red sash that depicted a mountain and sun. Their bodies were covered in a sacred red clay, as well as white blotches (as if someone shot them with paintballs). Among the approximately 50 dancers, there were three men dressed in deer pelts with canes in each hand to represent the legs of the animal. While the buffalo dancers spun around them, the deer dancers stood almost motionless except for a slight bobbing of the head to the beat of the drum.

I only wish I could describe the significance of the event, but it's considered sacred and only the Taos puebloans know the true meaning of the celebration. While I'd like to know more, I am happy to have been able to seen it.

No comments: