When European settlers - and later American settlers - came into contact with Native American tribes on the continent, they were frequently unable to differentiate between the subcultures within individual tribes. This led to all kinds of misunderstandings. When the Spanish came into contact with different tribes in the Southwest, they categorized several of them as Pueblo. Thus, while most Americans have heard of the Pueblo and Navajo, many remain unfamiliar with distinctions within the tribes.
The Pueblo fascinated those who came across their settlements, especially those located in desert regions and the sides of cliffs. One such settlement, Oraibi, was created around AD 1100. It remains one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America. The Spanish were so intrigued by the structure of the communities that they gave the natives the name Pueblo, a term they used to measure certain sizes for their own settlements.
Today's Puebloan tribes are descended from tribes known as the "ancestral Puebloan people", one of which was the Anasazi. The name Anasazi came from their enemies; it is a Navajo word that means "enemy ancestor". While that name understandably continues to offend the descendants of the Anasazi, it also underscores that there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the history of the Anasazi. It is still unclear what the Anasazi called themselves, and though they resided near the "Four Corners" area of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico for more than 700 years, they mysteriously abandoned their settlements shortly after they truly began to flourish around AD 1050-1150.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors