Isletai Pueblos

Published on December 28, 2012 by Amy

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The Seal of Isleta Pueblo
The Seal of Isleta Pueblo

Isleta Pueblo is an unincorporated Tanoan pueblo in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, United States, originally established around the 14th century.

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Isleta Pueblo is located in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, 13 miles (21 km) south of Albuquerque. It is adjacent to and east of the main section of Laguna Pueblo. The pueblo was built on a knife-shaped reef of lava running across an ancient Rio Grande channel.


Language and group
The population of Isleta Pueblo consists of mostly the Southern Tiwa ethnic group (Spanish: Tigua). They speak Isletan Tiwa, one of the two varieties or dialects of the Southern Tiwa language, of the Tanoan linguistic family. The second variety-dialect of Southern Tiwa is spoken at Sandia Pueblo.

Culturally, Pueblo groups have been usually divided into two cultural group classifications: a Western Pueblo group, and an Eastern Pueblo group. Another view groups the pueblos in three cultural groups: the Western, Eastern, and Keresan (or Central) Pueblo groups. Isleta Pueblo, in either system, is an Eastern Pueblo group. The adjacent Laguna Pueblo is a Central—Keresan Pueblo group.

Social organization
Isleta (as well as the Sandia) have matrilineal non-exogamous corn groups which are connected with directions and colors, a moiety system (one moiety connected with the winter, the other with the summer), a kiva system.

Kachina cults are also found in Isleta, but this being more characteristic of Western Pueblos may have been introduced by Laguna people in more recent times. The people have their own dialect of language called Isletan.

In an article published in The Santa Fé Magazine on June, 1913, Rev. Anton Docher describes the early 20th century life in the Pueblo, and notably the administration of the Pueblo fully recognized by the United States Government:

“A Cacique appointed for life, has the supreme power over his subjects”. A governor is elected yearly by the people with two assistants, and occasionally a grand council meets. The governor is the judge in civil cases only (crimes are turned over to the district courts). A war captain and other officials have charge of the various celebrations and dances, such as the “dance of the kings” in January, the “tortoise dance” in February…”


17th century
The name Isleta is Spanish for “little island”. The native name of the pueblo is “Shiewhibak” (Shee-eh-whíb-bak) meaning “a knife laid on the ground to play whib” (a native footrace). The Spanish Mission of San Agustín de la Isleta was built in the pueblo around 1629 or 1630 by the Spanish Franciscan friar Juan de Salas.

During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, many of the pueblo people fled to Hopi settlements in Arizona, while others followed the Spanish retreat south to El Paso del Norte (present-day El Paso, Texas. After the rebellion, the Isleta people returned to the Pueblo, many with Hopi spouses. Later in the 1800s, friction with members of Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo, who had joined the Isleta community, led to the establishment of the satellite settlement of Oraibi. Today, as well as the main pueblo, Isleta includes the small communities of Oraibi and Chicale.

18th century
On October 21, 1887,the Father Anton Docher went in New Mexico where he was ordered as a priest in the Cathedral of Santa Fé. After three years in Santa Fé and one year spent in Taos, he arrived in Isleta December 28, 1891.There, he met his long term friends Adolph Bandelier and Charles Fletcher Lummis. At this time Pablo Abeita (no relation to Diego or Louise Abeita) was governor of Isleta. Father Anton Docher served for 34 years in the historic St. Agustin Mission Church (one of the oldest in the country, built in 1612), until 1928 when he died. He is buried with the Padre Padilla near the altar of the church in Isleta.

20th century
On October 26, 1919, the King of Belgium Albert I together with the Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria and Prince Léopold,during their official visit to the United States of America, journeyed to Isleta, the King decorated Pablo Abeita and father Anton Docher the Order of Léopold. which offers him a turquoise cross mounted in silver made by the Isletans. 10,000 people journeyed to Isleta for the occasion.

Today, the pueblo operates the Isleta Eagle Golf Course and Isleta Lakes Recreational Complex. Isleta Pueblo’s casino is served by the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a commuter line from Belen to Santa Fe, at Isleta Pueblo station.

Cultural references
Isleta is mentioned in Willa Cather’s 1927 novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, Book Three Chapter 1. The houses are described as white inside and outside.

Isleta during the early 1900 is also abundantly described in the biography of Anton Docher: “The Padre of Isleta The Story of Father Anton Docher” by Julia M. Keleher and Elsie Ruth Chant (1940–2009).

Source: wikipedia Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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