Pueblo of Laguna History

Published on November 7, 2012 by Amy

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Laguna Pueblo
Laguna Pueblo

The Beginning

Historians have given the date of 1699 as the year of the founding of Laguna Pueblo, however, the oral history of the Pueblo indicates that we have occupied this area for a much longer period of time. Like other Keresan Tribes in New Mexico we believe our ancestors originated in Siapapu, migrated south and eventually settled at the present location.

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In 1539 a Franciscan friar, Marcos de Niza, claimed the Pueblo region for Spain. By 1616, there were nine missions that had been built at various pueblos. When the Spanish arrived in Laguna, they found a self-governing, agricultural society. The Laguna Mission of San Jose was established in 1699 and was the last mission built in this particular period of time. It was built under the supervision of the Franciscan Friars utilizing Laguna labor.

Written history speaks of the brutality inflicted upon the pueblo people that resisted Spanish rule. The Laguna people adapted to colonial rule by adopting and incorporating those aspects of the dominant culture necessary for survival while maintaining the basic fabric of traditional culture.

Given some of the painful memories of the past 400 years, the Laguna language and culture has survived. Reconciliation continues to take place as we celebrate the feast days of various saints with both Native and Christian prayer.

Per Pueblo of Laguna Constitution members of the Pueblo shall have the freedom to worship in accordance with their respective religious beliefs and practices, as long as the religion shall not interfere with the traditional religious practices of the pueblo.


Prior to the 1950s, agricultural practices were the mainstay of Laguna’s economy. The decline in agricultural practices commenced with the discovery of uranium and the subsequent decision to mine it in the early 50s. The mining operation created a revenue stream for the Pueblo as well as job opportunities for many of our tribal members. The decline in the price of uranium ore resulted in the end of mining operations in 1982.

Another opportunity the Pueblo had for employment was the Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road. In 1880 Atlantic & Pacific entered New Mexico and began laying track on Laguna Reservation. Laguna took the arrival of the railroads construction crew as an opportunity to set a precedent. Laguna agreed to allow the railroad to pass through the reservation only if the railroad agreed to employ tribal members.

In light of the health issues we currently are facing, Laguna has declared a moratorium on any future mining. This is in spite of the fact that there currently is a demand for uranium and there are still uranium deposits on the reservation.

Today many tribal members are employed by the tribal government as well as by the corporations and entities that have been established since the closure of the uranium mine. Tribal members are also employed by other governmental agencies within the private sector. Others have established businesses on and off the reservation.

The Future

Today Laguna thrives through a vibrant blend of modern and traditional ways. The Laguna Tribal Council has established five priorities to enhance the quality of life for its membership. They are: Health, Education, Financial Stability, Infrastructure, and Work Force Excellence. Of greater importance, however, is to ensure the survival of our culture, traditions and language. As they have sustained us throughout the centuries, we must ensure they sustain future generations as well.

Source: lagunapueblo-nsn

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