The Pueblo of Sandia is a Native American Community located on the northern boundary of the city of Albuquerque in central New Mexico, covering 22,877 acres on the east side of the Rio Grande River Valley. It is one of 19 pueblos located throughout the state and known as one of the eastern pueblos which are located along the Rio Grande. Sandia is one of four pueblos who speak the Tiwa language. Taos and Picuris are the northern Tiwas, Isleta and Sandia are the southern. Tiwa is one of three branches of the Kiowa/Tanoan language --Tiwa, Tewa and Towa. While many of the pueblo's younger generations no longer speak Tiwa due to marriages with non-pueblo spouses, older residents are trilingual, fluently speaking Tiwa, Spanish and English.
Sandia Pueblo is perhaps the least known and understood of the dozens of pueblo cultures that once dominated the Rio Grande Valley. This is perhaps because Sandians in particular value their privacy, spirituality, culture and traditions having seen so much of it destroyed as a result of European settlement. In order to better understand the Sandia people, it is important to understand their history.
Sandians built their community between the life giving waters of the Rio Grande which also allowed them to farm the area, and the Mountain which provided an abundance of natural resources and their source of spirituality --their church if you will, with its sacred locations. Sandia's location was extremely successful and became the largest, bustling and thriving community in the region centuries before Europeans entered the area. The full native name for Sandia is "Tuf Shur Tia" or "Green Reed Place," which refers to the Bosque and lush green valley fed by the waters of the Rio Grande river which flows through this primarily desert land. The current site has been the Sandians home since at least 1300 AD. It is located in what was known as the Tiguex Province and once included as many as 20 pueblo cultures. When Coronado arrived in 1539, Sandia had a population of 3,000. With the coming of the Spanish and the ensuing hardships and persecution, this number declined to 350 by 1748 and fell further to 74 by 1900. Sandia is now the smallest Tribe in the region with less than 500 people, with some residing in other cities or states due to economic conditions, educational opportunities and non-tribal marriages.
Sandia Pueblo was first "discovered" by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who camped with his Conquistadors along the banks of the Rio Grande in 1539. Sandia became a settlement for Spanish explorers in 1617 when it was established as the seat of the Mission of San Francisco. Because Pueblo people usually located in fertile areas near rivers and tributaries, they were the hardest hit by European colonization. Less than five decades later, Sandia participated in the Pueblo Revolt, a bloody rebellion that exploded simultaneously among the northern pueblos on August 10, 1680. The revolt culminated decades of resentment against religious persecution, demands for tribute payment, being used for slave labor, and conflicts between religious and civil authorities who demanded obedience from the Pueblo Indians. Antonio de Otermin, Spain's governor of what is now New Mexico, ordered the burning of the Pueblo of Sandia several times during the Pueblo Revolt. The Spanish repeatedly attempted to re-conquer the Tiguex Province in 1681, 1688, and 1692. During each attempt, Sandians abandoned their pueblo and eventually fled to Hopi lands in Arizona where they resettled in the village of Payupki.
In November of 1742, 441 Sandia people returned to the valley. However, their requests for resettlement were ignored until Father Menchero petitioned Spain's governor to allow settlement at Sandia; permission for resettlement was granted in 1748. Sandia's boundaries were designated by Lt. General Bernardo de Bustamante to be a minimum of one league, or about three miles, in each direction from the pueblo's church, which now is the area of the cemetery. That edict established the Rio Grande as the western boundary, which measured only 1,440 varas from the church. As one league equaled 5,000 varas, General Bustamante compensated for the western shortage by increasing the distance of the north and south boundaries equally. The east boundary is the "main ridge" of the Sierra Madre, "called Sandia," which clearly refers to the crest of the mountain. The original boundaries contained 24,034 acres. Today, the pueblo's acreage is 22,877 as land has been lost to encroachment. The Pueblo is now repurchasing its land and has 1,700 acres in farming and 1,900 acres for grazing.
On May 24, 1762, Governor Tomas Cachupin ordered that the Pueblo of Sandia be completely rebuilt and that the Indians were not to be worked as laborers for Spanish farmers until the pueblo and church were reconstructed. Sandians were allowed to resettle in their original pueblo to create a "buffer" against raiding tribes, such as Navajo, Apache and Comanche. In 1775, Sandia, acting as that buffer, lost 30 people in an attack from the Comanche. Sandia was constantly raided until a truce was struck near "Poi Pa Huth" or "Friendship Arroyo" in the Placitas area.
If those rights cannot be exercised either because of legal barriers or changes in the physical environment, the cultural base of the Pueblo will be increasingly eroded with each generation until the Pueblo culture no longer exists. Religion is very important to Sandia and is our primary means of retaining our traditional cultural identity.
Although we are proud of our heritage and traditions, and they have remained strong through centuries of Spanish and Anglo influences, we are also committed to our future and play an active role in the wider community around us.
Sandia Pueblo was the seat of a mission known as San Francisco de Sandia in 1630 and in 1760 was the seat of Nuestra Senora de Los Delores and San Antonio de Sandia. Today the mission's seat is in nearby Bernalillo at Our Lady of Sorrows. Sandia is part of the parish known as San Antonio de Padua and celebrates this Catholic Feast Day on June 13th. Another major feast day is Feast of the Three Kings on January 6. There are no rights or duties more precious to the Pueblo people than those regarding religious and ceremonial obligations. This includes the use and maintenance of holy places, particularly those on Sandia Mountain, and other sacred objects.
American influences were not extensive at Sandia until World War II. The war changed life forever, in small and large ways. The people found themselves in new situations, confronting new people, dealing with new problems, and accepting new challenges. Like other Americans, the people of the Pueblo responded in defense of their country during World War II. Sandia sent eight of its young men to fight in foreign countries. All of the men who fought in World War II will carry this terrible and tragic time with them for the rest of their lives. When the Second World War erupted, American Indians rallied in impressive numbers to defend their homeland even though their own rights were denied: as Native Americans, none of these young men, who were US citizens, were eligible to vote until much later in 1948. The Indian soldier did not imitate the white soldier. Instead he became stronger in his silence on the battlefield. The Indian became known as a good man to stay near: he was cool in combat and he was a warrior at heart. The Indian women also felt the need to help. To be a part of the war effort, many young women left their homes and families and worked in ship yards, welding, riveting, etc.
Sandia Pueblo now owns and operates Sandia Resort & Casino, Bien Mur Indian Market Center, and Sandia Lakes Recreation Area. It also leases areas for sand and gravel mining operations and other businesses to more fully utilize land within the pueblo's historical boundaries. The Pueblo has a traditional form of government, with a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Warchief and Lieutenant Warchief who are appointed through a traditional process to serve one-year terms. The governing body of the Pueblo is the Tribal Council, made up of former Governors and Warchiefs of the Pueblo, and other appointees. Sandia Pueblo has its own maintenance, police, education, economic development, environment, health and social services departments. Today, Sandia is an acculturated society that includes both modern and traditional traits. Our people have successfully integrated modern ways while still retaining our pueblo's organization, values and identity.
Electricity came into the Pueblo in 1952. Natural gas, indoor plumbing, electronic appliances and automobiles came into use at most homes. A 530 foot well was built to supply water for the community and later another was installed to be used as a backup. Water for irrigation of crops is stored at El Vado Lake and ultimately flows into the Rio Grande River where it is fed into irrigation ditches or "acequias" for use by farmers.