Teachers' Guide—Era of the Ancestral Pueblo

The first Native Americans arrived on the Pajarito Plateau between A.D. 1175 and 1250 and built homes of volcanic tuff where small groups of three or four families might live together. Remains of their dwellings can be found all over the plateau.
Around 1300, a second migration of natives from the Four Corners area moved onto the Pajarito Plateau. Within 50 years of their arrival, they began to drift away. Drought and raids by Navajos, Utes, Apaches, and Commanches were the cause. The movement, however, was gradual. By 1550, Native American settlers had abandoned the Pajarito Plateau for pueblos along the Rio Grande. The remains of a small settlement, often excavated by boys from the Los Alamos Ranch School, sits near the Los Alamos Historical Museum.
  • Project the Los Alamos Historical Society website (this site) information for classroom reading and discussion or have students access the material individually.
  • Visit the Los Alamos Historical Museum and follow the progress of the Ancestral Pueblo People in the display. Follow the historic walking tour to the remains of an ancestral dwelling behind the history museum. The early Native Americans lived right where you live! Often pottery shards and arrowheads are found when hiking the canyons. (Archaeologists always remind us to look things over, and replace them where you found them. Artifacts are the clues to piecing bits of history together. For your own arrowhead, you can purchase a modern recreation at Otowi Station in downtown Los Alamos.)
  • Research the current locations of the pueblos in New Mexico. Map their locations.
  • Study Chaco Canyon and discuss why the Ancestral Pueblo People relocated. Write a day in the life of a Pueblo Indian from the perspective of a Native American living in Chaco Canyon. Decide why you must move and describe the reasons to leave your home. Write a poem about leaving your home.
  • Take a field trip to Bandelier National Monument and climb through the original caves and cliff houses where permissible. Look for water sources. Imagine climbing up and down the cliffs to plant crops and get water.
  • Use the Bandelier website to access the artifact collection (“museum collection”). Observe the changes in pottery over time and place.
  • Study petroglyphs and pictographs. Create your own with charcoal on brown paper. Design your own figures and describe what they stand for.
  • Design and create your own pot by painting and stenciling on brown or tan construction paper. Cut out and mount on black paper. Or cut up into a shard puzzle.
  • Use the suitcase kits from the museum.
  • Use the Southwest kit from the Los Alamos Public School system.
  • Illustrate life at Bandelier as it might have been when occupied.
  • Write an essay, “If you were living at Bandelier, what would YOU have carved into the walls?"
Books to Read:
  • Read When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor or Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr. to the students.
  • Ninth graders read Racing the Sun by Paul Pitts.

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