Tewa / Tano Native Americans

Tewa Indian Photos by Edward S. Curtis
Tribal Summary
Tewa men wore shirts and short trousers of deerskin, moccasins with rawhide soles, knee-length leggings, and loin-cloth. Woven garters with bright designs were worn below the knee. Yucca sandals and remnants of yucca-fiber cloth are found in ruins. The hair of men was, and is, parted in the middle and it hung in two plaits, which sometimes were doubled up and bound with yarn . The dance-costume of men consists of a white cotton kilt, fringed at both ends, moccasins, anklets of skunk-fur, a turtle-shell rattle at the right knee, numerous long loops of beads about the neck, and a gourd rattle in the hand.

Women wore sleeveless, one-piece, knee-length dresses of cotton (later blue-black woo1) fastened above the right shoulder and leaving the left shoulder, both arms, and the lower legs exposed. A broad woven belt was wound twice about the waist. Ordinarily these were their only garments, and they are still seen. In suitable weather the feet usually were bare, but white deerskin moccasins with loose uppers reaching not quite to the knee are still used. The ceremonial garb of women consists of the woolen dress (now worn over a commercial cotton undergarment), belt, and white moccasins to each of which is attached an entire deerskin to be wrapped round and round the lower leg. A fringed and embroidered robe of white cotton gives a finishing touch greatly admired. Woolen blankets (formerly robes of twined strips of rabbit-fur) are thrown about the shoulders by both sexes. The hair of women is cut square at the level of the eyes.
Houses were formerly constructed of fragments of sandstone or of tuff, sometimes slightly shaped, or of adobe in which stones were embedded like raisins in a pudding. (Adobe bricks, now used exclusively, were a Spanish innovation.) The puddle construction is frequently seen in protective walls. Adobe walls raised by means of wattle-work forms in successive tiers were not unknown. The rooms were small, and many had no outside opening except a diminutive ventilating hole. There were no doorways at the street level, access being by a ladder to the roof and by another down through a hatchway. The buildings rose to a height of several stories. The pueblos were agglomerations of cells, often in the form of an approximate rectangle surrounding a court, into which opened a limited number of narrow passages. Ease of defense was a prime consideration in choosing a site, laying out a ground-plan, and erecting the houses. In many localities tiny caves were excavated in tuff cliffs. Separate establishments of the Mexican type are becoming common. The ceremonial chambers known as kivas were nearly subterranean and normally circular. The belief that these estufas, or “hot houses,” as the Spanish called them, were the quarters of the unmarried men is erroneous. They served the purpose of a club-house, as well as a place of ceremonial activity; but they were not used as living quarters, though men did sometimes sleep there after passing a night in religious duties.
The Tewa cultivated corn, beans, and squashes, and corn was literally the staff of life. Two successive crop failures spelled famine. Among edible products of the field were acorns and pinons, chokecherries, berries of cedar, juniper, and sumac, plums, cactus fruit, and seedpods of Yucca baccata. The important food animals were rabbits, hares, and packrats. The rats were roasted without preparation, the charred skin was peeled off and the entire carcass, including intestines and small bones, was devoured. Small rabbits also were sometimes eaten in the same manner. A few of the old people still enjoy this sort of cookery. Rabbits, like deer, were taken in a communal drive in which the hunter, formed a large circle and gradually converged. The larger food animals were antelope, mule deer, whitetail deer, and mountain-sheep. Elk were less plentiful and have not been seen in this region for many years. Buffalo were killed on the plains of eastern New Mexico and western Texas. Badgers, beavers, and skunks, waterfowl and small birds were eaten. Unlike the Zuni, Hopi, Navaho, and Apache, the Tewa are not prevented by mythologic lore from eating fish.

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