Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No Teddy Bears Allowed

Our tour guide at Taos Pueblo was a young woman with raven black hair, a soft voice and regal posture. She pointed to Rio Pueblo, a small stream that flows from the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, through the pueblo, and has served as a life blood for residents for upwards of 1,000 years.

The woman told us that individuals who inhabit these ancient adobe buildings – the focus of countless professional and amateur photographs – still live without electricity and running water as did their ancestors. Other residents of pueblo land, who live beyond the most famous and photographed structures, are not required to do so.

Finally, our tour guide stopped in a spot where we could clearly see the mountain range that formed a serene backdrop for the pueblo buildings that she called home. “No Teddy Bears are allowed at Taos Pueblo,” she said, “because of the land that Theodore Roosevelt stole from us.”

The Roosevelt administration designated the stolen land the Carson National Forest, in 1906. Far from a simple story of land grabbing by the United States, the taking of this mountainous area dealt a major blow to the psyche of Taos Pueblo. According to legend, Blue Lake, which is found within the 48,000 acres returned by President Nixon in 1970, is the spiritual source from which pueblo natives originated.

I thought of the Teddy Bears my daughters had left at home, before our vacation began, and realized I would never look at them the same way again.