Keresan Family of Native American Tribes


Kewa Pueblo Mission Church, courtesy Wikipedia

Kewa Pueblo Mission Church, courtesy Wikipedia

The Keresan Family of Native American Tribes, also called Keres, Queresan, and Queres, is a group of seven related languages spoken by Keres Pueblo peoples in New Mexico. Each is mutually intelligible with its closest neighbors, but there is significant diversity between the Western and Eastern groups. This linguistic family of Pueblo Indians includes the inhabitants of several villages on the Rio Grande, in north-central New Mexico, between the Rito de los Frijoles (at Bandelier National Monument) and the Jemez River, as well as on the latter stream from the pueblo of Zia to its month.

The west division, comprising the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, are situated westward from the Rio Grande, the latter on the San Jose River. Like the other Pueblo tribes of New Mexico, the Keresan Indians maintain that they had their origin at the mythical Shipapu and that they slowly drifted southward to the Rio Grande, taking up their abode in the Rito de los Frijoles, or Tyuonyi, and constructing there, the cliff dwellings found today excavated in the friable volcanic tufa.

Laguna Pueblo, 1879

Laguna Pueblo, 1879

Long before the coming of the Spaniards, they had abandoned the Rito de los Frijoles, and, moving farther southward, separated into a number of autonomous village communities. According to Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who visited the “Quirix” province in 1540, these Indians occupied seven pueblos. Forty years later Antonio de Espejo found five; while in 1630, Fray Alonso Benavides described the people as numbering 4,000, in seven towns. As with TiwaTewa, and Towa, there is some disagreement today among the Keres people as to whether there should be a written language. Some pueblo elders feel that their languages should be preserved by oral traditions alone. However, many Keres speakers have decided that literacy is important for passing the language on to the children and have developed their own orthography (spelling system) for their language. Today, there are programs teaching Pueblo children to read and write in five of the seven Keres-speaking pueblos.


Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico by Detroit Photographic Co., about 1900

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico by Detroit Photographic Co., about 1900

The Keres pueblos include:

Cochiti Pueblo
San Felipe Pueblo
Kewa Pueblo (previously Santo Domingo)
Zia Pueblo
Santa Ana Pueblo
Acoma Pueblo
Laguna Pueblo


Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated March 2019.

Also See:

Ancient & Modern Pueblos – Oldest Cites in the U.S.

Index of Tribes

Native Americans – The First Owners of America

Puebloan Photo Galleries

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