In 1539 a Franciscan friar, Marcos de Niza, claimed the Pueblo region for Spain. By 1616, there were nine missions that had been built at various pueblos. When the Spanish arrived in Laguna, they found a self-governing, agricultural society. The Laguna Mission of San Jose was established in 1699 and was the last mission built in this particular period of time. It was built under the supervision of the Franciscan Friars utilizing Laguna labor.
Written history speaks of the brutality inflicted upon the pueblo people that resisted Spanish rule. The Laguna people adapted to colonial rule by adopting and incorporating those aspects of the dominant culture necessary for survival while maintaining the basic fabric of traditional culture.
The Pueblo continued to thrive moving from Spanish rule to Mexican rule to American rule in the 1800’s, although the changes brought many new challenges. The increase of contact and interaction with multiple governments and people brought a progressive direction that came in conflict with traditional values and beliefs. Nonetheless, the people were able to come together and find ways to work through the conflict.
In 1880 Atlantic & Pacific entered New Mexico and began laying track on Laguna Reservation. Laguna took the arrival of the railroads construction crew as an opportunity to set a precedent. Laguna agreed to allow the railroad to pass through the reservation only if the railroad agreed to employ tribal members. This employment led many Laguna people off the reservation but in places as far away as Amarillo, Texas and Barstow, California, Laguna people created small communities, called Colonies, where Lagunas continued to hold to their cultural heritage.
Prior to the 1950s, agricultural practices were the mainstay of Laguna’s economy. The decline in agricultural practices commenced with the discovery of uranium and the subsequent decision to mine it in the early 50s. The mining operation created a revenue stream for the Pueblo as well as job opportunities for many of our tribal members. The decline in the price of uranium ore resulted in the end of mining operations in 1982.
The Pueblo faced a few hard years after the close of the mine, but with strong leadership and community support created new economic opportunities to help ensure the future of the tribe, including: Laguna Industries, Laguna Construction Company, and the Laguna Development Corporation. Additionally, In order to ensure that the education needs of the Pueblo were being met, the tribe created the Laguna Department of Education, a Pre-K through 8 system that focuses on life-long learning, culture, and college readiness.
The Pueblo has a rich history of overcoming obstacles and conflicts to continue to move forward into the 21st Century. We hope you will help our culture and people continue their journey forward as one by donating to the Foundation today. Any giving, large or small, has a great impact on helping the Pueblo provide additional support for all its people.
(with thanks to the Pueblo of Laguna Official Website for parts of this history.)