Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Pecos Pathways

Pecos Pathways Background

Pecos Pueblo was one of the most powerful Pueblos in the Southwest, with over 2,000 inhabitants, when Europeans arrived in the New World. Over time however, due to warfare, Comanche raids, European disease, starvation, and general diffusion of the people of Pecos, the number of people living at the Pueblo dwindled until the early 19th century. In 1838 there were less than thirty people still living at Pecos Pueblo when they made the difficult decision to leave their home and join other Pueblo communities. The majority of the Pecos people choose to migrate to Jemez Pueblo, the only other Puebloan group who spoke their Towa language.

After the abandonment of Pecos Pueblo in 1838 there was little interest in the Pecos ruins from outside of the region. That changed in 1915 when Dr. Alfred V. Kidder excavated at the ruins of Pecos Pueblo for the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology (RSPM). Kidder uncovered thousands of artifacts and over two thousand human remains. Throughout the numerous excavation seasons (1915-1929) artifacts unearthed were sent to the RSPM and the human remains were transported to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (PMAE) at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

In 1990 the Civil Rights legislation called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed by Congress. NAGPRA legislation requires museums and other federally funded institutions to return human remains, associated and unassociated funerary objects and items of cultural patrimony to tribes that can be culturally affiliated to those items. Recognition of cultural affiliation is achieved through consultation and discussion between tribes and museums; a process that can last from months to years.

The RSPM, PMAE, Pecos National Historical Park (PNHP) and Jemez Pueblo began the consultation process in 1991. Talks regarding the remains and objects excavated during Kidder's tenure at Pecos were ongoing for nearly a decade. The culmination of this collaboration was in May of 1999 when the remains of the people of Pecos were reinterred and control over the artifacts was returned to the people of Jemez Pueblo. The Pecos repatriation is, to date, the largest single repatriation to take place since the implementation of NAGPRA.

After working together in a collaborative manner for so long, everyone agreed that they wanted to continue the partnership that had formed over the years. After discussions on how to preserve the partnership, it was decided that the best way to extend the relationship was through the youth of each of the communities. A mutual dedication to educate young people gave rise to the Pecos Pathways program.

Pecos Pathways Program Overview

Each summer since 1998 the RSPM has collaborated with the Pueblo of Jemez, NM and Pecos National Historical Park (PNHP) to offer the Pecos Pathways Program to 10 students from Phillips Academy, Pueblo of Jemez students and the town of Pecos. For three weeks each June, students travel together to learn about ancestral and contemporary native communities, and archaeology in an engaging and hands on manner.

The first week of the program is hosted by the Jemez community where students stay with host families. Each day, tribal elders and community members work with the students to teach them not only about Jemez culture and traditions but also the history of the Pueblo. Group excursions to ancestral sites, discussions about history, and storytelling are integral to this part of the trip.

When the group travels to PNHP, during the second week, they are introduced to the specifics that link the Jemez, Pecos and Andover communities. While at Pecos, students learn about the continuity of some Pecos traditions at Jemez from tribal elders. Students then receive a tour of the Peabody collection which is housed on loan at PNHP. The collection is on loan from the RSPM so that the artifacts are available to Jemez community members and PNHP staff and researchers. Activities at the park are wide ranging from a tour of the Pueblo and other ruins located in the area to a nature walk, to working with Park Rangers and assisting them with preservation work on the ruins of the Spanish Mission, built in 1717.

When the program shifts to the week in New England, there is noticeable change in the focus of the trip. Since the program is no longer in the Southwest, the focus shifts to teaching students about tribes from New England and archaeology, specifically collaborative archaeology between tribes and archaeologists. The highlight of this portion is when students spend two days working with Kevin McBride, Director of Research at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Southern Connecticut. After a personal tour of the museum, students work alongside McBride and his field crew excavating at an archaeological site on the Mashantucket reservation.

Student Quotes:

"From tasting red and green chilies to climbing up waterfalls, Pecos Pathways was all about new experiences and great conversations." - Phillips Student               

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was educational in one part but really fun in another." - Pecos Student

"Being in such a diverse group from such different places and backgrounds was fabulous, especially seeing how well we all got along and even became good friends." - Phillips Student

"The first week was the best because we learned alot about my culture." - Jemez Student

Click Here to watch a video about Pecos Pathways

Click Here for a student perspective of Pecos Pathways

There is no cost for students to participate on this trip. For information about the program, please contact Program Coordinator, Lindsay Randall