Joe S. Sando,
Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History
(Clear Light, 1992)

Joe S. Sando has produced a behemoth of a book that has to be regarded as the reference work on the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History begins with a current look at the Pueblos, then goes all the way back to 10,000 B.C. and follows the stages of their migration and cultural development.

While primarily focusing on their history, the author had to include their culture to demonstrate how the various historical incidents have affected them. By the time you reach the last page, you have a strong understanding of the current culture, how it came to be, and the problems that they are now encountering -- new to them, but a common theme among American Indian nations.

When I lived in Albuquerque, I bought my cigarettes at Isleta. Each monthly trip was an opportunity to spend a while, sometimes much of the day, talking with the natives and learning their history and culture. I tried to observe as many of their ceremonies as were open to the public. After two years, I thought I knew the basics, but this book convinced me I had barely scratched the surface. You could spend decades with these people and never acquire the type of knowledge that comes from a member of their nation, such as Sando. Only an insider could have produced this brilliant record of a people.

Sando writes with complete confidence in his subject matter and the authority of an indigenous leader and elder speaking of, and for, his people. Yet, his writing style is of the informal kind -- a patient teacher to an uninformed student, reducing everything to terms that are easy to grasp. His narratives are descriptive, energetic and fast-paced. They captivate your attention. If he had been my history teacher in school, I would have learned to love history at much younger age.

While there are numerous books about the Pueblo people on the market, this one is unique and does offer things that have never been published. For example, you should read the statement issued by the "Council of All the New Mexico Pueblos" (a.k.a. All Indian Pueblo Council) on May 5, 1924, in response to the attacks on their religion. They made their position extremely clear and supported it with plenty of proof.

This book is loaded with photographs, maps, illustrations, charts and supporting lists and documentation. The appendices put a wealth of information into capsulated form, such as a historical outline. The author has included the complete Constitution of the All Indian Pueblo Council.

Regis Pecos, director of the Office of Indian Affairs, New Mexico, penned a brilliant foreword for this volume. He touches on the effects of past legislation and shows the need for indigenous students to study the works written by their own people as a way of reaffirming their identity and values. Pecos is one of the new leaders included in Pueblo Profiles by Sando.

Sando, a member of the Sun Clan at Jemez Pueblo and co-author of Po'pay: Leader of the First American Revolution, has a resume that is far too long to recite here. He is or was, among other things, director of the Institute of Pueblo Study & Research at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, first chairman of the All Pueblo Housing Authority, first chairman of the State Judicial Council, commissioner of the Higher Education Task Force and instructor of Pueblo Indian History at the University of New Mexico.

If you only want one book on the Pueblo peoples, get Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History. This is a must-own for any serious Native American collection. It is even good as a pleasure read, especially if you like historical works.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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