Stratified or Egalitarian? the Sociopolitical Dynamics of Eighteenth-Century Pueblo Communities

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While Southwest archaeologists have spent a great deal of time debating the nature of pre-contact Pueblo Indian sociopolitical organization, much less attention has been paid to postcontact, eighteenth-century, sociopolitical organization. This article employs detailed analysis of colonial period, Spanish language documentation to argue that eighteenth-century Pueblo elites used a corporate based leadership strategy to govern Pueblo communities, There is little evidence to support an argument for more rigid political stratification (or a network based strategy) in these communities in the post-contact period. Nor is there evidence to suggest that a pan-Pueblo alliance, or chieftaincy, formed as a result of Spanish contact—despite efforts by Spaniards to create such an alliance for easier governing and control of Pueblo communities. Finally, this article also finds that caciques (or “traditional” Pueblo elites) and governors (an officer imposed by Spaniards) often worked together to resolve intra-community strife. This finding challenges traditional ethnohistorical analyses of the impact of Spanish imposed offices that argues that the office of governor had no power in Pueblo communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-304
Number of pages22
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


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