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sketch of modern Indian dance
A modern Indian dance, with masked figures, as seen by a Pueblo artist.
(Photo of a sketch by Pablita Velarde.)

Life of the Early People at Bandelier

RELIGION. It has been said that "Man cannot live by bread alone." Nowhere is the truth of this better illustrated than in the history of the Pueblo Indian who, in spite of appalling difficulties to achieve the physical sustenance of life, found much time to develop a spiritual life. The principal evidences of a widespread ancient religion are, of course, the remains of kivas, found in all the old communities. Although details of the use of prehistoric kivas cannot be established, some ideas of their use can be inferred from the part that kivas play in the modern Pueblo religion. The kiva rituals practiced today are traditional in the highest degree, and in all likelihood have descended in their basic form from centuries-old origins.

Hence it is perhaps valid to assume that the following conditions prevailed here at Bandelier 600 years ago: The principal social and religious organization was a society or clan; each such organization had its own kiva; and in their kiva the men of the group conducted ceremonies to honor and propitiate many deities, which were personified in birds and beasts, the elements, and natural forces.

Certain parts of these ceremonies were very likely performed outside the kiva, so that others of the village might also participate—and thus originated the spectacular public dance dramas which visitors nowadays so greatly enjoy at the modern pueblos. Indian dances, as the 20th-century Southwest knows them, are usually short-term public displays of long-term private rituals entailing days of prayer and chanting in the privacy of the kiva. The best known of these Pueblo ceremonies is chiefly a prayer for rain—The Hopi Snake Dance. Others may be prayers for success in the hunt, for productivity of crops, or for healing the sick.

The complexity of the Pueblo religion is increased by the fact that it is indivisibly allied to social and family organization. In the Pueblo scheme of worship, there is not, and seemingly never was, any elite group of "medicine men" or chief practitioners of religion; each person has a part in religious observances, his respective role growing more important as he advances in seniority within a ceremonial organization. With responsibility for the conduct of worship thus placed on all the people, religion is an extremely pervasive force and enters into much of the daily life of each individual.

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