July 11, 2012

Ohkay Owingeh


Ohkay Owingeh is an Indian pueblo and census-designated place in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. This pueblo was founded around 1200 AD. These pueblo people are from the Tewa ethnic group of Native Americans.

Official Tribal Name: Ohkay Owingeh

English Pronunciation: Oh-keh Oh-weeng-eh

Address:  P.O. Box 1099, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, NM 87566
Phone: (505) 852-4400
Fax: (505) 852-4820

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Ohkay Owingeh, meaning “place of the strong people.”

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

After taking control of the pueblo in 1598, the Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate renamed the pueblo San Juan de los Caballeros after his patron saint, John the Baptist. He then established the first Spanish capital of New Mexico nearby. In modern times, the community was known as the Pueblo of San Juan until 2005, when the name was restored to the original Pueblo name. 

Alternate names / Alternate Spellings:

Formerly known as the San Juan Indian Reservation. Formerly known as the San Juan Pueblo.

Name in other languages:

Region: Southwest

State(s) Today: New Mexico

Confederacy: Puebloan

Treaties: None of the Pueblo tribes signed any treaties with the United States.

Traditional Territory:

The Ohkay Owingeh pueblo was founded around 1200 AD during the Pueblo III Era. By tradition, the Tewa people moved to their present location from the north, perhaps from the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, part of a great migration spanning into the Pueblo IV Era.

Reservation: Ohkay Owingeh

Land Area:  
Tribal Headquarters:  
Time Zone:  

Population at Contact:

Registered Population Today: About 6,748 as of

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body:  
Number of Council members:  
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  


Language Classification:

Language Dialects: It is one of the largest Tewa-speaking pueblos.

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies: Apaches

Ceremonies / Dances:

There are different dance ceremonies for each month of the year. The Basket Dance or Cloud Dance is held in January to honor newly elected ward chiefs. The ward chiefs choose which one they prefer.

In February, it is the Men’s Choice of dance, which is usually the Deer Dance. The Deer Dance  is conducted by the Winter People, and is performed to assure prosperity for the coming year.

March to Mother’s Day in May is Women’s Choice, which can be the Butterfly Dance, Buffalo Dance, Spring Social, Yellow Corn, or the Bow and Arrow dance.

In June, the Green Corn Dance is performed on June 13. On June 23, they dance both the Summer and Winter Buffalo Dances. Pueblo Feast Day dates do not change and are held on the same date each year. They are held in honor of the Pueblos’ patron saint, which is St. John the Baptist at Ohkay Owingeh .Their annual Pueblo Feast Day is always on June 24. It is tradition to dance the Comanche Dance on the feast day, as well as continue the Summer and Winter Buffalo Dances. The Pueblos open up their respective Feast Days to the public.

The Harvest Dance is next, which is only danced once every seven years.

In December, they dance the Turtle Dance and the Matachina Dance.

The Eagle Dance

The Snake Dance

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

The annual Pueblo Feast Day held on June 24 each year is open to the public. Photography and sketching is generally discouraged in all the Pueblos.

Before drawing the area and its people, or taking pictures, you should inquire if it is allowed, and if so, what the rules are. Some pueblos charge a fee for picture taking, depending on what you plan to do with your pictures. Your camera may be confiscated and you may be fined or asked to leave if you take pictures without following their procedures. They take this VERY seriously.

The Pueblo and surrounding houses are private homes and should be treated as such. Do not enter any buildings unless invited, or clearly marked as open to the public.

Legends / Oral Stories

Art & Crafts:

The Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo is known for their fine redware pottery, weaving and painting.



Housing: They had stationary adobe houses called pueblos, some of which are still occupied today. Pueblos are multi-story houses with many rooms shared by multiple families, similar to modern day apartment buildings. Pueblos were entered via ladders through a hole in the roof.

Subsistance: The Tewa people were farmers. Their primary crops were maize (corn), beans, chiles, and pumpkins.

Economy Today: The tribe owns the OhKay Casino and the Oke-Oweenge Crafts Cooperative, which showcases redware pottery, weaving, painting, and other artwork from the eight northern pueblos. They also still practice small scale farming.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Kachinas are the primary religious symbols and represent various Gods or Spirits. There are hundreds of different katsinas (the Pueblo spelling), with each having its own meaning and powers. Kachinas are popularly collected as art, but the kachinas made for the arts and crafts trade are different from the traditional katsina forms.

They divide the physical world into three parts: the village and surrounding land, which is the realm of the women, the second circle is comprised of the hills and mesa surrounding the first circle and is the realm of both men and women. The third circle emcompasses all beyond the second and is the world of hunting and protection from a hostile outside world, and this is the exclusive realm of the men.

All ceremonies and dances are centered on this division of influences and relate to various aspects of daily and seasonal life.

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs:



Famous Pueblo Chiefs and Leaders:

Popé (Po-pay) – The Tewa leader of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680

Rose Gonzales – Potter 


Evelina Zuni LuceroNight Sky, Morning Star is the fiction winner of the 1999 First Book Awards competition of the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

Drum Groups:

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Drums

Other Famous Contemporary People:

Esther Martinez – Linguist and storyteller

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

New Mexico’s pueblos have a history with the federal government unlike any other American Indian tribe

In the News:

Further Reading:


US Tribes N to P
About nativelady

Leave a Reply