Water as a Limiting Factor in Indian Economic Development
A preliminary study was undertaken to determine the effects of water supply on the cultural and economic development of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, both past and present. A survey of the historical and anthropological literature concerning the development of Pueblo cultures was conducted with special emphasis on the influence of water supply and other environmental factors. In addition, a general description of the Pueblos’ current economic conditions was derived from several recent studies.
The availability and quantity of water in an area had an important impact on the development of Pueblo culture and the particular agricultural techniques used. Agriculture was originally possible only in areas suited for dry-farming. As agriculture assumed a more important role in the economic pattern of the Pueblos techniques were developed to make more efficient use of the rainfall, to utilize other sources of water, and to adjust to slight environmental shifts. Availability of sufficient agricultural water was an important factor in the process of establishment and abandonment of settlements, a process which ended in the eventual settlement of the majority of Pueblos in New Mexico.
The arrival of the Spanish, Navajo and Apache raiders and later the Anglo-Americans resulted in changes in the Pueblos’ environment that affected their options for adjustment. Their careful balance between culture and environment has broken down. They must deal not only with changes and fluctuations in the physical environment, but also with outside social and political forces. Future Pueblo economic development will depend on their ability to deal with these forces in securing water and other economic resources.
Project No. 3109-125