A. WHO ARE THEY
San Ildefonso: Maria’s Home
The pueblo of San Ildefonso is located between Santa Fe and the town of Los Alamos. It is situated along the Rio Grande River with the Jemez Mountains to the west and Black Mesa to the northeast. The village has been continuously inhabited since about 1300. The inhabitants are Tewa-speaking Indians who are culturally, historically and linguistically connected to the other twelve pueblos located in the northern Rio Grande region of New Mexico. The village was originally named Powhoge, which translates from Tewa as “where the water cuts through” in reference to the path of the Rio Grande.
The name San Ildefonso was given to the village by the Spanish missionaries who arrived there in 1617. Saint Ildefonsus was a 7th century Bishop of Toledo in Spain.
At the time of Maria’s birth, San Ildefonso was primarily an agricultural community where corn and sheep were the primary commodities.
B. HISTORY OF POTTERY MAKING THERE
Pottery Making at San Ildefonso Before 1900
Like all of the Rio Grande pueblos, the Indians at San Ildefonso had produced pottery for both ceremonial and utilitarian use for centuries. By the late 19th century, however, with the advent of trading posts and the arrival of the railroad, much utilitarian ware was no longer being made. Glass jars and commercially produced crocks replaced older coiled pottery.
When the Smithsonian Museum sent an expedition in 1880 to the Southwest to study the arts of the various pueblos, it noted that the Indians at San Ildefonso “have almost abandoned the manufacture of pottery.”
Surviving pottery from this period was made primarily for sale to the traders who shipped it back east as “curios.” This ware is usually polychrome (multiple colors) and in the shape of ollas (traditional Spanish water jars).
Unknown potter working at San Ildefonso Pueblo
Gift of George Frelinghuysen
Olla or Water Jar
Unknown maker working at one of the northern Rio Grande pueblos
Gift of Paul Peralta-Ramos
This jar or olla is an example of the most common of the pottery wares produced at most of the northern New Mexico pueblos during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were generally used to carry water.