Jon Ghahate (Jeremy Felipe Acoma/Jemez Pueblos/Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Videographer/Editor)
For many years, terms such as prehistoric, ancient, uncivilized, or primitive have been used to describe the multitude of diverse agrarian Indigenous civilizations of the Western Hemisphere that were encountered after 1492. The 2021 discovery of fossilized human footprints along with those of mammoths, giant sloths, and other extinct Pleistocene-Era animals at New Mexico’s White Sands National Park significantly shifted that outlook.
The find has prompted the scientific community to rethink how long ago humans began to populate the American Southwest—pushing back the previously accepted presence of humans in the region to more than 22,000 years.
Research supports that many of these Indigenous civilizations developed complex social structures, collaborative characteristics, and signs of collective governance. They also utilized science-based constructs to shift from nomadic hunter-gatherer family groups to longstanding permanent agrarian civilizations that consisted of thousands of inhabitants, best represented by the still-standing structures at Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico.
Jon Ghahate, museum cultural educator at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, examines these constructs and how resulting innovations influenced the societal transitions from the Paleo-Indian to Ancestral Puebloan civilizations to today's Pueblo communities in New Mexico.
Ghahate is from the Pueblos of Laguna and Zuni and a member of the Turkey and Badger Clans.
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