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Native Americans in New Mexico



There are 574 Federally recognized tribes throughout the United States. New Mexico has 23 reservation-based Nations, Tribes and Pueblos that are considered indigenous to the state.

New Mexico has representation from nearly every federally recognized tribe, many residing in urban settings, and each with its own government, lifeways, traditions, and culture.

The Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos are not “One Indian Culture”; each Nation, Tribe, and Pueblo is different with its own unique identities, languages, history, and traditions.

Core values—such as family, language, land, community and governance—are central to all tribes. Cultural awareness is an effective means to overcoming health disparities faced by indigenous groups.

  • In New Mexico:
    • There are an estimated 228,400 Native Americans among 23 reservation-based communities as well as off reservation populations
    • Native Americans are approximately 10.9% of the state of New Mexico’s population


The Navajo Nation is located in Western New Mexico.

There are three Apache Tribes/Nation located in New Mexico

  • Jicarilla Apache Nation – Northern New Mexico
  • Mescalero Apache Tribe – Southern New Mexico
  • Fort Sill Apache Tribe – Southern New Mexico

There are 19 Pueblo communities located throughout the Rio Grande corridor and Western New Mexico.

  • Pueblo of Acoma
  • Pueblo de Cochiti
  • Pueblo of Isleta
  • Pueblo of Jemez
  • Pueblo of Laguna
  • Pueblo of Nambe
  • Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo)
  • Pueblo of Picuris
  • Pueblo of Pojoaque
  • Pueblo of Sandia
  • Pueblo of San Felipe
  • Pueblo of San Ildefonso
  • Pueblo of Santa Ana
  • Pueblo of Santa Clara
  • Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo)
  • Taos Pueblo
  • Tesuque Pueblo
  • Zia Pueblo
  • Zuni Pueblo

There are also off-reservation populations of Native Americans. There is representation from nearly every federally recognized tribe, and they are located in rural areas and urban centers.

Pueblo Communities:

  • Keres: Acoma, Cochiti, Laguna, Santa Ana, San Felipe, Kewa and Zia
  • Tewa: Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara and Tesuque
  • Tiwa: Isleta, Picuris, Sandia and Taos
  • Towa: Jemez
  • Zuni: Zuni
Apache and Navajo Communities:
  • Athabascan - Although languages are similar, they have very distinct dialects

Indian Citizenship Act, 1924





Removal Policies

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Boarding Schools

Indian Reorganization Act, 1934

HR 108 Termination, 1953

Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 1975

Order 13175

New Mexico State-Tribal Collaboration Act, 2009


Ongoing work continues

History and Policy

Dawes Act, 1887

Beginning of IHS, 1955

The Dawes Act allowed the federal government to break up tribal land. To assimilate Native Americans into mainstream U.S. society, Native Americans were pushed into farming and agriculture, which meant dividing tribal lands into individual plots.

Policies of removal which displaced millions of acres of homelands. Includes the Indian Removal Act of 1830, though removal and relocation began in the late 1700s

Since the fifteenth century, when outside groups sought to colonize and control their land, Native Americans were faced with discrimination, the loss of their homes and culture, health disparity, among so much more.

Intended to subject AI/ANs to the same laws, privileges, and responsibilities as other citizens of the U.S. Termination ended some federal tribal recognition, related aid/services, some trust statuses reservations and related protections, and jurisdiction over civil and criminal issues on reservations.

Allowed for greater autonomy of Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos. Assured that Native Americans were involved in the direction of services provided to Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos based on their needs.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) began on July 1, 1955, a year after the transfer of Native American health services from the BIA to the Public Health Service (PHS). Even today, not all Native Americans receive healthcare from IHS.

In addition to the above, Native Americans also did/do not receive free healthcare.

Provides a framework for Tribes, Nation, and Pueblos to work collaboratively with the state in the creation and administration of services to the Native American peoples located in New Mexico.

The Order was replaced in 2000 with Order 13175, which required agencies to implement an "accountable practice" whereby tribal input is received in the development of regulatory policies. This Order remains in place.

The Bureau of Indian Education operated off-reservation boarding schools (founded 1871-1892). Their primary goal was assimilation of Indian children. Students were forbidden to speak their languages and engage in traditional cultural practices.

This act reversed allotment, allowed for the creation of tribal governments (but kept Indigenous people under federal authority) and had other economic provisions. It was applied without support from many Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos.

American Indians become U.S. citizens by federal government.

Though we have come a long way, there is still a lot of work still to do.

Government to Government Relationship


Tribes, Nations and Pueblos are sovereign entities.

NM Senate Bill 196 – State Tribal Collaboration Act, 2009

Public Law 93-638, as amended – Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act

Federally recognized tribes have a unique and direct relationship with the United States.


Moving Forward

Soverign Entities


Limited Relationship

Cherokee v. Georgia, 1831

Government to Government Relationship

Afforded this right via various Supreme Court rulings, treaties, legislation, and executive orders, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indian Tribes are “domestic dependent nations with a government-to-government relationship subject to plenary authority of the U.S.”

The state has no authority over Native American governments.

This means they “…have the authority to maintain identity, values, culture, property, and legal rights against political and legal assault by local, community, state, and even Federal Government.” Essentially, Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos have the right to self-governance and determination.

State and Tribes are working to develop a better relationship.

Allows Tribes to assume the administration and operation of health services and programs.

This act requires a formal consultation process with federally recognized tribes on all issues that have the potential to impact said tribes. It also requires a Tribal Liaison position and official consultation policy within each State agency.

Quiz Time!


How many reservation-based Nations, Tribes and Pueblos are considered indigenous to the state.





The Dawes Act of 1887 displaced millions of acres of homelands from the Native American peoples?



____ is an effective means to overcoming health disparities faced by indigenous groups.

Cultural appropriation

Cultural imperialism

Cultural relativism

Cultural awareness

The state has full authority over Native American governments.



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“Each Tribe is a sovereign nation with its own government, lifeways, traditions, and culture; each tribe has a unique relationship with the federal and state governments. The tribes in New Mexico are actively engaged to preserve their indigenous languages, religion, culture, the environment and for quality education and healthcare for all members, especially their youth and elders. Economic development as a means to achieve these goals is important to Tribal leadership as is homeland security and housing for their communities.” -New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, 2014