This land of towering mountains and broad mesas has been inhabited by man for approximately 8,000 years. During prehistoric times, nomadic hunter-gatherers roamed the valley. The ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians, the nomads, eventually adopted a sedentary lifestyle, becoming the first farmers of the region.
Taos Pueblo, thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited structure – from 800-1,000 years – evolved into a trading center by the 13th century. The “trade fairs” of that time drew members of the Apache, Navajo, Kiowa and Comanche tribes, and caravans from Chihuahua, Mexico.
Taos Valley changed dramatically with the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. When their search for gold yielded only the glint of straw in adobe structures, the New World conquerors began to colonize the valley. Attempts to dominate the Indians and convert them to Christianity, and the inevitable intermarriage, resulted in rebellion. In the Revolt of 1680, Pueblo Indians rose against their Spanish masters and drove them out of the Rio Grande Valley. The Spanish would not reconquer the region for 12 years. Despite the hostility between Spanish and Indian, they had to join forces against marauding tribes from the north and west in an uneasy interdependence.
Yet another newcomer emerged in the 18th century with the arrival of French and American traders. Taos, no more than a tiny mountain village, was transformed into a bustling trade center as wagon trains, frontier scouts and Mountain Men gathered.
Rapid-fire change continued. Following New Mexico’s entry into the United States as an official territory in 1847 came another Indian revolt. Territorial Governor Charles Bent and 20 others were killed in a bloody massacre.
The once geographically-isolated village became more accessible when the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad reached Santa Fe. The era of American’s love affair with the West had begun. As tales of the region’s beauty spread, tourists, writers and artists from the east discovered Northern New Mexico’s uniqueness. Some settled permanently.
In 1898, two artists with a broken wagon wheel ushered in the period that would lead to Taos’ reputation as a world-famous art colony. That tradition continues, as does the legacy of the primary three cultures of Taos: the Indian, the Spanish and the Anglo.