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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: The Old Well

This library guide is an overview of the Archives & Special Collection exhibit on Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian.

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At the Old Well of Acoma

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At the Old Well of Acoma, 1904

Members of Coronado’s army of explorers in 1540 and Espejo in 1583 noted the “cisterns to collect snow and water” on the rock of Acoma. 

Print caption by Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Portfolio XVI, Plate no. 571, 1926.


A Rock Called Acoma

…Captain Alvarado started on this journey and in five days reached a village which was on a rock called Acuco [Acoma] having a population of about 200 men.  These people were robbers, feared by the whole country round about.  The village was very strong, because it was up on a rock out of reach, having steep sides in every direction, and so high that it was a very good musket that could throw a ball as high.  There was only one entrance by a stairway built by hand, which began at the top of the slope which is around the foot of the rock.  There was a broad stairway for about 200 steps, then a stretch of about 100 narrower steps, and at the top they had to go up about three times as high as a man by means of holes in the rock, in which they put the points of their feet, holding on at the same time by their hands.  There was a wall of large and small stones at the top, which they could roll down without showing themselves, so that no army could possibly be strong enough to capture the village.  On the top they had room to sow and store a large amount of corn, and cisterns to collect snow and water…

Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Text XVI, 170, 1926.

Curtis device

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