The Influence of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church has had an important influence on the lives of the Pueblo Indians, because of the missions which were established along the Rio Grande. Early in the seventeenth century, Franciscan missionaries were sent to all the villages in an attempt to convert the inhabitants to the Christian faith. A very few accepted it to the exclusion of their own beliefs. With the characteristic openmindedness of their race they have assumed the outward manifestation of a belief in God, but only as He is related to their pantheon of deific powers. An attempt was made to prohibit their native ceremonies as inimical to Christian beliefs. The Church objected to the worship of their supernaturals, and as a result kachina rituals were performed in secret, excluding all who were not initiated into the Indians' beliefs and customs. Even today, when these rites are being celebrated, all unbelievers are requested to leave the village, and the streets are patrolled to guard against the intrusion of any outsiders.
The practice of exclusion has made it well-nigh impossible for any knowledge of the secret ceremonies to be obtained. Among the Hopi, where Spanish occupation was brief, there is no exclusion from rites which are public to the natives. Certain kiva ceremonies, however, are always secret and are known only to the initiated. At Zuñi, where Spanish occupation ended less than a century ago, Americans are admitted to all ceremonies, but Mexicans are excluded. It is from Hopi and Zuñi that the most information can be obtained concerning the sacred supernaturals who are featured in their masked dances.
When the priests of the Rio Grande missions saw that their attempts to check the native ceremonialism were vain, they encouraged certain acts of ritual, other than those pertaining to the kachinas, as an added feature of their church days. Thus today we find many of the dances appearing hand in hand with the Catholic service. To each village a pa-
tron saint was allotted. On the church day set aside for the veneration of this saint there has been instituted a particular celebration combining both the Catholic and the native ceremonies; for instance, the celebration of St. Stephen's Day at Acoma.
Early on the morning of September 2, St. Stephen's Day, the visiting priest may be seen climbing the rugged mesa trail. He performs Mass in the old adobe mission, built in 1699 by the hard labor of the natives subjugated under the tyrannical power of the resident priest. The devout come to the church and pray. Marriages are performed and babies are baptized. Then, with lighted candles, the statue of their saint carried bravely beneath a garish canopy, they march in solemn procession around the terraced house blocks of their pueblo to the beat of an Indian drum and the wail of a pagan chant. At length, when the sacred image is couched in a temporary bower of tall cornstalks and evergreens, the typical Indian dance is performed in its honor. Turning before the holy figure, they beat and pound the earth with their feet, singing to other gods their songs of prayer and thanksgiving.
Several religious playlets have been devised from sixteenth-century ecclesiastical drama, but these are costumed in accordance with modern Indian ingenuity and provide nothing of interest in the way of native ceremonial dress.
Indian life is at present taking on new proportions; the American schools are effecting a change in standards, and native ceremonial forms will probably not continue throughout another generation. Not many years hence we shall see the trappings of that religious and artistic climax of the Pueblo Indian's life consigned to stuffy museums and to long, dryly informative reports by eminent ethnologists.