Indian Groups in New Mexico

A variety of Indian groups lives in New Mexico when the Conquistadores moved in. Broadly speaking the Indians included those living in the Pueblo Area and those living in the surrounding Great Plains.

Indian Population in Pueblo Area

Data from Knaut (1995).

Year Inhabited pueblos Pueblo Population Christian Indians
1539 110-150
1581 61 130,000
1598 60,000
1602 60-70
1607 600
1638 Less than 40,000
1670s 46 17,000
1706 18 (excluding the Hopi) 6,440 (excluding the Hopi)

Plains Indians

The Great Plains surrounded the Pueblo area and residing in the plains were the Athapaskan Indians comprising the Navajos, Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, and Chiricahua Apache (Knaut, 1995). These people usually interacted peacefully with the Pueblos, but occasionally, and increasingly through the seventeenth century, violence occurred. Nomadic aggression took two forms:

  1. Raid Party comprising from 3 Navajos, or slightly more Apache, up to 10 at maximum. Their aim was to steal and escape without being seen. The arrival of horses with the Spanish made these operations easier and more lucrative.
  2. War Party comprising larger groups, sometimes into the hundreds. Their intent was violence, often revenge killing.


Knaut, A. L. (1995). The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventh-Century New Mexico. University of Oklahoma Press.

Simmons, M. (1991). The Last Conquistador: Juan de Onate and the settling of the far Southwest. University of Oklahoma Press.

Leave a Reply