Object: Ceramic Moccasin

NAM-15-31-017

E/1955/9/29
Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo: Ceramic Moccasin
Southwest US
Date Unknown
Materials: Ceramic

This ceramic moccasin is from the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (renamed the Pueblo de San Juan de los Caballeros by the Spanish in the 1500s). Ohkay Owingeh literally means “Place of the Strong People.” During the periods of Spanish occupation (late 1500s to early 1800s), the Pueblo became a stronghold for neighboring Puebloans, so much so that it was said only an O’ke native could declare war for the Pueblo Indians. One of their most famous members, Popé, did just that and led the Pueblo Revolt of 1680! Today Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo serves as the headquarters of the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council.

The Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo is part of the Tewa linguistic group. Five other Pueblo groups share this language, including the Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Tesuque Pueblos. Recently, Puebloans such as Ester Martinez have worked to preserve the Tewa language and pass it on to new generations of Puebloans. To hear an audio sample of Tewa from the Tewa Pueblo Women’s Choir of New Mexico, click on the player above!

Ohkay Owingeh 2009

Ohkay Owingeh 2009

This ceramic moccasin is small, measuring only 3.5 x 3.0 inches (about the size of a Post-it® note), and is chipped on the toe. A small groove is etched around the base of the moccasin to differentiate the sole from the rest of the body. The body of the moccasin is slipped in red clay, and the sole, in brown clay. In pottery production, slips are similar to glazes. The process of slipping requires that the pottery be dipped in colored clay, fired, and then stone-polished to achieve luster and shine. There are no maker’s marks or signatures on the piece, and the date of production is unknown. According to some historians, “San Juan” pottery production ceased in the early 1900s, with the exception of occasional pieces for sale or trade, like this piece. If you have more information about moccasin pottery, or can help identify the maker of this piece, let us know. And enjoy getting to know the Story Behind the Object!

[Lauren Simons]

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