Series: Finding Our Place: LGBTQ Heritage in the United States

Gender and Sexuality in Native America: Pueblo of Acoma, NM

Ceramic water jars
Water jars from Acoma Pueblo, ca. 1868-1900, in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum (02.257.2467). The Pueblo of Acoma was added to the National Register on October 15, 1966 and designated a National Historic Landmark District on October 9, 1960.

Photo by Trish (CC BY 2.5; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WLA_brooklynmuseum_Pueblo_Acoma_Water_Jar_2.jpg).

In what is now the mesa-top Pueblo of Acoma, men with effeminate physical attributes or personal tendencies were known by many names including mujerado, qo-qoy-mo, and kokwina. They dressed and lived as women, had relationships with men, and fulfilled women's roles in the community. Much like today's queer culture, mujerados of Acoma appear to have experienced varied levels of cultural acceptance. Composed between 1880 and 1914, the journals of Adolph Bandelier suggest that qo-qoy-mo were treated kindly, as any other community member might be. Leslie A. White conducted anthropological research at Acoma in the 1930s; a proponent of the now-defunct concept of cultural evolution, White reported reluctance among informants to discuss the kokwina. According to one individual, "They dress, talk, and live like women because they want to, and in their body they are men." However, another informant stated that the practice was "a shame." Other researchers have noted the achievements of mujerados as potters, an important and revered art among the tribes of Acoma and Laguna. Traditionally made by women, ceramics from this region are highly prized for their utility and intricate designs; the work requires incredible skill and physical stamina and according to modern potters, each vessel has a unique spirit to which the crafter is connected.