Lesson Plan

Gran Quivira: A Blending of Cultures in a Pueblo Indian Village

Ruins at Gran Quivira

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 1 Standard 1A: The student understands the patterns of change in indigenous societies in the Americas up to the Columbian voyages.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


1. To understand the daily life of the Pueblo Indians of Gran Quivira;
2. To describe how the village of Gran Quivira changed with the influence of the Anasazi, the Plains Indians, and other Pueblo Indians;
3. To explain the influence of Spanish missionaries on the lives and culture of the people of Gran Quivira;
4. To compare the life ways of the people who lived at Gran Quivira with the experiences of early American Indian groups of their own region.


Time Period: 7th century to 17th century
Topics: The lesson could be used in U.S. history, social studies, and geography courses in units on early American Indian culture or the colonial presence of the Spanish in the Southwest. 


At first, one encounters a soothing silence broken only by a constant breeze and the chirr of insect wings. Sparse desert flora partially hides the remains of ancient stone houses built by early American Indians who inhabited this area of central New Mexico. Farther along the trail an excavated mound reveals the broken foundations of a large apartment house and several ceremonial kivas typical of the southwest Pueblo Indian culture. Nearby, the ruins of two mission churches attest to the presence of Spanish priests in this isolated region. The quiet remnants of the village of Las Humanas, now called Gran Quivira, only hint at the vibrant society that thrived here until the late 17th century. Today it is one of three sites that make up Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Lesson Hook/Preview

Be aware that the Spanish word for a village is "pueblo" and American Indians who live in villages in the Southwest are known as "Puebloans" or "Pueblo Indians." In the remote Salinas basin in central New Mexico stand the weathered ruins of three Puebloan villages and the 17th-century Spanish colonial missions that make up Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Two ancient southwestern cultural traditions–the Mogollon (muggy-own) and Anasazi–overlapped here and resulted in the Puebloan communities of Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira (also known as Las Humanas). From about A.D. 1000 to the 1600s, these three villages operated as major regional centers of trade with Indians from the Plains, the Pacific Coast, and the Great Basin. Gran Quivira, the largest of the Salinas villages, became a bustling community of 3,000 inhabitants. 

Beginning in the 16th century, exploration and colonization by the Spanish greatly influenced the lives of the Puebloan people. Spain established missions throughout the Salinas basin in an attempt to Christianize and bring the roughly 10,000 Indian people living there into Spanish society. These missions were self-sufficient communities that included the Indian village or pueblo, a church, the friars' quarters or convento, fields, hunting and gathering areas, and work areas. Under the mission system, villagers received regimented instruction in Christianity as well as in European social and agricultural practices. But, the mission system did not survive long in the Salinas basin, and by the late 1670s, the inhabitants of this once thriving area were all but gone. 


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.


Spanish missions
colony / colonization

Additional Resources

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web pages provide detailed information on the once, thriving American Indian trade communities in this remote frontier area of central New Mexico. Included are essays on the Pueblos and the coming of the Spaniards, a history of Gran Quivira, as well as a trail guide.

Glimpses of Our National Monuments
The National Park Service provides further information about Gran Quivira National Monument in the on-line book, Glimpses of Our National Monuments.

American Southwest--National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
The American Southwest with its distinctive building traditions, its languages, religions, and foods, reflects the vitality of the Spanish, Mexican, Indian and Anglo cultures which formed its history and the Southwest we see today. This National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary highlights over 58 historic places, including Salinas Pueblo National Monument, teaching us about the contributions of the various people who settled this distinctive area.

American Historical Images
American Historical Images is a site developed by Troy Johnson, a professor at California State University, Long Beach. This site highlights drawings depicting scenes from early Native American culture and contact with the Spanish.

New Perspectives on the West
New Perspectives on the West is a site produced as a supplement to the PBS documentary The West, by Ken Burns and Stephen Ives. Included are primary source documents on the Pueblo revolt, time lines to understand the events that took place in New Mexico during the Spanish conquest, and images from the history of the American west.

1492: An On-Going Voyage
1492: An On-Going Voyage is maintained by the Library of Congress. Explore this site to learn about the Americas at the time of Spanish exploration.

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Last updated: October 12, 2018