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“Turquoise Mining in the Southwest”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

Archaeologists have also found turquoise mines throughout Mesoamerica. One of the largest mines is in a mountain south of Santa Fe called Cuwimi Kai or Chalchihuitel—“a house inside which turquoise is found.” The Zuni often obtained turquoise from traders from the Keres Pueblo of Cochiti or from Santo Domingo, both of which are located near the turquoise mountain. Pueblo Indians mined turquoise at Chalchihuitel for hundreds of years.

When the Spanish occupied the area, they claimed ownership of the mine. During the 1600s, the Spanish used Pueblo Indians as slaves to work the mine. They extracted tons of rock from excavations that were sometimes one hundred feet deep. During the 1600s, a collapse of the mine caused the deaths of several Indian miners. Some historians believe that this event was a factor in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Other historians disagree.

The Americans took over the mines in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s mine owners seized four Cochiti men who tried to reassert their rights to the mine and sent them to prison.