Joseph AguilarA Conversation with Dr. Joseph R. "Woody" Aguilar

Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico
Archaeologist, Stampede Ventures-Bering Straits Native Corporation

Disponible en Español

"As Pueblo people, we have a deep reverence for the past—both its material remnants, and the people that lived in it. Typically, archaeology and anthropology haven’t been practiced in a way that respects the deep meaning that the past has for descendant communities. However, I believe that if archaeology is done appropriately—through partnerships with Indigenous people, taking into account Indigenous perspectives—research can provide a more meaningful look into our present and future.

My own research highlights Pueblo resistance movements in a new way. In contrast to extractive techniques, like excavation, my work uses noninvasive means of investigating the archaeological record. In my dissertation work, I used remote sensing and drones to create precise aerial maps of a site known as Tunyo or Black Mesa (north of where San Ildefonso Pueblo is today). Tunyo is a place where at least nine Tewa pueblos sought refuge during the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico, twelve years or so after they were expelled by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Very little is known about the Mesa from Spanish historical documents, but my work uses both archaeology and oral histories to provide a more holistic view of this important era.

Today, our Pueblo is finding ways to continue this work, collecting oral histories about the site to preserve them, and working to develop a database for our own community to learn about the history of Black Mesa."


Dr. Aguilar is an enrolled member of San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, and currently serves as an archaeologist with Bering Straits Native Corporation and the pueblo’s Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. Dr. Aguilar received his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include Indigenous Archaeology, museums, landscape archaeology, and tribal historic preservation. Dr. Aguilar is currently working on exhibit and content development for several museums, including the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, the de Young Museum of Art in San Francisco, the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum at Mesa Verde National Park, and for the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM.

Photo: The site of Tunyo, or Black Mesa, overlooking San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico, is a focus of Dr. Aguilar’s research.