Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado

Faculty Sponsor

Michael Kimball

Second Faculty Sponsor

Roger DeWitt


Taos Pueblo, a Northern New Mexico Pueblo, is designated as a World Heritage Site that continues to engage in traditional cultural practices. Because it is a living community practicing traditional customs, it is considered a living heritage site. Living heritage refers to the continuity of tangible and intangible heritage that is maintained by the core-community. Western conservation approaches have rarely integrated community-based strategies when protecting dynamic cultural sites. The purpose of this research is to explore conservation strategies at Taos Pueblo and how they reflect a living heritage approach. Using Rapid Ethnographic Assessment Protocol (Taplin, Scheld, & Low, 2002), I worked closely with the community by immersing myself in the culture through an emic perspective. I conducted semi-structured interviews with 5 residents of Taos Pueblo; the questions referred to preservation processes, restoration projects, preservation of the Tiwa language, sacred ceremonies, and the evolving heritage. I inductively analyzed interview transcriptions in NVivo to identify themes. A few of these themes include conservation strategies that facilitate the restoration of adobe homes, encouraging involvement in sacred ceremonies at a young age, and restricting photographs and recordings of the Pueblo. I used Poulios’ (2014) framework to interpret the extent to which Taos Pueblo’s conservation practices reflect a living heritage approach. I witnessed the perpetual connection the people of Taos have with their roots, which explains their concerns with maintaining the continuity of their heritage. Through a living heritage approach, the tangible and intangible heritage of Taos Pueblo and other dynamic cultural sites can be successfully conserved because this approach provides support for long term conservation.

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