The Best Way to Behave
on an Indian Reservation

By Richard Mahler

Author of "New Mexico's Best"

Above all, be respectful. Assuming you're not a Native American, come to dances, celebrations, festivals and ceremonies only when they're announced as open to non-Indian visitors. Often these are summer feast days, saints' days, Christian religious holidays, New Year's Day and King's Day (Jan. 6).

Remember that most structures are private residences. Don't climb on walls or buildings; don't stare into windows or doorways. Don't enter sacred grounds, such as cemeteries or kivas. Minimize talking during dances and ceremonies; and do not applaud when they're over. These are religious ceremonies, and clapping, whistling or shouting are not appropriate. (Allowances may be made when dances and other ceremonies are conducted at events catering specifically to non-Indians.)

Don't engage in photography, sketching or tape recording unless specific permission has been granted. Inquire first.

If You Go: "Each pueblo operates under its own sovereign government and establishes its own rules for visitors," advises the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council (505-852-4265), which gives away an official visitors' guide. The directory lists all pueblo events open to the public during the course of the year.

Insider Tip: At the Santa Fe Indian Market and associated events, photography is allowed, but be polite and secure permission from the subject first. Ask before touching merchandise, and avoid long chats with the artists unless sales are slow. Some sellers will haggle over prices, others won't. By the end of the second day of Indian Market, more artists are willing to bargain their prices down slightly. Indian Market takes place the third weekend of August each year.

For a full listing of Richard Mahler's books, and to place orders for them, visit

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