Plural Communities on the Plains: Dismal River People and the Puebloan Diaspora


European colonization of North America profoundly impacted the lives of Native Americans. One method by which some Puebloan people, living in New Mexico, chose to escape Spanish colonial control was to leave their homeland and settle with other Native Americans living outside the borders of colonialism. One small group of Puebloan migrants traveled as far as western Kansas, joined a community of people already living there, and built a pueblo. This research focuses on how the lives of that Plains group, an ancestral Apachean population known to archaeologists as the Dismal River culture (AD 1600-1750), may have changed after they welcomed Puebloan migrants into their territory. A detailed analysis of ceramic vessels can provide insights into the identity of people living at these sites, if they were Puebloan or Dismal River, and how far Puebloan migrants or their practices and technology spread across the Great Plains. The analysis of ceramics from 43 Dismal River sites across the Central Plains indicates that Puebloan migrants and their practices were only present in western Kansas. These western Kansas sites also yielded ceramics that looked to be made in New Mexico, but the analysis of their mineral and chemical composition indicates that they were actually made on the Central Plains. Evidence of Puebloan manufacturing practices, foodways, and locally made copies of Puebloan ceramics indicate that Puebloan potters were living at several sites in western Kansas, interacting with Dismal River people there, and significantly changing the nature, composition, and practices of this Plains community.

Cite this Record

Plural Communities on the Plains: Dismal River People and the Puebloan Diaspora. ( tDAR id: 398499) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8K938ZQ

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1600 to 1750 (Dismal River site dates)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.292; min lat: 36.664 ; max long: -93.977; max lat: 45.548 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Sarah Trabert

Source Collections

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Kansas Historical Society, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Nebraska Historical Society, Colorado Historical Society, History Colorado, Denver University Museum of Anthropology, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology

Resources Inside this Project (Viewing 1-4 of 4)


  1. Plural Communities on the Plains: Dismal River People and the Puebloan Diaspora (2015)


  1. Dismal River ceramic sherd data (2015)
  2. Dismal River ceramic sherd INAA data (2015)

Coding Sheets

  1. Size Class Codes (2015)