top of page

Manso territory and River Use

manso territory.jpg

Even a quick examination of this map illustrates why certain portions of the Rio Grande were suitable for habitation and agriculture. The wide spots define where the Manso had their seasonal habitations and agricultural fields. These were areas with arable land bordering and within the river channel and with lagoons in the river bottom that were cut off from the main river channel. Fish and other aquatic resources abounded in these lagoons, allowing for easy harvest using dragnets and also capture by hand, an early form of noodling. Avian and terrestrial resources were also drawn to these water sources, providing bountiful hunting and trapping.


The specific way the Manso used the river for habitation and farming explains why so few archaeological sites have been identified. Their name derives from the way they would block or divert the river water, to flow into designated channels to water their fields that were often on islands mid stream. These fields would be wiped out during floods, completely destroying all evidence of this part of their subsistence practices. Their homes in the river valley would also be demolished by seasonal floods. People upriver would warn those downstream of an impending flood by blowing a conch shell horn or beating a drum, both of which could be heard for miles. The people downriver knew the meaning both because they understood the specific message in the drum beat and also because they could hear the on-coming waters as they approached their settlements. They would run to higher ground, leaving all to the raging waters. As Cruz said, they did not need the rain dance because there was plenty of water and if they danced for rain, the floods would come and wash away their villages and fields. The approach to farming was risky but not all the field would be destroyed and more fortunate families would share with those whose fields were washed away.

In the winter the Manso would move into the foothills, occupying the mouths of south-facing canyons to keep out of the north winds, away from the frozen river, but not too high up in the mountains where it was cold and exposed. They would place their less substantial structures, wickiups, in the flat bottoms of arroyos, using the slopes of the ridges and benches as protection against the elements. Here they had brought agricultural produce, storing it in large vessels for use throughout the winter. 

bottom of page