It is said that the lower Chama River valley has been populated since 10,000 B.C. Several first American tribes resided in this area before and after the Spaniards, followed by American pioneers who came with western expansion. Abiquiu, like much of New Mexico, retains a distinct character molded by all of those who came before.
Evidence of the Anasazi’s presence within the Chama River valley from 10,000/6000 BC until 1300 AD is apparent in shrines and rock art as well as garden spaces typical of in the region. Visible on the Dar al Islam lands are some of the local nearly two-thousand rectangular rock formations most recently considered to be traces of 2 ft high walls which served as passive solar heat sinks and entrapments for condensation and moisture.
The ancestral Tewa Pueblo Indians were well established in the Chama River Valley from around 1300 AD until the early 1600 AD when they abandoned the area for the Rio Grande Valley and its eastern tributaries. The Tewa resided in pastoral settlements (adobe clusters around a plaza/kiva) and raised squash, pumpkins, beans, corn, dogs, and turkeys (for ceremonial purposes), and they hunted fowl and game.
Navajos are known to have been living in the Chama River Valley between 1600 and 1700 AD. They raised corn, beans, squash, chile, various edible seeds and grains, cotton, and sheep.
Between 1700 - 1750, Utes and Comanches were allied in raiding all over Northern New Mexico. By 1730 the Utes made annual trips to the Chama Valley and began to trade at Abiquiu where eventually an annual trade fair was established. By about 1746 the Utes had permanent camps on the Rio Chama near Abiquiu.
The first Spaniards to settle in New Mexico arrived in the summer of 1598. With them came Mexican Indians and Mestizos. About 20 Spanish families had settled near Abiquiu by 1735 and the Genizaro settlement of Abiquiu was established in 1754. Prior to the Pueblo revolt (1680) Pueblo lands remained in the possession of the first Americans because the early Spaniards were not tillers of the soil. Under the 'Encomienda system' and the missionary program, the tribes provided for the support and economic gain of the Spanish invaders from the proceeds of their own lands. After the Reconquest (1692) the system was abolished and the Hispanicized population itself began to farm.
The Spanish settlers lived the typically hard and dangerous life of settlers in new territory. They had to be economically self-sufficient, growing their own corn, beans, squash, onions, wheat, and other grains and vegetables. They planted fruit trees and tended them in irrigated orchards. The settlers had to make their own clothes from homespun wool and buckskin. The valley offered ample pasture for sheep (meat, wool, tallow) and goats (milk, meat, cheese). By Spanish royal decree, settler families were given an agricultural and residential allotment as well as common rights to the land along the river and the surrounding grazing lands. The earliest dwellings in the Chama Valley were small and scattered. After a crushing 1747 Ute-Commanche raid the whole valley became abandoned until 1750. Upon resettlement multi-family closed plazas began to appear, the first of which was the Genizaro settlement in Abiquiu
Genizaro pueblos became a frontier buffer population of Hispanicized first Americans who were granted lands in exchange for taking the brunt of enemy tribal attacks (militia service). The unstable Chama Valley settlements persisted from then on and Abiquiu was the northwestern edge of Spanish settlement for the remainder of the eighteenth century. In the mid nineteen hundreds, the Abiquiu residents made successful settlements (Canones, Youngsville, Coyote) in the valley above what is now the Abiquiu Dam.