When it comes to cliff dwelling Native American tribes, much is made of the Anasazi, but they may well be mostly a legend, and less of fact. The best evidence of cliff dwelling is Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park located in Colorado. Built 1000 years ago by ancient Pueblo peoples, it may have been also a gathering point for a larger cultural reach, including mud brick communities around the Mesa Verde area. The site seemed to be abandoned within a few hundred years.
Anasazi or Anaasazi is also a term to describe the Pueblo people of 1000 years ago. A term meaning Ancient peoples it is unclear how to differentiate what we call Anasazi from the general Pueblo lineage. But a common thread also emerges with the Hopi term Histsinom meaning Pueblo Ancestors. However another translation of Anasazi is ancient enemies, begging one to wonder if today’s Pueblo are an amalgamation of Hopi and Pueblo, once enemies, but sharing the mud brick technology of the four corners regions and later intermingled due to larger forces.
Often in the conversation of cliff dwelling people a less genuine term emerges, surrounding the tourist town of Manitou Springs. Here Anasazi means ‘old tourist trap’ where they at first claimed that their cliff dwellings were real, later that they were moved from actual cliff dwellings, but now it is pretty much accepted fact that they just re-created this cliff dwelling thing as a tourist trap that they call a museum. They purport that the stones were taken from actual cliff dwellings near Cortez, Colorado and re-assembled more than 100 miles away in Manitou Springs. To this day, many say they are lead to believe that these are real cliff dwellings, and not a cheap replica. But it has a gift shop, that you can be sure of.
Further south in Hopi land are the Gila Cliff dwellings. Located in New Mexico est of Las Cruces little is known of the inhabitants, but this thing is way up in the clouds. Between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level, you hike an hour to see these authentic ruins. Tree ring evidence has been gathered to positively identify construction around 1275 AD.