- Hits: 2176
The Zuni were and are a peaceful, deeply traditional people who live by irrigated agriculture and raising stock. Their success as a desert agricultural economy is due to careful management and conservation of resources, as well as a complex system of community support. Many contemporary Zuni also rely on the sale of traditional arts and crafts.
Some Zuni still live in the old-style Pueblos, while others live in modern flat-roofed houses made from adobe and concrete block. Most live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in western New Mexico.
Official Tribal Name:
Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation
New Mexico, Arizona
New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and southern Colorado.
In addition to the reservation, the Zuni tribe owns trust lands in Catron County, New Mexico and Apache County, Arizona.
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning
Meaning of Common Name:
Name in other languages:
Population at Contact:
Registered Population Today:
In 2000, 10,228 people were enrolled in the Zuni tribe.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Name of Governing Body:
Number of Council members:
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers:
The Zuni traditionally speak the Zuni language, a unique language (called an "isolate") which is unrelated to any other Native American language. Linguists believe that because Zuni is a language isolate, the Zuni people have maintained the integrity of their language for at least 7,000 years. The Zuni have, however, borrowed a number of words from Keresan, Hopi, and Pima languages pertaining to religion and religious observances.
Number of fluent Speakers:
The Zuni, like other Pueblo peoples, became the descendants of Mogollon and Ancestral Pueblo peoples, who lived in the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and southern Colorado for over two millennia. The "village of the great kiva" near the contemporary Zuni Pueblo was built in the 11th century CE. The Zuni region, however, was probably only sparsely populated by small agricultural settlements until the 12th century when the population and the size of the settlements began to increase.
In the 14th century, the Zuni inhabited a dozen pueblos between 180 to 1,400 rooms in size. All of these pueblos, except Zuni, were abandoned by 1400, and over the next 200 years, nine large new pueblos were constructed. These were the "seven cities of Cibola" sought by early Spanish explorers.By 1650, there were only six Zuni villages.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
Ceremonies / Dances:
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
The Zuni Tribal Fair and rodeo is held the third weekend in August. The Zuni also participate in the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial, usually held in early or mid-August. Their location is relatively isolated, but they welcome respectful tourists.
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
The Zuni are best known for their fine pottery, turquoise silver jewelry, and fine rug weavings. Traditionally, Zuni women made pottery for food and water storage. They used symbols of their clans for designs. Clay for the pottery is dug up locally. Prior to its extraction, the women give thanks to the Earth Mother (Awidelin Tsitda) according to ritual. The clay is ground, and then sifted and mixed with water. After the clay is rolled into a coil and shaped into a vessel or other design, it will be scraped smooth with a scraper. A thin layer of finer clay, called slip, is applied to the surface for extra smoothness and color. The vessel is polished with a stone after it dries. It is painted with home-made organic dyes, using a traditional yucca brush. The intended function of the pottery dictates its shape and images painted on its surface.
To fire the pottery, the Zuni originally used animal dung in traditional kilns. Today Zuni potters might use electric kilns, while others still fire it the traditional way. While the firing of the pottery was usually a community enterprise, silence or communication in low voices was considered essential in order to maintain the original "voice" of the "being" of the clay, and the purpose of the end product.
The Zuni also make fetishes carvings and necklaces for the purpose of rituals and trade, and more recently for sale to collectors. They are also known for their fine silversmithing, which began in the 1870s after they learned fundamental techniques from the Navajo. Lanyade was the first Zuni silversmith, who learned the art from Atsidi Chon, a Navajo silversmith. By 1880, Zuni jewelers set turquoise in silver.Today jewelry making thrives as an art form among the Zuni. Many Zuni have became master silversmiths and perfected the skill of stone inlay. They found that by using small pieces of stone, they were able to create intricate designs and unique patterns with stones that would otherwise have been wasted.
Another Zuni jewelry style incorporates many small oval-shaped stones with pointed ends, which are set close to one another and side by side. The technique is called petit point, and is normally used with turquoise in creating necklaces or rings. Many Zuni and Navajo people store their wealth in petit point jewelry.
Fetishes and their character meanings
The differences between Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and Santo Domingo jewelry styles
The Zuni raise many sheep.
The Zuni live in multi-family adobe houses called pueblos, which can be several stories high. A pueblo can have as few as 12 rooms or as many as 1400.
Archaeology suggests that the Zuni have been farmers in their present location for 3,000 to 4,000 years. Gradually the Zuni farmed less and turned to sheep and cattle herding as a means of economic development.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Religion is central to Zuni life. Their religious beliefs are centered on the three most powerful of their deities: Earth Mother, Sun Father, and Moonlight-Giving Mother, as well as Old Lady Salt and White Shell Woman, as well as other katsinas.
Zunis have a cycle of religious ceremonies. Each person's life is marked by important ceremonies to celebrate the passage of certain life milestones. Birth, coming of age, marriage and death are especially celebrated.
The Zuni make a religious pilgrimage every four years on the Barefoot Trail to Kołuwala:wa, also called Zuni Heaven or Kachina Village; a 12,482-acre (50.51 km2) detached portion of the Zuni Reservation about sixty miles southwest of Zuni Pueblo. The four-day observance occurs around the summer solstice. It has been practiced for many hundreds of years and is well known to local residents.
Another pilgrimage conducted annually for centuries by the Zuni and other southwestern tribes is made to Zuni Salt Lake. They harvest salt during the dry months, and celebrate religious ceremonies. The lake is home to the Salt Mother, Ma'l Okyattsik'i, and is reached by several ancient Pueblo roads and trails.
Coming of age, or rite of passage, is celebrated differently by boys and girls.
Girl's Pueberty Rites
A girl who is ready to declare herself as a maiden will go to the home of her father's mother early in the morning and grind corn all day long. Corn is a sacred food and a staple in the diet of the Zuni. The girl is declaring that she is ready to play a role in the welfare of her people.
Boy's Peuberty Rites
When it is time for a boy to become a man, he will be taken under the wing of a spiritual 'father', selected by the parents. This one will instruct the boy through the ceremony to follow. The boy will go through certain initiation rites to enter one of the men's societies. He will learn how to take on either religious, secular or political duties within that order.
Education and Media:
Other Famous Contemporary People:
About 1400 years ago, an unknown event caused the Zuni to abandon all their pueblos except the Zuni pueblo.
Zuni Tribe History:
In 1539, Moorish slave Estevanico led an advance party of Fray Marcos de Niza's Spanish expedition. The Zuni killed him as a spy. This was Spain's first contact with any of the Pueblo peoples. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado traveled through Zuni Pueblo. Spaniards built a mission at Hawikuh in 1629. The Zunis tried to expel the missionaries in 1623, but Spanish built another missoin in Halona in 1643.
Before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Zuni lived in six different villages. After the revolt, until 1692, they took refuge in a defensible position atop Dowa Yalanne, a steep mesa 3.1 miles (5 km) southeast of the present Pueblo of Zuni. Dowa means "corn", and yalanne means "mountain". After the establishment of peace and the return of the Spanish, the Zuni relocated to their present location, only briefly returning to the mesa top in 1703.
In the News: