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Zuni Pueblo

The Zuni Pueblo in 1903 – Edward S. Curtis

The Zuni Pueblo is the largest of the nineteen New Mexican Pueblos, with more than 700 square miles and a population of over 10,000. They are considered the most traditional of all the New Mexico Pueblos, with a unique language, culture, and history that resulted in part from their geographic isolation. With perhaps 80% of the families involved in making arts, the Zuni are indeed an "artist colony." The main "industry" is the production of arts, including inlay silver jewelry, stone fetishes, pottery, and others of which the Zuni are world famous. Most of the Zuni residents live in the main village of Zuni and the nearby "suburb" community of Blackrock. Zuni is a sovereign, self-governed nation with its own constitutional government, courts, police force, school system, and economic base. The year is marked by a cycle of traditional ceremonial activities; the most sacred and perhaps the most recognized is the annual Sha'lak'o event. Please be aware that there are restrictions in place for non-Zuni's wishing to witness our religious activities. We ask that visitors respect our cultural privacy by following the appropriate etiquette and guidelines. Our ceremonial activities are what make the Zuni unique.

Historical Significance

Europeans first "discovered" Zuni territory in 1539 when Friar Marcos De Niza and a former black Moorish slave named Estevanico led a party from Mexico in search of the fabled "Seven Cities of Gold."

The Spanish were convinced that the stories of "wealth" about this area meant "gold." Though Fray Marcos never actually entered any of the Zuni villages at that time, his companion Estevanico had gone ahead of the party to approach the Zuni People at the ancestral village of Hawikku.

Unfortunately, Estevanico's inappropriate behavior among the Zuni people got him killed. After learning of Estevanico's death. Fray Marcos turned around immediately and returned to Mexico with more stories of the fabled "Seven Cities of Gold."

Further tales led directly to Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's expedition. On July 7, 1540, a full eight years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Coronado reached Hawikku and eventually overcame Zuni resistance with Spanish horses, lances, swords, and cannons.

Coronado's occupation was brief, and due to Zuni's isolation from settlements along the Rio Grande Valley, they had little or no contact with the Spanish during their years of colonization in this region.

In 1680, Pueblos in New Mexico, including Zuni, planned and carried out a revolt against Spanish domination. During the period of this Pueblo Revolt all six villages that were occupied in the Zuni valley sought refuge on the sacred mountain Dowa Yallane until 1692. After making peace with the Spanish, the Zuni people came back down from Dowa Yallane and consolidated into a single Pueblo at Halona Idiwan'a, which became known as Zuni.

With New Mexico statehood in 1848, the United States Government assumed control of Zuni territory. However, continual appropriation and abuse of Zuni lands by the Government and unscrupulous land grabbers led to the shrinkage of Zuni's aboriginal territories and confinement to a reservation a small fraction of the original size of Zuni's original land-use areas.

In the late 1980's, a successful litigation against the US Government by the Zuni people resulted in partial restitution for lands lost as well as damaged under Governmental administration.

Zuni religion, language, agriculture, and customs continue to be essential parts of Zuni life and are passed from one generation to the next. For centuries, our practice of annual traditional rituals has brought blessings, peace, harmony, long life, and fertility to the Zuni people. And, we believe, to the people of the world!

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