Manataka American Indian Council


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History of the Great Zuni People




Zuni Pueblo consisting of approximately 12,000 people is located in the northwestern part of New Mexico. The pueblo is about 35 miles south of Gallup, NM and 150 miles west of Albuquerque, NM. The reservation, covering 418,304 acres, just rests on the western border of New Mexico.


The ancient homelands of the Zunis are along the middle reaches of the Zuni River where their cultural ancestors lived for centuries. Near the settlements and villages left by the ancient people, the Zuni Indians built compact villages of multi-storied houses. These were the towns seen and lived by Coronado and his men and called them the "Seven Cities" in the land of Cibola. The mythical Seven Cities of Cibola (Spanish word for "buffalo") lured Coronado to the southwest in 1540 in a treasure quest. Unfortunately, with the exception of the village of Zuni, all those sites were abandoned long ago.


For the last three hundred years, most of the Indians had lived in a single village, the Pueblo of Zuni. Within the boundaries often small, rather cramped reservation are smaller farming villages at Pescado, Nutria, and Ojo Caliente, which were established probably in the eighteenth century but which in more recent years have been occupied only during the time of planting and harvest. Beyond the boundaries of the reservation, there are ancient sites and areas, sacred points and shrines, and places of pilgrimage central to Zuni life and history.


Chronological History of Zuni


?-2500 B.C.--Paleo-Indian Period. During the period the first people inhabiting the Zuni area were big game hunters.


2500 B.C.-0--Archaic Period. During this period the people in the Zuni area hunted small game, collected wild plants and made the first attempts at agriculture.


0-700 A.D.--Basketmaker Period. During this period agriculture became more fully developed, pottery making and pithouse agriculture were important.


900-1100--Pueblo I Period. The period was marked by the development of painted pottery, expansion of population and settlement in the Zuni area.


1100-1300--Pueblo III Period. There was a shift from small houses to large, plaza-oriented villages and an increase in population growth in the Zuni area during this period.


1300-1500--Pueblo IV Period. During this period, Zuni Pueblo and other prehistoric towns were founded as the population in the area consolidated in the Zuni River Valley.


1539--Fray Marcos de Niza set out from Mexico with Estevan, a black Moor, in an attempt to find rumored wealth to the north. When Estevan reached Zuni and demanded Zuni Women and turquoises, he was executed. Marcos then fled back to Mexico, telling exaggerated stories of the "Seven Cities of Cibola."


1540--Fransico Vasquez Coronado led a large military expedition into what is now New Mexico. A major battle occurred between the Zunis and the Spaniards when Coronado narrowly escaped death. Spanish reports indicated that the Zunis had fortifications on Dowa Yalanne. It is likely that Coronado's horses and sheep were the first the Zunis had ever seen.


1542--Coronado again passed through Zuni, leaving behind three Mexican Indians. These three men were adopted by the Zunis and in the ensuing years likely spent long hours in the kivas telling the Zunis about the extent of Spanish power and domain to the south. Coronado' chroniclers reported that the Zunis had six or seven villages.


1581--The Spaniard Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado led an expedition which reached Zuni, and reported that six villages were occupied by the tribe.


1583--Antonio de Espejo visited the Pueblos of Zuni. His chronicles note that the men left by Coronado forty-one years earlier were still among the Zunis. Their names were Andres of Culican, Gaspar of Mexico, and Anton of Guadalajara.


1598--The first Spanish Governor of New Mexico, Juan de Onate, made his first visit to Zuni territory, passing through Hawikku, and obtained an Act of Obedience and through Hawikku, and Vasselage from the people. Onate found two sons of Gaspar at one village.


1604-1605--Onate again passed through Hawikku and Zuni territory, twice in two years while establishing a route to the west coast.


1629--A Catholic mission was first established at Hawikku. The Zuni first greeted the missionaries in a friendly manner.


1635--By this date the Zunis made peace with the Spaniards and stopped maintaining their Dowa Yalanne fortifications.


1680--The Pueblo Revolt. The Zunis killed one of the friars in their villages and burned the mission at Halona:wa. Oral tradition and some documentary evidence suggest that the people spared one priest, who was willing to give up his priestly clothing and begin wearing Zuni clothing. Over the next twelve years the tribe kept its fortress on the top of Dowa Yalanne in readiness, building a complete village there in preparation for defending its lands and rights against the Spanish army.


1689--This is the date of the Zunis' so-called Cruzate land grant. The grant is now thought to be a forgery and covers only a small part of the Zuni land recognized by the Spanish authorities.


1692--Don Diego de Vargas led a Spanish army in the reconquest of New Mexico. At Zuni Vargas was allowed by the Zunis to climb up to the top of Dowa Yalanne, where he was admitted to the Zunis' village there. He found many relics which had been saved by Zunis from the mission, and a peace was arranged between the tribe and the Spaniards.


1693-1700--Following the reconquest; the Zunis consolidated their villages into one site, in the area of Halona:wa.


1830-1840--Zunis improved their practice of jewelrymaking and began blacksmithing to the extent that they began to carry out trade in such items with other tribes in the area.


1846--On October 30, troops under Captain Monroe M. Parson, returning from an expedition into Navajo country, destitute of supplies, were the first representatives of the United States to visit Zuni.


1848--The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, formally making New Mexico and Zuni a part of the United States.


1850--Representatives from Zuni traveled to Santa Fe and on August 8, 1850 signed the Pueblo Treaty of Agent James S. Calhoun, which promised protection of Tribal land as well as sovereignty. At about this date the Zunis expanded their irrigated agriculture at the villages of Nutria, Pescado and Ojo Caliente, while agriculture activities at the peach orchard began to decline.


1851--On October 26, Major Electus Backus negotiated another treaty between the Navajos, Hopis and Zunis, this one emphasizing that the Navajos should not attack the two Pueblo tribes.


1857--Lt. Edward F. Beale's "Camel Corps" first passed through Zuni in August, where they secured supplies from the tribe. The road that Beale's command constructed through Zuni territory made it possible for wagons to journet through the area towards California.


1858--In October a Zuni relief party helped to rescue the survivors of a California emigrant train that had been attacked by mohaves.


1859-1864--This was the period of the Navajo Wars during which the most intense fighting took place.


1863--The Zuni tribe furnished guides and supplies for the forces of Col. Christopher Carson, and took military actions of its own against the Navajos.


1864--Reports indicate that the Zunis sheltered and supplied some Navajo groups which were on friendly terms with the Zuni tribe.


1864--By this date most of the Navajo raiding against Zuni had ceased, though some Apache raiding continued into the 1870s.


1868--The Treaty of Bosque Redondo permitted the Navajo to leave Fort Sumner and settle in the large reservation set aside for them. A few Navajo families made their homes in Zuni Territory, in the area which has since become the Ramah Reservation.


1872--At about this date the Zunis began using silver in their jewelry. Before this time the metals they had used were mostly copper and tin.


1873--The Wheeler Expedition made the first thorough U.S. maps of the Zuni area. The first U.S. teacher was hired to teach the Zuni children.


1876--Mormon missionaries first reached Zuni and the tribe agreed to let them settle in Zuni territory.


1877--The first portion of the Zuni Reservation was set aside by Executive Order.


1879--Col. James Stevenson led a Bureau of Ethnology expedition to Zuni, the first of several which were collecting pottery and other Zuni manufactured items. Frank H. Cushing was left at the Pueblo, where he would stay for nearly five years. He was adopted by the tribe and admitted into some of the Zuni religious organizations. His popular and anthropological writings made Zuni well-known throughout the U.S. and encouraged other anthropologists to work at the Pueblo.


1888--Cushing took six Zunis to Washington, D.C., partly in order to obtain additional funding for his work, and partly to show his Zuni friends what the rest of the United States was like. The six Zunis were Lai-iu-ah-tsai-lu (former Governor of the tribe), his son Ba:lawahdiwa (then present Governor), Nai-iu-tchi (priest of the Bow), Ki-a-si (second priest of the Bow), Lai-iu-aih-tsai-lun-kia (Cushing's adopted father), and Nanahe (a Hopi adopted into the Zuni tribe). Newspapers across the country reported about the President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, meeting the Zuni leaders. The Zunis planted prayer plumes, performed certain ceremonies, and brought seven small bottles of water from the Atlantic Ocean home with them to use in ceremonies at the Pueblo.


1884--Cushing thwarted a plan by a group of Anglos to acquire the Nutria Springs area. As a result, one of those white men. Senator John A. Logan, was instrumental in seeing that Cushing was removed from Zuni.


1897--The Christian Reform Church (formerly the Dutch Reformed Church) founded its mission at Zuni, taking over the old Presbyterian school.


1898--The first BIA day school was opened.


1900-1934--A major episode of erosion caused entrenchment in the Zuni watershed occurred. The erosion was caused by clearing-cutting of timber in the Zuni Mountains, overgrazing, and the construction and improper maintenance of dams and other government built structures on the Zuni Reservation.


1902--Zuni became a sub-agency with the BIA offices at Black Rock.


1904-1909--Black Rock Dam was costructed. In the years following its construction, a system of canals was installed and the farming village of Tekapo was founded.


1907--Black Rock Boarding School was opened.


1910--Reportedly, this was the approximate date of the decline of the many-storied style of Zuni architecture.


1913--The first automobile was brought onto the reservation.


1917-1923--Frederick Webb Hodge carried out his excavation of Hawikku, employing a number of Zunis to do the work.


1921--After an absence of 100 years the Catholics reopened their mission at Zuni.


1925-1945--Jewelry and other crafts grew in importance until they accounted for 65% of the total cash income of the Pueblo in 1945.


1931-1938--Six dams and public water systems were built.


1934--The Wheeler-Howard Act (Indian Reorganization Act) was passed and on November 21, 1934 the Zuni people voted to have popular elections to elect their officials.


1935--By an act of Congress, Zuni land was increased and Black Rock became a sub-agency, with the Albuquerque agency governing all of the Pueblos.


1941-1945--More than two hundred Zuni men served in the armed forces in World War II. When they returned to the Pueblo, they helped to cause a very large change in the tribal economy.


1949--The reservation was increased in size with the Zuni North and South Purchase Areas.


1950--Electricity was introduced into the village. During the ensuing decade the first domestic water system was installed in Zuni Pueblo.


1970--The Zunis adopted a constitution.


1977--KSHI radio went on the air.


1978--An Act of Congress provided for the return of the Zuni Salt Lake to the Zuni Tribe and allowed the Zunis to sue the government for lands taken without payment.


1979--Zuni filed a land claim suit in the United States Court of Claims.


1980--Zuni Public School District was formed.


1980s--As pressure on the water supply within the Zuni Water Basin increased, the long and complicated process of water adjudication within the basin began. Extensive technical and expert reports were prepared during the decade and complex legal actions were pursued in behalf of Zuni by the United States Department of Justice. These legal activities continued into the 1990s.


1981--The Zuni Land Claim (Docket 161-79L) was tried before a Court of Claims judge in Salt Lake City, Utah.


1981--The Zuni tribe filed another claim against the United States (Docket 327-81L and 224-84L) for damages to Zuni trust lands.


1984--Pueblo of Zuni Arts and Crafts was founded as a tribal business.


1987--On May 27, 1987 Judge Judith Ann Yanello issued Findings of Fact in Zuni's United States Court of Claims Docket (161-79L, the Tribe's claim against the United States for lands taken without payment. The Court detemined that 14,835,892 acres of land were taken from Zuni without payment. The case then entered the valuation phase, as attorneys for the Zunis and the United States attempted to agree on the value of the lands at the time they were taken.


1990--In a democratic referendum, held in accordance with the Zuni Constitution, the Zuni people voted to bar the establishment of a National Historic Park on Zuni Trust Land.


1990--President Bush signed Public Law 101-486, the Zuni Land Conservation Act of 1990, and act designed to settle Zuni claims against the United States for damages to Zuni trust lands (United States Claims Court Dockets 327-81L and 224-84L). In return for the appropriation of $25 million, the Zuni Tribe agreed to dismiss these two dockets. After paying expenses, the remaining funds are to be placed in a permanent trust fund, the interest form which will used to develop and implement a permanent plan for the sustainable development of Zuni natural, human and cultural resources, including the rehabilitation of eroded lands throughout the Zuni watershed.


1990--An out of court settlement was reached between the United States and Zuni on United States Court of Claims Docket 161-79L, providing Zuni with $25 million for their lost aboriginal territory.


1990--The Administration for Native Americans provided a grant to Zuni to enable the Tribe to establish a tribal museum.


1991--President Bush budgeted funds to begin implementation of PL 101-486. The settlement funds for Docket 161-79L were deposited in a trust account in Zuni's name and the Tribe began work on a plan for the use of those funds.


2003--Zuni wins battle to save Zuni Salt Lake. Salt River Project pulls plans back for Fence Lake Coal Mine. Over two-decades of battle to preserve the home of Ma'lokkyattsik'i (Salt Mother) has finally come to an end.


Pueblo of Zuni

1203B State Hwy 53
P.O. Box 339
Zuni, NM 87327
Phone: (505) 782-7000
Fax: (505) 782-7202


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