The Zuni Pueblo -- Home of the internationally famous in-lay jewelry
The Zuni Pueblo, located 44 miles south of Gallup, is said to be the largest inhabited Pueblo in the United States. It was built upon the ruins of the ancient site of Halona, one of the fabled "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola" sought by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Coronado in 1540 A.D. Ruins of other "cities" may be found along the Zuni River watershed.
The Spanish heard tales of seven cities built and paved with gold far to the north. Arriving in the area, Coronado found, not a mineral richness, but a community rich in tradition and living a highly adjusted, organized existence. The Zunis were an agrarian people with irrigated farms of beans, corn, squash and cotton. Above all, strict religious beliefs, when combined with their daily routines, provided them a richness that mined gold could never replace.
The Spanish had little trouble in over-running and conquering the Zuni people. In spite of Spanish occupation and a decree from the King of Spain to force Zuni acceptance of the roman Catholic faith, the people continued to perform their ceremonies in their hidden divas or ceremonial rooms. These dances, many of which are still performed, denote a deep tribal religious significance. Visitors may witness many of these ceremonies, but are not permitted to sketch or photograph them.
The Cibola cities were destroyed when Apaches, Navajos and other nomadic tribes over-ran the area during the 15th and 16th centuries. Those Zunis who had escaped returned to the site of Halona, now called Zuni, to re-establish their homes. The new pueblo was built around the reconstructed mission building. This made the mission building the most prominent in the community.
Visit the mission Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, located off a winding dirt road just past the tribal building. On the high white walls of this Catholic church, above the framed Stations of the Cross, dance life size Zuni Kachinas -- the intangible spirits representing, corn, the hunt, and other Zuni beliefs. It is a unique melding of cultures. The mission is not always open. For more information go to the tribal building or pueblo of Zuni Arts and Crafts located next to the post office.
Zunis share many Pueblo traits with other Southwestern people; but their language is unique and cannot be linked to any other Native American language. Typically, Zuni work is done within families. A husband may do the silver work, a wife the inlay, and another family member may help with buffing. In general, particular designs will "belong" to particular families and these designs and their adaptations will be passed from older family members to younger. There is probably no village in North America which has a higher concentration of skilled craftsmen than the Pueblo of Zuni.
The town offers no logical street plan (from the point of view of a casual observer); there is one main paved street which presents assorted shops and eateries, then there are winding back lanes which lead to small plazas. The Zuni people have always been known for their religious and clan ties, and for their generosity to travelers. Zuni is one of the few pueblos where outsiders are permitted to view the religious Kachina dances. No photography is allowed of the dances and outsiders must remain on the Pueblo roof when attending the dances. Ask for directions.
For more information: Pueblo of Zuni; Zuni, NM 87327; (505) 782-4481. This information courtesy of the Gallup Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The mountain land for sale by owner is approximately 45 miles east of Zuni Pueblo to New Mexico residents.
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