Zuni {zoon'-yee} Literature

"We are grateful, O Mother Earth, for the mountains and the streams where the deer, by command of Thy Breath of Life, wander. Wishing for you the fullness life, we shall go forth prayerfully upon the the trails of our Earth Mother."

Zuni Prayer


Four Flutes
Swift-Runner and Trickster Tarantula
Zuņi Folk Tales
Foreword by JOHN WESLEY POWELL [1901]

The Zuni nation of North American Indians have lived in the area of the present states of New Mexico and Arizona over 1,000 years prior to the coming of the Europeans. They are thought to be direct descendants of the Anasazi.

A large, thriving Zuni Pueblo was discovered in 1500 by Franciscans from Mexico, who returned with glowing reports of the Zuni "Kingdom of Cibola" on the Zuni River. Concerned about attacks, Zuni leaders moved their women, children, and property to their stronghold Mesa, to which they escaped when Coronado tried to subjugate the nation. In 1629, about 10,000 Zunis were accounted for when the first mission was established in Hawikuh by the Franciscans. When first contacted by Spanish explorers during the 16th century, the Zuni were living in seven villages that came to be associated with the mythical Seven Golden Cities of CIBOLA. After the unsuccessful Pueblo rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, the Zuni were consolidated within the present pueblo, which was constructed (c.1695) on the site of one of the original villages.

Primarily farmers, the Zuni raise maize and wheat and engage in sheepherding on a large scale. Jewelrymaking has become an important additional source of income. Traditional Zuni life is oriented around a matrilineal clan system and a complex ceremonial system based on a belief in the ancestors (ancient ones). There are six specialized esoteric groups, each with restricted membership and its own priesthood, devoted to the worship of a particular group of supernaturals. During the well-known Shalako Festival, held in early winter, dancers wearing giant masks represent the couriers of the rain deities as they come to bless new homes. Today, they remain a strong nation, active on the Zuni Reservation in New Mexico. The Zuni population in 1991 was estimated at 8,546.

Zuni dancers: detail of photograph by Edward Curtis: 1914, [public domain]
Zuni dancers

Adding a Breath to Zuni Life
Zuni Fetish Collection
Zuni Pueblo "She-We-Na"
Zuni World View, on the Beautiful and the Dangerous

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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