The Trail of the Ancients captures the archaeological evidence of hunter and gatherers who lived in the area since 10,000 B.C. or earlier, in the northwestern portion of the state. The Ancient Puebloans that lived in the area between about 850 and 1250 A.D. are the ancestors of the modern Hopi, Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblo tribes. Navajos, from the Athabascan tribal areas in northwestern Canada, migrated into the area about 500 years ago. Other Native Americans include the Utes and Apaches.
The Zuni people have lived in the American Southwest for thousands of years. Their cultural and religious traditions are rooted, in large part, in the people's deep and close ties to the mountains, river ways, forests, and deserts of this ancient Zuni homeland. Primarily being farmers, the Zuni people raise maize and wheat and engage in Jewelry making. It has become an important additional source of income for the people. Traditional Zuni life is oriented around a matrilineal clan system and a complex ceremonial system base 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 representing the couriers of the rain deities come to bless new homes. One way the Zuni people express these cultural traditions is through their art: in painting, pottery, jewelry, and fetish carving, for example. These things have significant meaning, and, to the Zuni, serve to help unite the past with the present. So, on the one hand, Zuni art is a material record of the past.
We offer the discerning visitor many rich experiences that draw from our deep cultural heritage, our special history, our exquisite arts, and awesome scenic beauty. Zuni Pueblo is the largest of the nineteen New Mexican Pueblos, covering more than 700 square miles and with a population of over 10,000. We are considered the most traditional of all the New Mexico Pueblos, with a unique language, culture, and history that resulted in part from our geographic isolation. With perhaps 80% of our workforce involved in making arts, we are indeed an "artist colony." Our main "industry" is the production of arts, including inlay silverwork, stone “fetish” carving, pottery, and others of which we are world famous.
Most of Zuni's residents live in the main village of Zuni and the nearby "suburb" community of Blackrock. Zuni is a sovereign, self-governed nation with our own constitutional government, courts, police force, school system, and economic base. Our 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 people unique.
Elahkwa / Thank You for respecting our traditions.
The Zuni are one of the 19 Pueblo tribes of what is now known as New Mexico. The Zuni tribe lives along the Zuni River in the northwestern corner of the state on a reservation of roughly 450,000 acres. Archeologists believe Zuni history began well before 2500 B.C. when the tribe moved into the Southwest as big game hunters. Between 2500 B.C. and 700 A.D. the Zuni Indians made their first attempts at agriculture and hunted smaller game. Historians believe it was during this period they started making pottery and weaving baskets. By the 1500s, the tribe’s agriculture thrived thanks to their ingenious systems of irrigation that fueled their fields, allowing the Zuni to grow maize and wheat. The population grew and the tribe constructed plaza-style villages.
Outside forced first threatened the tribe in 1539. According to the official Zuni tribe website, Spaniard Fray Marco de Niza left Mexico with a man named Estevan and came across a Zuni village. When Estevan demanded turquoise and women, he was executed by the Zuni Indians. de Niza turned tail and retreated back to Mexico, but a year later, Spaniard Francisco Coronado returned to Zuni lands with a large army, hoping to exact revenge on de Niza’s behalf. The Spanish were driven out by the tribe and Coronado narrowly escaped with his life. It is believed six of Coronado’s men were left behind. Instead of executing the attackers, the Zuni allowed the men to live among them peacefully and they happily lived out their lives among the Zuni people.