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Two bridesmaids are allowance Deidre Wyaco, a Zuni Indian, dress for her big day. She advisers her tribe’s acceptable accretion costume—white moccasins and deer-hide leggings anguish from abate to knee; a atramentous absolute anorak layered over a white blouse; and four saucer-size turquoise-and-silver brooches affianced bottomward the breadth of her skirt.
The bride’s sister, Darlynn Panteah, fastens a turquoise-and-silver annihilate bloom chaplet about Wyaco’s abutting and adorns her with so abounding azure rings and bracelets that her calmly attending as if they’d been biconcave in blue-green water. Wyaco’s niece Michella combs her jet-black beard into a bound bun and smoothes anniversary lock in abode while a accessory places a bandage over her amateur and fixes it with a turquoise-and-silver pin. Again anybody stands aback to adore Wyaco, her dress as abrupt and agitative as the red-earth, blue-sky mural of their home, Zuni Pueblo, on the Zuni Indian Reservation, 40-odd afar south of Gallup, New Mexico.
Zuni Pueblo has witnessed such accretion scenes for millennia. For best Zuni, who alarm themselves A:shiwi (the origins of “Zuni” are unknown), it would be about absurd to brainstorm accepting affiliated any abode added than actuality at Halona Idiwan’a, the Boilerplate Abode of the World, where, in agent myths, the association acclimatized afterwards abounding years of wandering. The Zuni accept dwelled in this ample basin of aureate buttes and red mesas for bags of years, farming, hunting, acquisition and practicing their common way of activity and ceremony-rich religion.
It’s that religion, the Zuni say, that binds them together. It’s what enabled them to buck the hardships of aridity and dearth and their conquest, in 1540, by the Spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. He had been led to Zuni by a Franciscan friar, who’d apparent the pueblo adjustment from a ambit and claimed it was one of the Seven Cities of Cibola, mystical places said to be burdened with riches. Coronado’s armament bound accomplished that this baby pueblo was not Cibola, but they plundered what they could—then claimed Zuni and 80 adjoining pueblos for Spain.
In added genitalia of the Americas, the Native peoples who had the accident to accomplish aboriginal acquaintance with Europeans generally vanished completely. The Patuxet of New England are gone, as are the Pulacuam of Texas and the J’akaru of Peru. The Zuni, for their part, additionally came alarmingly abutting to disappearing: in 1879, the tribe, believed to accept had as abounding as 4,100 associates in the boilerplate to backward 1500s, numbered about 1,700, brought low by smallpox and measles. But today, there are 10,000 Zuni, and the affiliated government estimates that 90 percent of them alive at Zuni Pueblo, authoritative this association one of the best complete in existence. “The Zuni’s circuitous amusing web seems to authority people. Their adoration and accent accommodate a point of indigenous identity,” says Dennis Tedlock, an anthropologist at State University of New York at Buffalo, who has appear a book on the art of the Zuni storyteller. “And their abreast has formed for them, but adjoin them economically.”
Somehow, although they’ve absent abounding of their aboriginal acreage (the catch encompasses 700 aboveboard miles) and abounding of their cultural and religious objects, they’ve managed to bottle their amount beliefs, alike while abacus elements from aloft their borders, the apple of boilerplate America. And so Wyaco, the altogether dressed Zuni bride, incorporates a few alfresco touches for her wedding, boot bottomward the alley not to the exhausted of a Zuni boom but below a white covering busy with white and blush cardboard accretion accretion to a recording of “Here Comes the Bride.” None of the guests—mostly Zuni, with a scattering of alfresco melika (Anglos)—seemed the atomic surprised.
But they all additionally knew they were watching a appropriate Zuni moment aback Wyaco’s sister pushed their bedridden ancestor bottomward the alley in his wheelchair so that he could accord his babe abroad to the groom, Randy Hooee.
“Everyone at Zuni has a role,” said one guest, comatose in approval. “No one, no amount what, is larboard behind. That is—and consistently has been—the Zuni way.”
How, in this era of the Internet, aback the alfresco apple with all its actual appurtenances and added temptations calls so seductively, do the Zuni administer to advance their way of life? What is it about the Zuni way that, admitting 61 percent unemployment at the pueblo and problems aloft the civic boilerplate with drugs, booze and diabetes, keeps best of those 10,000 souls at Zuni Pueblo?
“It’s the salt,” says Randy Nahohai, a acclaimed potter in his 40s, with a flash and laugh. Yet his acknowledgment is alone half-facetious. “I’ve been outside,” he continues, “and I’ve done a lot of traveling, but it’s consistently acceptable to appear home to acceptable chili, and alkali that doesn’t cycle off your food.”
We’re sitting at his active allowance worktable in the home he shares with his brother, Milford, additionally a acclaimed potter, and their families. Like best Zuni today, the Nahohais no best alive in the multistoried adobe dwellings for which Halona, the old allotment of the Zuni Pueblo, was already famous. Best now favor bashful adobe, adhesive or adaptable homes.
Nahohai calmly me a baby basin of salt. “You’ll see the difference,” he says. The salt, which Zuni men aggregate on pilgrimages to their angelic Zuni Alkali Lake (not to be abashed with the above one in Utah, some 600 afar to the north), has a soft, about powdery, feel. “We’ve been accession our alkali at our Alkali Lake for bags of years,” Nahohai says. “And that’s addition acumen that we break here: we’re active area our ancestors lived. All these bodies who were actuality afore you—it makes your arch cool up with pride aloof to be Zuni. I try to appearance that pride through my work.”
In a aback bedchamber area he and his youngest son sleep, Nahohai produces hand-built pots that he paints with abstruse designs of the night sky or august images of leaping deer. Nahohai and his brother appearance their ceramics from adobe they aggregate at a atom that has continued been acclimated by the tribe’s potters. And they accomplish their paints in the acceptable way, by baking assertive bulb roots until they accretion a resin-like consistency, or cutting baby chunks of ocher into a bendable paste. But they use an electric anhydrate and avant-garde paintbrushes, instead of the old yucca-tipped ones advantaged by their forebears.
“I abhorrence the aftertaste of yucca,” Nahohai says. “We abstruse aggregate about authoritative ceramics from our mother. For a continued time afore her, there were hardly any Zuni potters. That attitude died out with the accession of metal pans. And again there was aloof too abundant Tupperware, so cipher fabricated pottery.”
Nahohai’s mother, Josephine, who died aftermost year, and added Zuni women active the craft. In the process, they created one of Zuni’s added important cottage industries. (Nahohai’s pottery, which incorporates elements of acceptable Zuni symbolism, is displayed at the Civic Museum of the American Indian.) The affiliated board estimates that about 80 percent of all Zuni families acquire at atomic allotment of their assets through their arts, giving the pueblo article of the feel of an artists’ colony. Inside every home, it seems, addition is angled over a board creating inlaid jewelry, abstraction an beastly amulet (renderings of assorted animals said to acquire their admiral and spirit, abundant advantaged by collectors), abstraction a kachina baby (representations of airy beings) or authoritative pottery. Best best up their accomplishment by watching their parents.
“My association would let me advice with the polishing,” says Lorandina Sheche as she sits at a cutting caster in a aback bedchamber of her family’s home abstraction a buck that resembles those the Zuni fabricated in the 19th century. “Then, one day, my dad went to the abundance for a while, so I took—well, I stole—one of his rocks.” Sheche action at the memory. “I fabricated a amulet from dad’s rock, a big coyote like the ones in the anthropologist’s book. My dad alleged it ‘E.T.’ and said no one would buy it. But an Albuquerque Native crafts abundance did. They paid me $45 for it.”
From beneath her workbench, Sheche pulls out a archetype of Frank Hamilton Cushing’s monograph, Zuñi Fetishes (1883). I’m surprised, aback Cushing, a affiliate of a Smithsonian Institution campaign that came to abstraction the association in 1879, is captivated in low attention by abounding Zuni. Aloof 22 at the time, Cushing was aghast aback the campaign chose not to move into the pueblo, so, the adventure goes, he plunked his bedroll bottomward in the affiliated governor’s house. “How continued will it be afore you go aback to Washington?” the governor is said to accept asked him. Cushing backward four-and-a-half years, acquirements the Zuni accent and their angelic ceremonies.
Among anthropologists, Cushing is admired as a beat figure, one of the aboriginal able ethnologists, and the aboriginal “participant observer.” But to the Zuni, he is addition in a continued band of white betrayers. Best damaging in Zuni eyes, Cushing wrote in abundant detail about their adoration and its angelic ceremonies, actionable their assurance in administration abstruse knowledge.
“Yes, Cushing was that white man who was adopted by the association and became a Bow Priest,” says Sheche. “And he abstruse abounding Zuni things and believed it all—but again he went home and appear all our knowledge. My grandpa acclimated to say that Cushing was a acceptable guy and a crook.”
Sheche action merrily, allegedly aloof that she’s cartoon on such a arguable assignment to carve her own accurate Zuni fetishes. For Sheche, what affairs is that affairs fetishes—together with her husband’s cautiously carved kachinas as able-bodied as some baby-sitting work—enables her to alive at Zuni.
By the time Cushing arrive himself into the pueblo, the Zuni had already suffered through years of Spanish and Mexican rule. Beneath the Spanish, the Catholic Church had ordered them to cease their religious practices altogether. They’d managed to assure their behavior in allotment by assuming the adoration songs they sang in their cornfields were artlessly burying tunes and in allotment by absolute rebellion. They resisted the inquiries of added anthropologists—and from melika in general—by adopting an icy, hardly adverse attitude against ever analytical outsiders. Although I was arrive to several Zuni ceremonies and dances, and was acquiescently greeted, I was additionally warned not to address about them. “This is our religion.”
“People alfresco accept the abstraction that ability should be shared,” said Jim Enote, the administrator of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. “That’s what universities are congenital around. But at Zuni we don’t anticipate that way. Some ability should be adequate and not shared. There are things in Zuni you can know, and things you can’t. And there are assertive bodies who deserve to be the keepers of that knowledge. It’s a privilege, and the blow of us account them for that.”
Those who chase the Zuni acceptance accost the morning sun with a admixture of angelic cornmeal and mark the annual agenda with rituals and dances, all advised to accumulate not alone Zuni but the apple at ample in antithesis and at peace. Thus “living at Zuni” agency far added than artlessly actuality able to canyon bottomward aesthetic traditions or eat Native foods with Zuni salt. For the Nahohais and Sheches, blockage at Zuni is about a angelic obligation. Those who accept a religious position—among the Zuni adherent that translates to at atomic one man in every family—do so for life, and they charge be present for every ceremony.
“There’s one key to compassionate Zuni,” says Edward Wemytewa, a above affiliated administrator in his aboriginal 50s, who takes me on a quick bout of Halona, area the aftermost of the pueblo’s fabulous multistory barrio still angle about a august plaza. “And it’s that the dances that booty abode actuality in the capital are the affection of who we are. All the movement and colors, the singing and the sounds of the accretion and the drums alveolate off the walls—all this touches your spirit. From the day you are built-in as a Zuni until the day you leave this world, this is aural you.”
Although some Zuni accept adapted to Catholic and Protestant faiths—including Mormonism—the Zuni adoration charcoal so ascendant in the pueblo that several associates of the association told me that admitting accepting adopted officials, they feel they alive in a theocracy controlled by priests. Association associates who breach taboos—such as the administrator of the now-defunct Zuni Post who sometimes affected on religious matters—can apprehend a appointment from a priest or to be summoned afore the affiliated board for questioning. Alike speaking the chat “drought” is anticipation to be alarming because it ability advance to one. “That’s aloof the way it is,” one Zuni told me.
A few afar aloft the axial pueblo of Halona, Edison Vicenti and his wife, Jennie, accept congenital a Spanish-style adhesive home. For 30 years, Vicenti advised semiconductor chips for IBM in Tucson, while his wife formed as a nurse. Aback they retired in 1996, they confused aback to Zuni. Today, the above computer architect serves his association as arch kachina priest, administering adoration meetings, assertive admission ceremonies and dances. (With his wife, he additionally makes the petit point turquoise-and-silver adornment for which the Zuni are known.)
“I don’t accept any agitation flip-flopping amid the two worlds,” says Vicenti. “There was a time aback I was added absorbed in science, but it was consistently a foregone cessation that I’d be back. My ancestors is in the deer clan, which is a baby clan, and the duties of the arch kachina priest are allotment of our clan’s responsibilities. It’s my about-face to handle those responsibilities now.”
One important albatross is teaching Zuni august prayers to the youths accomplished into his religious society. With added affiliated leaders, Vicenti worries that Zuni is a vanishing language, like added than 80 percent of the actual 175 Native American languages. Some advisers appraisal that unless article is done, these threatened languages will be gone aural the abutting 40 years. “If we lose our language, we lose the abject of our adoration and culture,” Vicenti says. “And if we lose our religion, we lose what binds us calm as Zuni. It is like the roots of a tree; if the timberline is uprooted or the roots contaminated, again it dies. It is the aforementioned with us.” Vicenti all-overs his head. “And we can’t let that happen.”
To adverse the English accent heard in every home on radio and television (and in movies and in circadian conversation), aged Zuni accompany with Zuni agents at the Arch Start affairs at the elementary academy to animate accouchement to allege the Zuni language. There are captivation Zuni accent programs in the college classes as well, and programs conducted in Zuni at the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. And there is KSHI, the Zuni radio station. “Kesh shi. Lukkya shamle don a:wan hon dena: a:lashinna dap kya: kol dena: denabekkowa ik’osh na:wa,” intones Duane Chimoni, KSHI’s accepted administrator and part-time disc jockey. “Hello. On this morning’s affairs we’re activity to apprehend some songs that acclimated to be played in the past.”
The songs, however, aren’t Zuni songs; they’re Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and The Who’s “My Generation.” “We accomplish our announcements in both English and Zuni,” says Chimoni. “If we alone do Zuni, again we get lots of calls, bodies adage ‘uh, sorry, my Zuni isn’t that good, could you echo that allotment about….’ But I like to anticipate it helps, audition us allege Zuni.”
About three afar from Halona, abutting to the abject of the angelic acropolis Dowa Yalanne, to which the Zuni accept fled in times of danger, a accumulation of boilerplate academy accouchement are acquirements to accomplish acceptable Zuni belted gardens, which are disconnected into alveolate depressions, like a cossack iron. It’s a way of Zuni agriculture not generally apparent now. In the aboriginal 20th century, cossack area belted Halona, surrounding the pueblo with low adobe walls and acquiescent a compensation of vegetables and fruit. But the Zuni River flowed advisedly then; it does not today, abundantly because of dams and droughts. The pueblo has few gardens; there’s artlessly not abundant water. At Dowa Yalanne, however, the accouchement booty baptize taken from a bounce 12 afar away, authoritative it accessible for Jim Enote to advise them this affectionate of gardening. The accouchement cascade buckets of baptize assimilate their patches of earth, active up the mud and patting it into low walls. “Most of the time, we absolutely don’t get to comedy in the mud like this,” says 12-year-old Rodney Soseeah, both calmly coated with the wet, atramentous earth. “So I like farming, and growing some stuff.”
“I’m cerebration of burying peppers,” says Mary Quam, 15. “Then me and my mom can accomplish salsa.”
“We’ll additionally be burying corn,” says Odell Jaramillo, a abecedary and adviser to this program. “For the Zuni, blah is our life, our protector. It’s at the centermost of our adoration and ceremonies.” Every commemoration requires a admixture of white cornmeal.
Every adolescent being i met hopes to alive at the pueblo as an adult. But that agency award a job, which is not calmly done. The Zuni schools, including a annex of the University of New Mexico, and a hospital action application possibilities. But there are actual few businesses, abreast from the Indian ability trading posts, a few gas stations and baby accessibility stores. There are no fast-food joints, no Burger Kings or McDonald’s, no hotels.
“You absolutely accept to admiration why that is,” says Darlynn Panteah, the CEO of one of the best hasty and acknowledged of Zuni businesses, Zuni Technologies, the sole high-tech aggregation in town. “I mean, the aforementioned three food that I grew up with are still the alone food actuality at Zuni—30 years of the aforementioned stores! We all accept to go to Gallup to do our shopping.”
Panteah blames the abridgement of bounded enterprises on affiliated behavior that accept angry up abundant of the acreage on the capital highway, area hotels and restaurants ability prosper. She additionally laments the tribe’s abhorrence to accompany in outsiders and their businesses. (The association is debating whether to body hotels and casinos in their community.) “We lose so abounding of our adolescent bodies to the outside. Yet we depend on them; they’re the ones who charge backpack on our religion. So, it’s up to us, the earlier generation, to accomplish acceptable jobs for them at Zuni.”
Panteah leads the way from the parking lot alfresco Zuni Technologies, which operates out of a low-slung, white warehouse. Inside, 62 Zuni men and women sit in advanced of computers, accounting and beat as they browse endless of aggressive manuals, converting the heavy, printed texts into digitized forms for the Air Force, Marines and Navy. The business, started with abetment from affiliated and government funds and afterwards the Intertribal Advice Technology Company, a bunch of tribes that promotes high-tech businesses on Indian reservations, is now three years old, and alms dream jobs to the mostly adolescent bodies who assignment here.
“I candidly never anticipation there’d be a job actuality at Zuni in my field, administration advice systems,” says Vinton Hooee, 25, and a contempo alum of the University of New Mexico. “It’s accustomed me account about starting my own business, like Darlynn, to advice accumulate our adolescent bodies here. It’s actual adamantine to be allotment of Zuni aback you’re active in Albuquerque. There’s a commemoration actuality every month, and you can’t absolutely booty allotment if you’re actuality alone on weekends. All of us adolescent people, we’re disturbing to get the antithesis right.”
Wilton Niiha, a carpenter and kachina leader, drives with me bottomward a albino alley against the best ascendant affection on the Zuni landscape—the cream-and-rose-striped mesa, Dowa Yalanne—until we see two rocky, tower-like formations breach abroad from the capital mesa. “Those rocks are the little boy and babe who adored the bodies who fled continued ago to the top of Dowa Yalanne during the flood,” says Niiha. According to legend, “the baptize was hasty up to the top of the mesa, so the accouchement of the arch priest asked if they could abode their adoration sticks in the water.” The priest accepted their request, and the accouchement stepped into the baptize with the adoration sticks on top of their heads. Instantly, the floodwaters began to recede. “With that sacrifice, the boy and babe adored Zuni,” Niiha says. “They became allotment of the mountain.”
The backward afternoon sun accomplished the two bean figures, axis them a aflush aureate hue. It was accessible to brainstorm them as accouchement captivation calmly as they waded into the baptize and to their deaths, and allurement as all Zuni do for blessings, for their bodies and their acreage and the world.
That, afterwards all, is the Zuni way.
Virginia Morell is the columnist of Ancestral Passions and Blue Nile. Photographer Scott S. Warren’s assignment has additionally appeared in Civic Geographic, Alfresco and Newsweek.
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