Reservation Series: Zuni Pueblo

Enrolled Tribal Members:            9,554
People on the Reservation:         7,758
Programs Partnering with NRC:   20
Sovereign Nation Since:             1877      
Official Tribal Web Site:    

Photo by Zuni Pueblo (pub. at

A Bit of Culture: 
The Governor of Zuni has shared with NRC staff that he would like people to be aware that Zuni makes quality textiles. The Zuni people are skilled at making jewelry such as mosaic inlays and turquoise, shell, and silver pieces. They also make fine beadwork belts and necklaces, and are known for their ingenious use of color in architecture and painting. The people use these art forms to express their cultural traditions and unite the past with the present.

The Zuni language is not part of a larger family of languages; it is unlike any other. The tribe is currently working on a Zuni-English dictionary to preserve the language and facilitate teaching. In addition to being part of the rich Zuni heritage, the Zuni language plays a big part in their religion and connection with ancestors.

Zuni Pueblo has a Children’s Code, which acknowledges that young people are the Pueblo’s greatest resource and that their welfare is paramount.

Although the Zuni are very private when it comes to their ceremonies, their annual Kachina dances are open to the public. The most popular dance is Shalako, which is held in December to celebrate the end of the old and the start of the new year, as well as to bless any homes erected during the year. Other events open to the public include the Rain Dance in June and the McKinley County Fair. Unlike many other Pueblos, Zuni does not hold a feast day. Before visiting Zuni or any pueblo, please review this pueblo etiquette.

A Bit of History:  
Traditionally, the Zuni were farmers. They lived in pueblos or flat-roofed houses made from adobe. Interestingly, the Zuni built compact villages of multi-storied houses near the settlements left by the ancient ones along the Zuni River. This is where the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his men invaded in 1540. They came in search of gold, and set up missions and settled in the villages, which they called the s the “seven cities.” Coronado attempted to dominate the Zuni people, force them to accept the King and Queen of Spain as their ruler and the Catholic Church as their religion. This angered the Zuni and led to an attack. The Zuni, inadequately armed, were forced to flee. The Zuni people ultimately congregated into the singular group they are today. So in the end, Coronado did not rule the Zuni, he found no gold, and he eventually returned to Mexico, his expedition deemed an abject failure.  He was later found guilty of numerous atrocities against Indians “under his authority.”

The Land: 
The Zuni Pueblo is located about 150 miles west of Albuquerque in New Mexico.  It is organized into several districts, which span about 463,000 acres of green habitat and natural resources.  The land attracts abundant deer, elk and antelope, and their reservoirs are stocked with trout, catfish and bass.  The Zuni are able to raise crops such as corn, squash, and beans, and there is ample grazing for sheep and cattle. The climate is seasonal, with regular rain and snowfall, and temperatures ranging from 34 to 103 degrees.

Current Economy: 
The Zuni Pueblo is governed by a Tribal Council comprised of 6 members. It is noticeable throughout the communities that they have a good recycling program in place. The tribe operates the A:shiwiA:wan Museum & Heritage Center, as well as a forest products enterprise that provides rough sawed and planed lumber, beams, firewood, tree thinning, and trees for planting. They also offer a limited number of hunting and fishing permits, and camping permits for designated areas.

Education & Income: 
It is reported that about two-thirds of Zuni residents have a high school education or higher. In 2009, the median household income was estimated at $35,078. But about 43% of the Zuni people live below the US federal poverty line.  As much as 80% of their workforce is involved in the creation and sale of textiles. About 20% of the workforce age 25 and older is unemployed. The tribe is proactive in education, workforce training, and basic services that affect employment, such as day care and transportation.

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