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What Is the Zuni Pueblo?

Various events at the Zuni Pueblo allow the public to see tribal dancing.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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The Zuni Pueblo is a Native American reservation in Northern New Mexico. Like other reservations, it is considered sovereign territory and the prevailing law is the tribal law, not that of New Mexico. The site is of cultural and historic interest because it contains numerous intact archaeological sites and the community that lives in the pueblo has retained many of the traditions of the Zuni people. Most visitors reach this site by car, typically driving from Albuquerque.

Zuni Native Americans have lived in this region for thousands of years. They hunted and fished to survive, gathering plants when they were seasonally available and constructing adobe homes, many of which were five or more stories tall. The area is also rich in deposits of silver and turquoise, both used by the Zuni people in decorative crafts, as well as objects designed for religious use.

When Europeans first encountered the Zuni, they remarked on the complexity of Zuni architecture and society, noting that the population was thriving and well-established. A mission church was built in Zuni Pueblo in the 1600s and it can still be seen today. The A:shiwi, as they are known in their native language, benefited from relative isolation and their tribal lands did not experience some of the depredations seen in other regions of the Americas.

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Visitors to Zuni Pueblo can see a number of structures of interest, as well as meeting contemporary Zuni artists, examining historical artifacts on display, and participating in events. Tribal fairs are held in the summer and visitors are welcome. Religious events held in the winter are also open to the public, giving people an opportunity to see tribal dances and traditional religious rituals that have been preserved by the community.

Because Zuni Pueblo is a living community, not just an archaeological site, visitors are asked to be respectful. Tribal members prefer that visitors check in at the visitor's center when they arrive to get information about the reservation and any upcoming events. Photography is forbidden in many areas and it is generally advisable to ask for consent before taking photographs. The pueblo is filled with private homes and is not intended to function as a living museum. Staff at the visitor's center can provide members of the public with information about the areas in the reservation they can visit, and what they can do there. A limited number of hunting and fishing licenses are available to people from outside Zuni Pueblo on an annual basis.

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