Zuni - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Zuni were horticulturists, with maize of several colors, beans, and squash as the primary cultigens grown in dry, floodwater, or irrigated fields. Crops were supplemented by the gathering of numerous wild plants and the hunting of animals (mule deer, rabbits, antelope, mountain sheep, and others, including bison on the plains). Communal hunts, which involved considerable ritual activity, were not uncommon. Following Spanish contact, wheat, melons, peaches, and other plants were introduced, as were sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and burros. Aboriginally, turkeys and dogs were domesticated, and eagles were caged or tethered for ritual use of their feathers. Sheep quickly became the dominant animal (for both wool and meat).

Today, all available range land (95 percent of the Reservation) has been assigned in ninety-five grazing units/sheep ranches and four cattle pastures operated by two cattlemen's associations. The reservation was fenced in 1934. Range improvements are ongoing, and sheep and cattle provide a growing source of income. Although trading in turquoise, shell, piñon nuts, salt from Zuni Salt Lake, plants/herbs, and other materials has not ceased, with the coming of the railroads (to Gallup in 1882) and Americanization, there was a shift from bartering to a cash economy. Employment on the reservation is limited to positions associated with federally funded tribal programs, trading posts, and other commercial enterprises. During the 1970s a candle factory and a subsidiary plant of a major electronics company were established, but were shortlived. Cottage industry involving jewelry and other craft Production began to be an important source of income during the 1920s and reached a zenith in the 1970s; today, most households are involved on either a part- or full-time basis. Events of the 1970s, particularly the "jewelry boom," nearly brought an end to subsistence farming pursuits. Sources of off-reservation employment include fire fighting with the U.S. Forest Service and a variety of jobs in Gallup.

Industrial Arts. Crafts included pottery, blanket and belt weaving, basketry, fetish carving, turquoise (and shell) bead making, and metalworking after Spanish contact. Although silversmithing began in the late nineteenth century, it did not reach major importance until the 1920s with the assistance of reservation and Gallup traders. A progression from clusterwork to mosaic inlay and, more recently, needlepoint and channel work has brought international prominence to Zuni. Fetishes, glass beadwork, kachinas, paintings, prints, and ceramics are available to the trader and tourist market. Sash and belt weaving is being revitalized, but basketry is near extinction.

Trade. Since prehistoric times, Zuni have maintained an important position in trade with other Pueblos, Navajo, Apache, Mexican Indians, and other groups. Hawikkuh, ethnohistorically, was the nexus of trade; present-day Zuni (Halona:wa) continues the tradition. While major trade in wheat and other crops no longer exists, trade in jewelry and other crafts, as well as salt and piñon nuts, continues.

Division of Labor. There has been a major shift from traditional patterns (men worked in fields, harvested crops belonged to the women) to a nonagricultural cash economy wherein both women and men are frequently involved in wage earning. Expectations are that a husband will give his wife his earnings. Livestock ownership traditionally resided with males, with related males sharing flock/herd duties and dividing proceeds after sales. Today, women may be involved via inheritance from their fathers. Within households many married couples work together in jewelry production, dividing the work by personal preference. Preparing food for Ceremonial occasions and bread baking continues to be women's work, and wood gathering and chopping generally resides with males.

Land Tenure. Since Americanization, land has been passed down through either male or female lines, rather than being controlled by matrilineal clans. Today, land associated with houses and farming tends to be viewed as personal property with surveyed boundaries. Cattle and sheep grazing areas are divided among tribal members with registered use rights.

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User Contributions:

Dan Vasquez
I would like to know what have the Zuni's today's economic with the employment down very low. The thing is that would like learn more about information on percent of Zunis that are working in the medical or legal filed as well. reason being is that I am a college student attending Pasadena Ctiy College, Ca. Where I am getting my Assocate of Science degree and also my certificate of achievement in paralegal studies.

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