Zuni - History and Cultural Relations

Archaeological evidence indicates a resident population within the Zuni River drainage for well over a millennium. In 1540 the Spanish entrada led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, came in search of gold to Zuni (the fabled Kingdom of Cibola) described by Fray Marcos de Niza after his 1539 sojourn with Esteban, a Black slave. Coronado and his party defeated the Zuni at Hawikkuh but found that women, Children, and most provisions had been removed to the sacred stronghold mesa, Dowa Yalanne. The men escaped and soon followed. The entrada wintered in the Rio Grande, but passed through Zuni again on the way back to Mexico, having found no gold. Several Mexican Indians remained and were Reported alive by later Spanish explorers, Chamuscado (1581), Antonio Espejo (1583), and Juan de Oñate (1598). Colonization of the Southwest by the Spaniards under Oñate in 1598 involved the Rio Grande valley. The Zuni were largely unaffected until 1629, when they accepted the Franciscans. A mission was built at Hawikkuh in 1629 and another at Halona:wa by 1632. Hostility toward the friars led to the Zuni's killing them at Hawikkuh in 1632. Apparently the missions were then left unattended until after 1660. In 1672, Apaches killed the priest at the rebuilt Hawikkuh mission with suggestions of Zuni complicity. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 drove the remaining Spanish settlers and priests from the Southwest, and missions and their accouterments were destroyed. The reconquest by Diego de Vargas in 1692, However, revealed the Zuni were the only Indians to have preserved Christian ritual objects. De Vargas found the Zuni living atop Dowa Yalanne. They resettled only Halona:wa in 1700, rebuilding the mission. Early in the 1700s, the Zuni killed three Spaniards and briefly fled to Dowa Yalanne. There were also problems with the Hopi, and mutual raiding of villages occurred (the Hopi Wars).

Throughout the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries, Apache and Navajo raiding parties were a problem. Zuni reprisals in a number of instances involved joining with Spanish militia, later Mexican troops (1821 to 1846), and Finally the U.S. Army (1846 to 1865). From the outbreak of the Mexican War, the Zuni were allied to the United States and assisted numerous expeditions/militia with food, shelter, and warriors. Stephen Watts Kearny (1846), John Marshall Washington and James H. Simpson (1849), Lorenzo Sitgreaves (1851), Amiel W. Whipple (1858), and Edward F. Beale (1857-1858, with twenty-five camels!) were among those assisted.

With Americanization came tremendous encroachments on what were recognized as Zuni lands during the Spanish and Mexican periods—about 15 million acres were involved. The Zuni reservation boundary was officially established in 1877 and reflected less than 3 percent of the original area utilized. Reservation lands were officially extended beginning as early as 1883 through the assistance of the Bureau of American Ethnology ethnologist Frank Hamilton Cushing. He accompanied Matilda Coxe and James Stevenson, fellow anthropologists, in 1879 and stayed at Zuni for several years, becoming an adopted tribal Member and a bow priest. These early anthropologists began a century-plus collaboration with the tribe. Recently, anthropologists have taken an active role in assisting the Zuni in land claims cases and other endeavors.

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