Zuni - Orientation

Identification. The Zuni Indians live today on the Zuni Reservation in west-central New Mexico. The name "Zuni" appears to have derived ultimately from Keresan, wherein Acoma and Santa Ana su'ny denotes "a Zuni Indian." It first appears in Spanish as Suñi and Zuni in the entrada reports of Augustin Rodriguez and Francisco Sánchez Chamuscado (1581-82). Alternative spellings occur thereafter. The Zuni refer to themselves as "Ashiwi" and their pueblo as "Itiwana" (Middle Place), "Halona:wa," name of Halona Pueblo, or most commonly now, Zuni.

Location. The Zuni have occupied the Zuni River valley of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona since at least A.D. 700. The present reservation comprises approximately 655 square miles divided into three areas: the main reservation, Zuni Salt Lake (one square mile added in 1978), and Zuni Heaven ( Kolhu/wala:wa ) (fourteen square miles added in 1984).

Linguistic Affiliation. The Zuni language is an isolate that may possibly be related to Penutian of central California. If so, glottochronology suggests a separation minimally of seven thousand years.

Demography. Historically, the Zuni population at European contact in 1540 has been estimated at over 6,000. Population was greatly reduced by diseases such as smallpox, influenza, and measles. Since 1903, when medical doctors arrived, the population has steadily increased. Reservation population in February 1988 was 8,299 Zuni (3,984 men, 4,315 women) and 460 non-Indians. Of the Zuni, 2,469 were less than sixteen years old. Many Zuni live off the reservation, but precise figures are lacking.

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