The Zuni are Native American Pueblo Peoples who originated in the Zuni River Valley in New Mexico. They are believed to descend from the Anasazi, and according to Zuni tradition, their ancestors originally emerged from deep underground to reside in the lands of what is now the southwest USA. Archaeological evidence suggests the Zuni have lived in their current location at the Zuni Pueblo near Gallup, NM, for 1,300 years.
The tribal name of the Zuni is A’shiwi; the name Zuni itself comes from a Spanish adaptation. They have their own tribal language that is unique and unrelated to the languages spoken by the other Pueblo peoples.
The Zuni were first encountered by Europeans when Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came across them in 1540. They were living in large Pueblos (that are now ruins) along the Zuni River and which were at the time located near fertile ground. (The Zuni had a flourishing agricultural economy, predominantly known for raising maize, squash, beans and sunflower seeds. They are also known for crafts including beadwork, basket weaving, pottery, and making Native American jewelry of silver and turquoise.)
The Zuni came to blows with the conquistadors and their Pueblo was overtaken by Coronado as his headquarters. While the Spanish arrival disrupted trade and society for the Zuni and took a terrible toll on them through introduced disease, they also benefited somewhat from the introduction of wheat, peaches, and domestic livestock.
After years of conflict with the Spaniards as well as Navajo and Apache, the Zuni joined with other Pueblo Peoples in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
Like their other Pueblo counterparts, the Zuni are very religious and spiritual, and they have complex ceremonies with spirituality centred upon gods and spirit beings. It is a shamanistic religion full of symbolism and mythology. Zuni gods are believed to reside in the lakes of New Mexico and Arizona. Shamans are revered for their guidance as well as healing and knowledge.
The Zuni Pueblo is the largest of nineteen in New Mexico. With a population of ten thousand and covering seven hundred square miles, it features the Hawikuh Ruins, dating to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which can still be seen here.
The Zuni still live in relative isolation and continue to observe their own religion and speak their own language. Their economy now relies more on the tourist trade than on corn, and pottery and Native American jewelry are their mainstays.