Zuni Cultural insights from the source

<i>Photo by Michele Mountain/MNA</i><br>
Young Olla Maidens at the 2008 Zuni Festival.

<i>Photo by Michele Mountain/MNA</i><br> Young Olla Maidens at the 2008 Zuni Festival.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Zuni artists, musicians, educators, and scholars will bring to Flagstaff an opportunity for cultural exchange at the Museum of Northern Arizona's 19th Annual Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture May 23-24.

Zuni worldviews and values will be explained and illustrated in the many presentations throughout the weekend, produced in partnership with the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. Insightful talks, films from the Zuni museum's archives, and traditional dances and music will express the many practices and beliefs of Zuni life.

"It is important for the Zuni people to come to Flagstaff each year for the Zuni Festival, because this event provides an opportunity to represent ourselves as a society that continues to define and influence the art, economy, and history of the Colorado Plateau," says A:shiwi A:wan Museum Director Jim Enote.

"Practically everywhere you look around Flagstaff and the region you will see Zuni images, yet very few people know the images' connection to Zuni. The Zuni Festival is a forum for people of all backgrounds to learn, and perhaps take home a piece of Zuni art and an enhanced understanding of their own world as it has been shaped by the Zuni people."

Museum Director Robert Breunig said, "The Colorado Plateau has been the home of the Zuni during the migration from their place of origin, the Grand Canyon. They traveled  across the region to Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, where they have been for at least the last 1,300 years. MNA's partnership with the Zuni Tribe and the A:shiwi A:wan Museum acknowledges the Zuni presence in this area and the influence of this ancient people within their aboriginal territory."

Insights from the source

Farming in the Southwest has never been easy. Yet, Zuni farmers continue the practice with time-tested techniques, seeds that are adapted to a high and dry environment, and a belief that farming is more than a chore or hobby - it is part of a larger cosmological process.

At "The Struggle to Maintain Zuni Farming," Jim Enote, Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, will talk about the past decline and recent resurgence of Zuni farming. He will also talk about traditional foods, and what is needed to maintain Zuni farming and food security at Zuni Pueblo and throughout the world.

The history of the A:shiwi or Zuni people would be incomplete without a recounting of the search for their middle place. At "A Southwest Odyssey: The Zuni Search for the Middle Place," Curtis Quam, a Zuni tribal member and museum technician, will narrate a slideshow of paintings and photographs, a testimony to the scope and proportions of Zuni exploration, occupancy and influence throughout the Southwest.

Zunis have always had maps; maps on rocks, maps in songs, and maps on pottery and textiles. But, for the past 500 years those maps were replaced with ones that had foreign names, and in many cases completely overlooked Zuni presence on the land.  

In 2006, several Zuni artists and cultural advisors came together to create new maps that are painted renderings of Zuni cultural landscapes. At "Mapping with Zuni Sensibilities:  Creating a New Generation of Maps without Lines," the staff of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Zuni map artists will talk about the process of making map art and sharing their art with the Zuni community.

Photography and motion pictures have been one of the largest forces in the representation and misrepresentation of Zuni. At "A Critical Look at Photography and Motion Pictures at Zuni," staff from the A:shiwi A:wan Museum will discuss the power of film from its introduction to the Zuni people in the early 1900s, to banning films at ceremonial events, their influence on Zuni identity, and their use as a positive and persuasive tool in teaching Zuni history and culture in the Zuni community.

Opening ceremonies

Both mornings at 9 a.m., Zuni and MNA officials will gather at the flagpole with Miss Zuni LaCretia Lastiyano and the Zuni Pueblo Band for a flag raising ceremony in front of the Museum. The Zuni flag will be raised next to the U.S. and Museum of Northern Arizona flags, where they will remain throughout the weekend.

Returning presentations

The Nawetsa Family Dancers bring with them the pageantry of traditional Zuni social dancing. Colorful headdresses, beaded and fringed arm bands, and traditional woven outfits and jewelry add to their magical performance of dances symbolizing the dreams, visions, and beliefs of the A:shiwi.

The Olla Pottery Maidens, decorated with turquoise jewelry and traditional woven outfits, dance while carefully balancing water pots on their heads. The pots are indented on the bottom for this purpose and in the past, these same pots were used for carrying food and water.

The Zuni Pueblo Band, scheduled to play both festival days, is one of the few remaining American Indian community bands in the U.S. today. They proudly wear the traditional Pueblo style of dress, with a red woven sash belt around the waist, along with a handmade concho belt and exquisite Zuni jewelry. The men wear bowguards and a traditional white headscarf across their foreheads, and the women tie their hair in the back with a small red sash. All band members wear red leather moccasins. Membership in the band is open to all Zunis, regardless of age or experience. In recent years, the band has had members from eight to 80 years old and it is no surprise to see three or four generations of families participating in the band at any given time. Since their formation, the Zuni Pueblo Band has played marches by John Phillip Sousa, K. L. King, Roland Seitz, and other well-known composers for parades and concerts.

More information about the Zuni Festival and the Museum of Northern Arizona is available at www.musnaz.org or by calling (928) 774-5213. The Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and is located three miles north of historic downtown Flagstaff on Highway 180.

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