Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, Aug. 09

20th annual Zuni festival of art, culture this weekend

<i>Michele Mountain/MNA</i><br>
Frida Unkestine of the Nawetsa Family Dancers.

<i>Michele Mountain/MNA</i><br> Frida Unkestine of the Nawetsa Family Dancers.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The origins of the Zuni people have long intrigued Southwestern anthropologists, as well as those who appreciate and collect Zuni art. What is known is that the ancestors of today's A:shiwi (Zuni people) have lived at Zuni Pueblo for thousands of years. Recent scholarly papers report the Zuni language was segregated from all others at least 7,000 to 8,000 years ago into a language isolate. Zuni presence and influence on the Colorado Plateau was substantial and it has even been hypothesized that many Southwestern populations in the distant past spoke Zuni.

On Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., join the Museum of Northern Arizona in welcoming the A:shiwi to Flagstaff at the 20th Annual Zuni Festival of Arts and Culture. This year's theme of "Spiritual Landscape and Illumination" describes the cultural presentations, fine arts, music, and dances that will serve as windows into the Zuni people, often considered the most traditional of all of the Southwestern pueblo people, as they have managed to preserve their core beliefs and identity while integrating useful parts of the outside world.

The festival will explore A:shiwi philosophy, beliefs, worldviews, and values; emergence and migration; sacred sites; and current day issues on the Zuni Indian Reservation. The intricate and distinctive world of Zuni fine artists will also be represented by potters, colored stone and silver jewelers, stone fetish carvers, wood kachina carvers, beaders, and ceremonial sash weavers. Each piece of Zuni artwork represents generations of tradition, paired with the artist's individual unique style.

A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center (AAMHC) Director Jim Enote stated, "I can imagine my ancestors trekking across this great plateau, sustaining themselves modestly and creating greatly with an aesthetic that can only come from an appreciation of rain, the sun, fertile landscapes, crops, and the magnificent natural architecture of our Mother Earth."

MNA Director Robert Breunig added, "I hope the Flagstaff community will gather at the festival to embrace Zuni ways of understanding this world from the source, a truly ancient people. Zuni artists, musicians, educators, and scholars come to Flagstaff to represent their culture. Festival will 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."

Insight presentations

Six cultural programs will be given by the AAMHC staff. These presentations are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts

Zuni sacred sites

According to the A:shiwi, their place of origin is Chimik'yana'kya Dey'a, known to modern hikers as Ribbon Falls on Bright Angel Creek, which flows to the Colorado River from the North Rim wall of the Grand Canyon. Museum Technician Curtis Quam will talk about the Zuni peoples' historical and cultural relationship to sacred sites in the Grand Canyon such as Ribbon Falls and Thunder Falls.

History of the Pueblo Revolt

Zuni jeweler, educator, and archaeologist Dan Simplicio tackles a subject that remains central to the history of Zuni, as well as other Pueblo communities-the first contact between Indian people and Europeans in the Southwest. Simplicio has had extensive conversations with the Zuni community, exploring age-old oral traditions about contact with the Old World and Estevan Dorantes, a Moorish or North African slave who was a scout on the expedition of Fray Marcos de Niza in the summer of 1539. Simplicio shares his findings and talks from the Zuni perspective about the importance of shared knowledge and collective understanding.

Search for the Middle Place

Curtis Quam will interpret from mural panels depicting scenes from the emergence and migration of the A:shiwi to Halona:wa, the Middle Place of the World or what is now Zuni Pueblo. The journey begins in the Grand Canyon, then to European contact at the ancestral A:shiwi village of Hawikku, then to post contact history, arrival of the Americans, and finally to the influence of ethnographers, anthropologists, and archaeologists on the

A:shiwi way of life. The images that accompany Quam's talk are from the A:shiwi A:wan exhibit Hawikku: Echoes from Our Past and give testimony to the scope and proportions of Zuni exploration, occupancy, and influence throughout the Southwest.

MNA exhibit plans

MNA Director Robert Breunig and Jim Enote will share proposed concepts and themes being explored for future Zuni exhibits at MNA.

Films and photos

The AAMHC Photo and Motion Picture Archive contains approximately 4,500 still photos taken from the late 1800s to the present. The photographs include Smithsonian photos, photos donated by community members, photos of tribal programs, photos taken at Zuni schools, Indian Health Service photos, and Bureau of Indian Affairs project photos. A collection of 15 motion picture films made between 1923 to the present are also available for viewing. A sampling of films and photos from the archive will be shown at the festival.

Opening ceremonies

Both Saturday and Sunday 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.

Zuni artists and demonstrators

Zuni artists are known for some of the most sought after Native works of art with their distinctive sense of color and patterns, intricately crafted designs, and traditional symbols. Award-winning artists including James Cheama, Colin Coonsis, Carlos Laate, and Octavius and Irma Seowtewa will present their work at this year's festival. In addition, demonstrators will create artwork and talk with visitors about the materials and designs they use.

Traditional Dancers

Originally formed in the 1950s, the Nawetsa Family Dancers bring the pageantry of traditional Zuni social dancing, with their colorful headdresses, beaded and fringed arm bands, and traditional woven outfits and turquoise jewelry adding to their magical performances of dances symbolizing the dreams, visions, and beliefs of the A:shiwi. The Eagle Dance honors the majestic bird for the all of the sacrifices it gives to the Zuni people; all of the feathers of the eagle are used in prayer. The White Buffalo Dance represents the rain clouds of summer time and prayers for moisture.

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, the Zuni Pueblo Band 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. The Zuni Pueblo Band plays marches by John Phillip Sousa, K. L. King, Roland Seitz, and other well-known composers for parades and concerts.

About the Zuni People

The spiritual and ancestral landscape of the A:shiwi includes the San Francisco Peaks or Sunha:kwin K'yaba:chu Yalanne in the west, Mesa Verde in the north, Sandia Mountains in the east, the Salt and Gila River Basins to the south, and of course, the Grand Canyon, the Zuni place of origin.

Zunis believe they emerged from Mother Earth within the Grand Canyon and migrated across the Colorado Plateau to Halona Idiwana'a or the Middle Place of the World, home of the Zuni today. Their broad, scenic valley with red mesas and an expansive blue sky is about 150 miles west of Albuquerque at an historic crossroads of travel and trade in northwestern New Mexico. Zuni Pueblo is the largest of nineteen New Mexican pueblos, with eleven thousand members spread out over 600 square miles. The fact that the A:shiwi language bears no similarity to any other known language is indicative of their isolation. Eighty percent of Zuni families are involved in making fine arts, home-based work that makes it possible for Zunis to remain in their community.

About the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center

Established by a small group of Zuni tribal members in 1992, the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to serving the Zuni community with programs and exhibits that reflect on their past and are relevant to their present and future. This museum emphasizes A:shiwi ways of knowing, while also exploring modern and mainstream concepts of knowledge. The Pathways to Zuni Wisdom program is gaining national attention as an example of learning traditional life skills and applying them to modern circumstances. The old films, photo archives, and collection of digitized oral history interviews are popular with many Zunis. Art is a fundamental part of the culture. Whether through collections of contemporary Zuni art, its Zuni prehistoric art collection, or Zuni school art exhibitions, the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center provides a venue and forum for local artists to study and reflect on the possibilities of art in their community, with collections of contemporary and prehistoric Zuni art. Visit for more information.

About the Museum of Northern Arizona

Now celebrating its 82nd year, the Museum of Northern Arizona has a long and illustrious history and evokes the very spirit of the Colorado Plateau. It serves as the gateway to understanding this region, with nine exhibit galleries revealing Native cultures, artistic traditions, and natural sciences. MNA's four Heritage Program festivals highlight the region's cultures and encourage communication and the exchange of ideas between visitors, educators, and artists. More information about MNA is at Information is also available by phone at (928) 774-5213.


Zuni Festival's Insight Presentations were made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional sponsors of this year's Heritage Program include the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona Humanities Council, Coconino County, Main Street Catering, Salsa Brava, Simply Delicious, and Thornagers.

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