A Church Growth Study of the Zuni IndiansRalph Bruce Terry
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2.3 OTHER CULTURAL ASPECTS OF ZUNI

 

Government. Another part of the social structure of Zuni is the political organization. For the regulation of the religious affairs, the caciques ("council of priests") have authority. For dealings with the white man and non-religious internal affairs such as disputes, a governor, lieutenant governor, and a tribal council have authority. Although the caciques used to appoint the secular officials, now they are elected by popular ballot. The Tribal Council consists of six tenientes or councilmen.60 There is evidence that the governor is often a Zuni who does not completely fit into Zuni society and that he may have a white value system to some extent.61

Law. Benedict mentions that there are only two crimes in Zuni: witchcraft, and betraying to the uninitiated boys the secret of the kachinas.62 A study to Zuni law made around 1950 revealed several other crimes. "Religious-legal" crimes, such as witchcraft, theft of ceremonial property, and betraying religious secrets, are tried before the Zuni priesthood. "Secular-legal" crimes, such as murder, rape, fighting, slander, drunkenness, theft, and divorce settlement, are tried before the Tribal Council.63 This study further revealed:

Zuni legal procedure, though largely implicit, is "surprisingly well developed." Regularities show in pretrial investigation, the conduct of trials, the summoning of parties, testimony of witnesses, rules of evidence, the use of precedents, and posttrial procedures. A distinctive Zuni practice is to require a "four-fold affirmation"- that is, key questions may be repeated four times, with the rationale that the parties should be permitted to think and decide before being committed to an answer. "There is nothing at Zuni corresponding to the relationship of lawyer and client." A party usually pleads his own case, but others may speak in his behalf.64

Art. Most of the fine arts in Zuni are connected with religion, for, as one observer has noted, the Zunis have "a religion that is also a festive art."65 Here "one finds theater and worship before they have become dissociated."66 Zuni dances are not wild. They derive their power from the rhythm and from the perfection of the whole group moving as one.67

The music that accompanies the dances has simple rhythms, but subtle and complex melodic structures. The songs are chant-like. They are usually accompanied by rattles and sometimes by drums. Rarely flutes are used. With the exception of a few lullabies and children's play songs, there is little secular native music at Zuni. The only work songs are sacred.68

Pottery is not made much any more at Zuni, although Zuni pottery is valued. Most of the painting at Zuni is religious, such as on bodies and masks. Likewise sculpture is utilized only in making religious shrines, masks, and fetishes. The working of silver into jewelry and inlaying of turquoise and other stones has become a fine art in Zuni. Although dancers wear thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, "there is nothing ceremonial about the making of jewelry."69

Science. Science at Zuni is also closely connected with religion. In speaking of Zuni cosmology, Bunzel has said:

The cosmology of the Zunis is extremely fragmentary. The earth is circular in shape and is surrounded on all sides by ocean. Under the earth is a system of covered waterways all connecting ultimately with the surrounding oceans....

Within the earth are the four enclosed caves which the people occupied before coming out into this world-the four wombs of earth mother. The sky (a'po'yan'e, stone cover), solid in substance, rests upon the earth like an inverted bowl....

The stars are fixed in the sky cover.70

Several stars and constellations are recognized and named by the Zunis: the morning star (Jupiter or Venus)-great star, Ursa Major-the seven, Qrion's belt-the row, and the Pleiades-seed stars.71

The other major area of native science is in the field of medicine. Although medical care is considered religious, the Zunis do have knowledge of many plants with medicinal value.72

The Zunis have learned most of their science in the schools. This has resulted in a dual-value system. In the area of cosmology, for example, school-taught science has come into conflict with the Zuni religion. This system of dual-values causes a good bit of tension within the culture.


60Dutton, op. cit., p. 23. [return]

61Nick Tumaka, who was governor of Zuni before he died in 1927, helped the Christian Reformed Church purchase its mission property, was later tortured because he was considered a witch, and became a Christian before he died. Cornelius Kuipers, Zuni Also Prays (Grand Rapids: Christian Reformed Board of Missions, 1946), pp. 72, 104. The governor in 1947 was the son of a Mexican Indian and was the first Zuni to own an automobile, Robert Banker. Other Men's Skies (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1956), pp. 85, 86. Robert Lewis, the present governor, was one of the veterans who did not live on the reservation when he returned from World War II. He is also a Christian. Many changes have come about since he was first elected governor in 1965. Under his leadership the Zuni Plan has been adopted. This provides for tribal takeover of BIA positions, a new constitution, and several improvements to the village including new industry, better education, and physical improvements such as paved streets. [Gallup, New Mexico] Independent, January 16, 1971, p. 6; and Field Notes, personal observations, January-April 1971. [return]

62Benedict, Patterns of Culture, op. cit., p. 100. [return]

63Watson Smith and John M. Roberts, "Zuni Law, A Field of Values," Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Vol. 43, No. 1 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: [n.n.], 1954), cited by Keesing. op. cit., pp. 307, 308. [return]

64Ibid. [return]

65Edmund Wilson, "The Zuni Shalako Ceremony," Reader in Comparative Religion, ed. William A. Lessa and Evon Z. Vogt (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1965), p. 179. [return]

66Ibid., p. 172. [return]

67Benedict, Patterns of Culture, op. cit., p. 93. [return]

68Ruth L. Bunzel, "Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism," Forty- seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 1929-1930 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 495; Wilson, op. cit., p. 179; and Frances Densmore, Music of Acoma, Isleta, Cochiti and Zuni Pueblos (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1957), pp. 96-111. [return]

69John Adair, The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944), cited by Dutton, op. cit., p. 21. [return]

70Bunzel, "Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism," op. cit., p. 487. [return]

71Ibid. [return]

72Stevenson, "Ethnobotony of the Zuni Indians," op. cit., pp. 35-102. [return]

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