Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism
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Pages (PDF): 93
Publication Date: 1929-1930
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Taken from the Forty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1929-1930, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Subjects include: Conditions Of Life; Economic And Social Life; Religious Life; Ceremonial Pattern; Ceremonial Organization; The Calendar; and, Personal Religious Life. All footnotes that have page references are referring to the original Annual Report.
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The Zuñis have been agriculturists for many centuries. Since very early prehistoric time they have raised maize, beans, and squash by a system of dry cultivation. From the first Spanish settlers they obtained the seeds of wheat. This, however, could be grown only specially favored localities which could be irrigated by hand from large, permanently flowing springs. Recently, in 1909, the waters one fork of the Zuñi River have been impounded behind a dam built by the United States Government. From this reservoir sufficient water is drawn to irrigate a strip of land on the north bank of river, immediately adjacent to the village. This strip, approximately 1 mile wide and 6 miles long, is well suited for the cultivation of wheat and alfalfa. Maize is still raised by old methods of dry farming on sandy fields lying at a considerable distance from the village, mainly situated on the south bank.
From the Spaniards, also, the Zuñis got their first sheep. They now own large and profitable herds. These are kept in remote parts of the reservation. The wealthiest herders even rent land in surrounding townships. Rabbits are still hunted, primarily for sport, but the deer and antelope, once important items in Zuñi economy, have vanished from the mountains. Sheep, furthermore, are the chief source of negotiable wealth. The sale of wool in June and of lambs in October provides the herders with a considerable cash income for the purchase of luxuries of white manufacture. They have, also, horses derived from the same source and a few cattle, but the land is not suitable for cattle breeding. Cattle are not milked and are used for meat only. Some women have a few pigs and chickens. The labor of agriculture and herding is done entirely by the men.
Herding, of course, is an all-year-round occupation, at which men take turns, groups of brothers herding their sheep together and taking turns in watching them. A man with his own herd usually goes three times a year, for a month at a time, unless he is wealthy enough to pay some one to do this for him. All men who own sheep spend lambing time with their herds to see that all lambs are properly earmarked. At this time the sheep are herded at permanent camps, and the women also go out there. Lambing occurs in April and is followed immediately by shearing. Sheep dipping takes a few weeks for everyone in midsummer.
The first agricultural work of the season is early plowing and the planting of wheat in February or March. In March the irrigation ditches are cleaned. Corn must not be planted until after certain ceremonies held about the time of the vernal equinox, and frequently it is delayed until after wool-sell. The cornfields are plowed over, but the actual planting is done with the digging stick. The early summer, after the return from sheep camp and after the summer solstice ceremonies, is spent hoeing and irrigating. There is an alfalfa crop in June and another in August. There may be another in November, but this is not usually harvested. The horses are turned into the unharvested field for winter pasture. The wheat harvest begins in August and continues until all is in, which may not be until November. The wheat is cut with a sickle, threshed by horses, and winnowed by hand on primitive outdoor threshing floors.
Peaches, squash, and melons ripen in August and must be harvested before the frosts, which may occur at this altitude any time after the end of August. There is a spell of heavy rain in September which interrupts outdoor work. The first green corn is ready for eating in August, but the general corn harvest does not take place until November. This is the last agricultural work, except for a few people who do a little fall plowing. The months from November until March, free of agricultural work, are given over to the great ceremonies--the Ca?lako, the winter solstice ceremonies, society initiations, the winter katcinas, and sometimes the general tribal initiation.
The 1,900 inhabitants live, for the most part, in Zuñi proper and its immediate vicinity. There are, however, three large farming villages and one small one, which are occupied for varying periods during the summer months. Even those families that make homes there permanently return to Zuñi after harvest time for the period of the great ceremonies in December and January.
None of the farming villages have any civil or religious organization of their own, nor are any religious ceremonies performed a of them, except when a dance set from one of the kivas is invited to dance there during the summer.
Despite modern expansion the main village still remains a whose physical compactness is reflected in an intricate and closely knit social organization.
There are households, kinship groups, clans, tribal and special secret societies, and cult groups. A man must belong to serve these groups, and the number to which he may potentially belong almost unlimited. There is no exclusive membership. He is born into a certain household, and his kinship and clan affiliations are thus fixed, unless altered by adoption. At puberty he is initiated into one of the six dance groups that comprise the male tribal society. He may, through sickness, be conscripted into one of the medicine societies; if he takes a scalp he must join the warriors society; and if connected with a sacerdotal household he may be called upon to join one of the priesthoods.
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