Zuni AT-95 - History

Zuni AT-95 - History

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(AT-96: dp. 1,689 (tl.); 1. 205'0"; b. 38'6"; dr. 15'4"(f.); s. 16.5 k. (tl.); cpl. 86; a. 1 3", 2 40mm.; cl. Navajo)

Zuni (AT-95) was laid down on 8 March 1943 at Portland, Oreg., by the Commercial Iron Works; launched on 31 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. J. O'Donnell; and commissioned on 9 October 1943, Lt. Ray E. Chance in command.

Zuni completed shakedown training late in October and on the 28th reported for duty with the Western Sea Frontier. The following day, she departed Puget Sound, bound for Kodiak, Alaska. On 10 November, she stood out of the harbor at Kodiak with two barges in tow. In extremely heavy weather during the voyage south, the towlines to both barges parted, and Zuni experienced great difficulty in keeping herself afloat. Though she managed to maintain contact with the second barge after it broke loose, she ultimately received orders to abandon it and make for Seattle, Wash.

On 1 December, the tug was reassigned to Service Squadron (ServRon) 2 and departed Seattle that same day with a barge in tow, bound for Oakland, Calif. After repairs at Oakland, the tug headed west for the New Hebrides on 27 December 1943, in company with four cargo ships, and arrived in Espiritu Santo at the end of January 1944. Early in February, the tug left Espiritu Santo, set her course for Hawaii, and arrived in Pearl Harbor on 17 February. She performed routine missions at Oahu for about a month, getting underway on 21 March for a round-trip voyage to Canton Island. She returned to Oahu on 9 April towing two barges from Canton Island. On 20 April, she stood out of Pearl Harbor, pulling three barges bound for Majuro Atoll and returned to Hawaii on 11 May. On 15 May 1944 she was redesignated ATF-95.

A week later, she began an extended tour of duty in the Central Pacific. Towing ARD 16, the tug arrived in Kwajalein lagoon on 2 June. Reassigned to ServRon 12 Zuni served as a harbor tug at Kwajalein until mid July when she again took ARD-16 in tow and got underway for the Mariana Islands. There, she participated briefly in the 24 July assault on Tinian before settling into a routine of shuttle voyages between Eniwetok and the Marianas. Late in September, she towed ARD-17 to the Palau Islands where, during the first 18 days of October, she provided support services to the combined forces invading Peleliu. At that point, she received urgent orders to rendezvous with Houston (CL-81) after that light cruiser had been damaged by two torpedoes during a Japanese aerial blitz to answer TF 38's raids on Okinawa and Formosa. She relieved Pawnee (ATF-74) of the light cruiser and towed the battered warship into Ulithi lagoon on 27 October. After serving at the anchorage there for five days, the tug returned to sea with a group of oilers. Soon another set of urgent orders sent her to aid another light cruiser, Reno (CL-96), which had been torpedoed in the Philippines, off the San Bernardino Strait, on 3 November by Japanese submarine 1-41. Though the cruiser nearly capsized, Zuni's and Reno's ships' companies combined marvelously to meet the threat, and the tug succeeded in towing the cruiser 1,500 miles back to Ulithi.

The tug remained in Ulithi for the rest of November and throughout most of December. During the latter month, she towed the disabled merchantman SS John B. Floyd into Ulithi and conducted a solitary cruise to eastward of the Philippines. On 29 December, Zuni put to sea with TG 30.8, the replenishment group for TF 38, and cruised for almost a month off Luzon. She returned to Ulithi on 28 January for engine repairs.

She moved back out to sea in February and arrived off Iwo Jima three days after the initial assault. For 31 days, she performed yeoman service for the warships in the area. She pulled a transport off a sand bar. She deliberately ran herself aground alongside a disabled LST to help that ship land ammunition. More routine missions consisted of assisting broached landing craft and laying submerged fuel pipes.

Work in the shallows, however, was as dangerous to her as to others. While attempting to salve LST-727 on 23 March 1945, she was stranded on Yellow Beach when a broken towline fouled her anchor and propeller. She lost two crewmen in the disaster and suffered a broken keel and holed sides. She was pulled off the beach, temporarily repaired, and towed to Saipan. After further temporary repairs, Zuni was towed to Pearl Harbor where she arrived at the end of May. During the more than 14 weeks of repairs she underwent there, World War II ended.

Zuni resumed active duty on 15 September and served with the Pacific Fleet until early in 1946, when she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet. She served in the 8th Naval District until she was decommissioned on 29 June 1946 and transferred to the United States Coast Guard. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 19 July 1946.

Zuni earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

Zuni History

The Zuni are one of the 19 Pueblo tribes of what is now known as New Mexico. The Zuni tribe lives along the Zuni River in the northwestern corner of the state on a reservation of roughly 450,000 acres.

Archeologists believe Zuni history began well before 2500 B.C. when the tribe moved into the Southwest as big game hunters. Between 2500 B.C. and 700 A.D. the Zuni Indians made their first attempts at agriculture and hunted smaller game. Historians believe it was during this period they started making pottery and weaving baskets.

By the 1500s, the tribe’s agriculture thrived thanks to their ingenious systems of irrigation that fueled their fields, allowing the Zuni to grow maize and wheat. The population grew and the tribe constructed plaza-style villages.

Outside forced first threatened the tribe in 1539. According to the official Zuni tribe website, Spaniard Fray Marco de Niza left Mexico with a man named Estevan and came across a Zuni village.

When Estevan demanded turquoise and women, he was executed by the Zuni Indians. de Niza turned tail and retreated back to Mexico, but a year later, Spaniard Francisco Coronado returned to Zuni lands with a large army, hoping to exact revenge on de Niza’s behalf.

The Spanish were driven out by the tribe and Coronado narrowly escaped with his life. It is believed six of Coronado’s men were left behind. Instead of executing the attackers, the Zuni allowed the men to live among them peacefully and they happily lived out their lives among the Zuni people.

Legends of America

The Zuni people, like other Pueblo Indians, are believed to be the descendants of the Ancient Puebloans who lived in the desert Southwest of New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Colorado, and Utah for a thousand years. Today the Zuni Pueblo, some 35 miles south of Gallup, New Mexico has a population of about 6,000. Archeological evidence shows they have lived in this location for about 1,300 years.

Their tribal name is A’shiwi (Shi’wi), meaning “the flesh.” The name “Zuni” was a Spanish adaptation of a word of unknown meaning. The Zuni speak their own unique language which is unrelated to the languages of the other Pueblo peoples and continue to practice their traditional shamanistic religion with its regular ceremonies, dances, and mythology.

In 1540, the first Spanish explorers led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado encountered the Zuni Indians living in six or seven large pueblos along the banks of the Zuni River, of which, all are in ruins today. These villages, called Hawikuh were located next to fertile ground where the Zuni could take advantage of abundant water resources. The Zuni had a successful and well-established agricultural economy.

The Spaniards, who were searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, were disappointed to find only the dusty, crowded Zuni village. On the verge of starvation, Coronado asked the Pueblo leaders for food for his army. They refused. Rather than perish, Coronado ordered an attack on Hawikuh in order to save his troops. After a brief skirmish resulting in several Zuni deaths, Coronado and his men took possession of the pueblo, which then became his headquarters for several months.

The arrival of the Spaniards explorers disrupted the Zuni’s trading patterns, land use, and settlement system, as well as introducing new diseases which took a devastating toll among their population. However, the Spaniards also introduced domestic livestock and new crops, including wheat and peaches.

Spanish missionary efforts began at Hawikuh in 1629 when Fray Estevan de Perea traveled to the major Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi pueblos to begin Catholic teachings. That same year the Spanish established and constructed Mission La Purísima Concepción at Hawikuh. Religious and cultural tensions grew within the pueblo and peaked a few years later when the Zuni killed the resident priest, Fray Francisco Letrado. The Zuni, fearing retaliation from the Spanish, hid in the mountains and did not return to Hawikuh until three years later.

Reestablished by the late 1650s, the mission at Hawikuh suffered frequent Apache raids from the south. One, in 1672, resulted in the death of another priest and the burning of the mission. During this time, there was a decline in the Zuni population and subsequently, in the number of occupied villages. The attrition was the result of political pressure from the Spaniards and raiding from the Navajo and Apache. Violence soon became a regular part of the otherwise peaceful Zuni as they defended their land and resources from encroachment from other groups and resisted Spanish attempts to suppress their culture and religion. The Zuni joined with other pueblos in August of 1680 in the historic Pueblo Revolt which succeeded in driving the Spaniards out of New Mexico. During the rebellion, the Zuni destroyed Mission La Purísima Concepción. The former Zuni community at Hawikuh and Spanish mission are now in ruins, but continue to be visited and protected as a Zuni ancestral site.

Zuni Pueblo, NM, Edward S. Curtis, 1903.

Afterward, the Zuni fled to the top of the Dowa Yalanne mesa and prepared for defense. Between 1680 and 1692 the Zuni built and maintained a large settlement that incorporated many pueblo rooms on the mesa top, an area of less than 617 acres. Since it did not contain enough land to support the entire Zuni population, the Zuni continued to farm and graze livestock in the valleys below.

Dowa Yalanne was pivotal in the development of Zuni settlement patterns as it was the first village in which the whole Zuni population gathered into a single settlement. Although it is unlikely that the other villages were totally abandoned, apparently every Zuni family maintained a residence atop the Dowa Yalanne that could be used for refuge when the Spaniards returned. The mesa top was also a position defensible against the hostile attacks of the Apache.

In 1692, Diego de Varga, the Spanish general in charge of the “reconquest,” entered the village peacefully, made amends, and convinced the Zuni to relinquish the occupation of Dowa Yalanne. Rather than return to their former scattered pueblos, the entire tribe settled at Halonawa on the north bank of the Zuni River. Following this event, Halonawa became known as the Zuni Pueblo.

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at the Zuni Pueblo, by Timothy O’Sulllivan, 1873

The Franciscans returned, and the church was rebuilt and Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was built in 1705. Continued Navajo and Apache raiding led to the establishment of sheep camps which were utilized as refuge sites. Situated along ridges and on the benches throughout the Zuni River Valley, these safe areas were difficult to access, having many hidden corrals and small rooms. Other refuge sites were established at the base of mesas for agricultural purposes.

In 1848 the Americans asserted their authority over the Mexican Southwest, and in 1877 federal officials created the Zuni Reservation. The Southern Pacific Railroad reached nearby Gallup, New Mexico in 1881, signaling a new era of non-Indian expansion and settlement. Missionaries accompanied the newcomers including Mormons who settled east of the village in the Zuni mountains in 1876 and Presbyterians a year later. Traders also arrived, encouraging the Zuni to raise sheep and cattle for shipment east and a new cash-based economy began.

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe began to be revived when priests were reassigned to the pueblo. It was re-roofed in 1905, but more significant alterations took place in the 1960s. In a three-way partnership between the Zuni Tribe, the National Park Service, and the Catholic Diocese of Gallup, the mission and convento were excavated from 1966-1967, and reconstruction of the church began in 1969.

Today, Zuni are distinct in that they have managed to remain quite unaffected by outer influences. They still claim the same land they always lived on, an area about the size of Rhode Island. They also mainly reside in one city — Zuni, New Mexico.

Zuni Governor, Sate Sa, by Edward S. Curtis, 1910

Although there are Zuni Indians who live outside of the city and the general area, they are few and far between. The tribe has managed to remain intact due to the fact that they did not get involved in problems, conflicts, or wars that didn’t concern their own people. Remaining autonomous, they were relatively unaffected by the changes around them.

Zuni life, much like it was in the past, is still deeply religious and very different from that of other tribes. The Zuni gods are believed to reside in the lakes of Arizona and New Mexico. The chiefs and the shamans carry out ceremonies during religious festivals. Song and dance accompany masked performances by the chiefs while the shamans pray to the gods for favors ranging from fertile soil to abundant amounts of rain. The shamans play an important role in the community as they are looked upon for guidance as well as knowledge and healing.

The Zuni Reservation is isolated from the outside world which allows the people to go about their existence relatively unencumbered by modern western civilization. They still live a peaceful, deeply religious existence and speak their own language. The reliance on corn as a mainstay of their economy has been replaced, however, by the tourist trade in pottery and jewelry.

The Zuni Pueblo is the largest of the 19 New Mexico pueblos, with more than 700 square miles and a population of over 10,000. It also features the Hawikuh ruins, abandoned during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, as well as craftsmen shops, and multiple events throughout the year. Zuñi Pueblo is on the Zuni Indian Reservation, two miles north of Zuni, New Mexico, on NM 53.

Visitors are welcome daily from dawn to dusk and tours are offered for a fee. Photography is allowed by permission only.

Zuni Dancers by Ben Wittick, 1897

Pueblo of Zuni
1203B NM Highway 53
PO Box 339
Zuni, New Mexico 87327

The Zuni Way

Two bridesmaids are helping Deidre Wyaco, a Zuni Indian, dress for her big day. She dons her tribe's traditional wedding costume—white moccasins and deer-hide leggings wound from ankle to knee a black wool tunic layered over a white blouse and four saucer-size turquoise-and-silver brooches pinned down the length of her skirt.

The bride's sister, Darlynn Panteah, fastens a turquoise-and-silver squash blossom necklace around Wyaco's neck and adorns her with so many turquoise rings and bracelets that her hands look as if they'd been dipped in blue-green water. Wyaco's niece Michella combs her jet-black hair into a tight bun and smoothes each lock in place while a cousin places a scarf over her shoulders and fixes it with a turquoise-and-silver pin. Then everyone stands back to admire Wyaco, her dress as stark and eye-popping as the red-earth, blue-sky landscape of their home, Zuni Pueblo, on the Zuni Indian Reservation, 40-odd miles south of Gallup, New Mexico.

Zuni Pueblo has witnessed such wedding scenes for millennia. For most Zuni, who call themselves A:shiwi (the origins of "Zuni" are unknown), it would be almost impossible to imagine getting married any place other than here at Halona Idiwan'a, the Middle Place of the World, where, in origin myths, the tribe settled after many years of wandering. The Zuni have dwelled in this broad valley of golden buttes and red mesas for thousands of years, farming, hunting, gathering and practicing their communal way of life and ceremony-rich religion.

It's that religion, the Zuni say, that binds them together. It's what enabled them to withstand the hardships of drought and famine and their conquest, in 1540, by the Spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. He had been led to Zuni by a Franciscan friar, who'd seen the pueblo settlement from a distance and claimed it was one of the Seven Cities of Cibola, mystical places said to be laden with riches. Coronado's forces quickly realized that this small pueblo was not Cibola, but they plundered what they could—then claimed Zuni and 80 neighboring pueblos for Spain.

In other parts of the Americas, the Native peoples who had the misfortune to make early contact with Europeans often vanished completely. The Patuxet of New England are gone, as are the Pulacuam of Texas and the J'akaru of Peru. The Zuni, for their part, also came perilously close to disappearing: in 1879, the tribe, believed to have had as many as 4,100 members in the middle to late 1500s, numbered barely 1,700, brought low by smallpox and measles. But today, there are 10,000 Zuni, and the tribal government estimates that 90 percent of them live at Zuni Pueblo, making this tribe one of the most intact in existence. "The Zuni's complex social web seems to hold people. Their religion and language provide a point of ethnic identity," says Dennis Tedlock, an anthropologist at State University of New York at Buffalo, who has published a book on the art of the Zuni storyteller. "And their isolation has worked for them, but against them economically."

Somehow, although they've lost many of their original lands (the reservation encompasses 700 square miles) and many of their cultural and religious objects, they've managed to preserve their core beliefs, even while adding elements from beyond their borders, the world of mainstream America. And so Wyaco, the perfectly dressed Zuni bride, incorporates a few outside touches for her wedding, marching down the aisle not to the beat of a Zuni drum but beneath a white awning decorated with white and pink paper wedding bells to a recording of "Here Comes the Bride." None of the guests—mostly Zuni, with a handful of outside melika (Anglos)—seemed the least surprised.

But they all also knew they were watching a special Zuni moment when Wyaco's sister pushed their paralyzed father down the aisle in his wheelchair so that he could give his daughter away to the groom, Randy Hooee.

"Everyone at Zuni has a role," said one guest, nodding in approval. "No one, no matter what, is left behind. That is—and always has been—the Zuni way."

How, in this era of the Internet, when the outside world with all its material goods and other temptations calls so seductively, do the Zuni manage to maintain their way of life? What is it about the Zuni way that, despite 61 percent unemployment at the pueblo and problems above the national average with drugs, alcohol and diabetes, keeps most of those 10,000 souls at Zuni Pueblo?

"It's the salt," says Randy Nahohai, a celebrated potter in his 40s, with a wink and laugh. Yet his answer is only half-facetious. "I've been outside," he continues, "and I've done a lot of traveling, but it's always good to come home to good chili, and salt that doesn't roll off your food."

We're sitting at his living room worktable in the home he shares with his brother, Milford, also a noted potter, and their families. Like most Zuni today, the Nahohais no longer live in the multistoried adobe dwellings for which Halona, the old part of the Zuni Pueblo, was once famous. Most now favor modest adobe, stucco or mobile homes.

Nahohai hands me a small bowl of salt. "You'll see the difference," he says. The salt, which Zuni men collect on pilgrimages to their sacred Zuni Salt Lake (not to be confused with the larger one in Utah, some 600 miles to the north), has a soft, almost powdery, feel. "We've been collecting our salt at our Salt Lake for thousands of years," Nahohai says. "And that's another reason that we stay here: we're living where our ancestors lived. All these people who were here before you—it makes your head swell up with pride just to be Zuni. I try to show that pride through my work."

In a back bedroom where he and his youngest son sleep, Nahohai produces hand-built pots that he paints with abstract designs of the night sky or stylized images of leaping deer. Nahohai and his brother shape their pottery from clay they collect at a spot that has long been used by the tribe's potters. And they make their paints in the traditional way, by boiling certain plant roots until they gain a resin-like consistency, or grinding small chunks of ocher into a pliable paste. But they use an electric kiln and modern paintbrushes, instead of the old yucca-tipped ones favored by their forebears.

"I hate the taste of yucca," Nahohai says. "We learned everything about making pottery from our mother. For a long time before her, there were hardly any Zuni potters. That tradition died out with the arrival of metal pans. And then there was just too much Tupperware, so nobody made pottery."

Nahohai's mother, Josephine, who died last year, and other Zuni women revived the craft. In the process, they created one of Zuni's more important cottage industries. (Nahohai's pottery, which incorporates elements of traditional Zuni symbolism, is displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian.) The tribal council estimates that about 80 percent of all Zuni families earn at least part of their income through their arts, giving the pueblo something of the feel of an artists' colony. Inside every home, it seems, someone is bent over a workbench creating inlaid jewelry, carving an animal fetish (renderings of various animals said to possess their powers and spirit, much favored by collectors), sculpting a kachina doll (representations of spiritual beings) or making pottery. Most picked up their skill by watching their parents.

"My folks would let me help with the polishing," says Lorandina Sheche as she sits at a grinding wheel in a back bedroom of her family's home sculpting a bear that resembles those the Zuni made in the 19th century. "Then, one day, my dad went to the store for a while, so I took—well, I stole—one of his rocks." Sheche laughs at the memory. "I made a fetish from dad's rock, a big coyote like the ones in the anthropologist's book. My dad called it ‘E.T.' and said no one would buy it. But an Albuquerque Native crafts store did. They paid me $45 for it."

From under her workbench, Sheche pulls out a copy of Frank Hamilton Cushing's monograph, Zuñi Fetishes (1883). I'm surprised, since Cushing, a member of a Smithsonian Institution expedition that came to study the tribe in 1879, is held in low regard by many Zuni. Just 22 at the time, Cushing was disappointed when the expedition chose not to move into the pueblo, so, the story goes, he plunked his bedroll down in the tribal governor's house. "How long will it be before you go back to Washington?" the governor is said to have asked him. Cushing stayed four-and-a-half years, learning the Zuni language and their sacred ceremonies.

Among anthropologists, Cushing is regarded as a pioneering figure, one of the first professional ethnologists, and the original "participant observer." But to the Zuni, he is another in a long line of white betrayers. Most damaging in Zuni eyes, Cushing wrote in great detail about their religion and its sacred ceremonies, violating their trust in sharing secret knowledge.

"Yes, Cushing was that white man who was adopted by the tribe and became a Bow Priest," says Sheche. "And he learned many Zuni things and believed it all—but then he went home and published all our knowledge. My grandpa used to say that Cushing was a good guy and a crook."

Sheche laughs merrily, apparently unconcerned that she's drawing on such a controversial work to carve her own authentic Zuni fetishes. For Sheche, what matters is that selling fetishes—together with her husband's finely carved kachinas as well as some baby-sitting work—enables her to live at Zuni.

By the time Cushing invited himself into the pueblo, the Zuni had already suffered through years of Spanish and Mexican rule. Under the Spanish, the Catholic Church had ordered them to cease their religious practices altogether. They'd managed to protect their beliefs in part by pretending the prayer songs they sang in their cornfields were simply planting tunes and in part by outright rebellion. They resisted the inquiries of other anthropologists—and from melika in general—by adopting an icy, slightly hostile stance toward overly curious outsiders. Although I was invited to several Zuni ceremonies and dances, and was warmly greeted, I was also warned not to write about them. "This is our religion."

"People outside have the idea that knowledge should be shared," said Jim Enote, the director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. "That's what universities are built around. But at Zuni we don't think that way. Some knowledge should be protected and not shared. There are things in Zuni you can know, and things you can't. And there are certain people who deserve to be the keepers of that knowledge. It's a privilege, and the rest of us respect them for that."

Those who follow the Zuni faith greet the morning sun with a sprinkling of sacred cornmeal and mark the yearly calendar with rituals and dances, all designed to keep not only Zuni but the world at large in balance and at peace. Thus "living at Zuni" means far more than simply being able to pass down artistic traditions or eat Native foods with Zuni salt. For the Nahohais and Sheches, staying at Zuni is almost a sacred obligation. Those who assume a religious position—among the Zuni devout that translates to at least one man in every family—do so for life, and they must be present for every ceremony.

"There's one key to understanding Zuni," says Edward Wemytewa, a former tribal councilman in his early 50s, who takes me on a quick tour of Halona, where the last of the pueblo's fabled multistory buildings still stand around a ceremonial plaza. "And it's that the dances that take place here in the plaza are the heart of who we are. All the movement and colors, the singing and the sounds of the bells and the drums echoing off the walls—all this touches your spirit. From the day you are born as a Zuni until the day you leave this world, this is within you."

Although some Zuni have converted to Catholic and Protestant faiths—including Mormonism—the Zuni religion remains so dominant in the pueblo that several members of the tribe told me that despite having elected officials, they feel they live in a theocracy controlled by priests. Tribe members who violate taboos—such as the publisher of the now-defunct Zuni Post who sometimes touched on religious matters—can expect a visit from a priest or to be summoned before the tribal council for questioning. Even speaking the word "drought" is thought to be dangerous because it might lead to one. "That's just the way it is," one Zuni told me.

A few miles beyond the central pueblo of Halona, Edison Vicenti and his wife, Jennie, have built a Spanish-style stucco home. For 30 years, Vicenti designed semiconductor chips for IBM in Tucson, while his wife worked as a nurse. When they retired in 1996, they moved back to Zuni. Today, the former computer engineer serves his tribe as head kachina priest, overseeing prayer meetings, certain initiation ceremonies and dances. (With his wife, he also makes the petit point turquoise-and-silver jewelry for which the Zuni are known.)

"I don't have any trouble flip-flopping between the two worlds," says Vicenti. "There was a time when I was more interested in science, but it was always a foregone conclusion that I'd be back. My family is in the deer clan, which is a small clan, and the duties of the head kachina priest are part of our clan's responsibilities. It's my turn to handle those responsibilities now."

One important responsibility is teaching Zuni ceremonial prayers to the youths initiated into his religious society. With other tribal leaders, Vicenti worries that Zuni is a vanishing language, like more than 80 percent of the remaining 175 Native American languages. Some scholars estimate that unless something is done, these threatened languages will be gone within the next 40 years. "If we lose our language, we lose the base of our religion and culture," Vicenti says. "And if we lose our religion, we lose what binds us together as Zuni. It is like the roots of a tree if the tree is uprooted or the roots contaminated, then it dies. It is the same with us." Vicenti shakes his head. "And we can't let that happen."

To counter the English language heard in every home on radio and television (and in movies and in daily conversation), elderly Zuni join with Zuni teachers at the Head Start program at the elementary school to encourage children to speak the Zuni language. There are immersion Zuni language programs in the higher classes as well, and programs conducted in Zuni at the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. And there is KSHI, the Zuni radio station. "Kesh shi. Lukkya shamle don a:wan hon dena: a:lashinna dap kya: kol dena: denabekkowa ik'osh na:wa," intones Duane Chimoni, KSHI's general manager and part-time disc jockey. "Hello. On this morning's program we're going to hear some songs that used to be played in the past."

The songs, however, aren't Zuni songs they're Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and The Who's "My Generation." "We make our announcements in both English and Zuni," says Chimoni. "If we only do Zuni, then we get lots of calls, people saying ‘uh, sorry, my Zuni isn't that good, could you repeat that part about. ' But I like to think it helps, hearing us speak Zuni."

About three miles from Halona, close to the base of the sacred mesa Dowa Yalanne, to which the Zuni have fled in times of danger, a group of middle school children are learning to make traditional Zuni walled gardens, which are divided into sunken depressions, like a waffle iron. It's a way of Zuni farming not often seen now. In the early 20th century, waffle gardens edged Halona, surrounding the pueblo with low adobe walls and yielding a bounty of vegetables and fruit. But the Zuni River flowed freely then it does not today, largely because of dams and droughts. The pueblo has few gardens there's simply not enough water. At Dowa Yalanne, however, the children haul water taken from a spring 12 miles away, making it possible for Jim Enote to teach them this kind of gardening. The children pour buckets of water onto their patches of earth, stirring up the mud and patting it into low walls. "Most of the time, we definitely don't get to play in the mud like this," says 12-year-old Rodney Soseeah, both hands coated with the wet, black earth. "So I like farming, and growing some stuff."

"I'm thinking of planting peppers," says Mary Quam, 15. "Then me and my mom can make salsa."

"We'll also be planting corn," says Odell Jaramillo, a teacher and adviser to this program. "For the Zuni, corn is our life, our protector. It's at the center of our religion and ceremonies." Every ceremony requires a sprinkling of white cornmeal.

Every young person i met hopes to live at the pueblo as an adult. But that means finding a job, which is not easily done. The Zuni schools, including a branch of the University of New Mexico, and a hospital offer employment possibilities. But there are very few businesses, aside from the Indian craft trading posts, a few gas stations and small convenience stores. There are no fast-food joints, no Burger Kings or McDonald's, no hotels.

"You really have to wonder why that is," says Darlynn Panteah, the CEO of one of the most surprising and successful of Zuni businesses, Zuni Technologies, the sole high-tech company in town. "I mean, the same three stores that I grew up with are still the only stores here at Zuni󈟮 years of the same stores! We all have to go to Gallup to do our shopping."

Panteah blames the lack of local enterprises on tribal policies that have tied up much of the land on the main highway, where hotels and restaurants might prosper. She also laments the tribe's reluctance to bring in outsiders and their businesses. (The tribe is debating whether to build hotels and casinos in their community.) "We lose so many of our young people to the outside. Yet we depend on them they're the ones who must carry on our religion. So, it's up to us, the older generation, to make good jobs for them at Zuni."

Panteah leads the way from the parking lot outside Zuni Technologies, which operates out of a low-slung, white warehouse. Inside, 62 Zuni men and women sit in front of computers, typing and clicking as they scan stacks of military manuals, converting the heavy, printed texts into digitized forms for the Air Force, Marines and Navy. The business, started with assistance from tribal and government funds and later the Intertribal Information Technology Company, a consortium of tribes that promotes high-tech businesses on Indian reservations, is now three years old, and offering dream jobs to the mostly young people who work here.

"I honestly never thought there'd be a job here at Zuni in my field, management information systems," says Vinton Hooee, 25, and a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. "It's given me ideas about starting my own business, like Darlynn, to help keep our young people here. It's very hard to be part of Zuni when you're living in Albuquerque. There's a ceremony here every month, and you can't really take part if you're here only on weekends. All of us young people, we're struggling to get the balance right."

Wilton Niiha, a carpenter and kachina leader, drives with me down a sandy road toward the most dominant feature on the Zuni landscape—the cream-and-rose-striped mesa, Dowa Yalanne—until we see two rocky, tower-like formations split away from the main mesa. "Those rocks are the little boy and girl who saved the people who fled long ago to the top of Dowa Yalanne during the flood," says Niiha. According to legend, "the water was rushing up to the top of the mesa, so the children of the head priest asked if they could place their prayer sticks in the water." The priest granted their request, and the children stepped into the water with the prayer sticks on top of their heads. Instantly, the floodwaters began to recede. "With that sacrifice, the boy and girl saved Zuni," Niiha says. "They became part of the mountain."

The late afternoon sun reached the two stone figures, turning them a rosy golden hue. It was easy to imagine them as children holding hands as they waded into the water and to their deaths, and asking as all Zuni do for blessings, for their people and their land and the world.

That, after all, is the Zuni way.

Virginia Morell is the author of Ancestral Passions and Blue Nile. Photographer Scott S. Warren's work has also appeared in National Geographic, Outside and Newsweek.

Culture and Lifestyle

The Zuni traditionally were a peaceful tribe that centered on agriculture with their main crops being corn (maize), squash, and beans. Gradually, farming gave way to cattle and sheep herding and since the early 19th century, vocations such as making silver and turquoise jewelry, baskets, beadwork, animal fetishes, and pottery have greatly added to their economic development.

Men generally took charge of agriculture, politics, and war, while women looked after the home and family. Both genders participated in storytelling, music, and artwork. Kids accompanied their fathers to hunting, assisted mothers with chores and naturally had less time to play with toys and dolls.

Family Structure

Though the clans were matrilineal, rituals were performed as per the father’s family. Before marriage, a couple was allowed to go for a trial period of living together and if a relationship did not materialize, divorce could be easily attained.

Tribe Games and Entertainment

Different games like the ‘Po-ke-an’ or the ‘Po-ki-nanaertne’ were popular among the Zuni. In these, light shuttlecocks made out of bundled corn husk and feathers were thrown into the air with bare hands and the skill lay in seeing how long, one could keep them in the air.

Their Houses and Buildings

The tribe is believed to have descended from the Anasazi culture, notable for being builders of ancient cliff dwellings in the canyons of the Southwest. The homes the Pueblos made from a mixture of straw and clay baked into hard bricks was called an Adobe and these were multistoried, having entry through the roof by means of a ladder. Along with several rooms, they contained an underground chamber, called a “Kiva” that was used especially for ceremonies and rituals.

At present, some Zuni dwells in these Pueblos, while modern houses are preferred by others.

Traditional Food Habits

They ate the meat of deer, turkey, and small game as well as crops produced locally. Nuts, berries, and fruits such as melons were also eaten.

Modern Zuni people follow much the same diet, comprising of trout, catfish, bass and farmed vegetables. Occasionally, they supplement it with domesticated animals and big game hunts.

The men originally wore breechcloths, short kilts but during the 1800’s, they switched over to cotton tunics with a leather belt around the waist. The knee length cotton dresses, known as “mantas”, that women wore exposed their left shoulder and since it was not considered modest by the Missionaries in the 1900’s, many started wearing shifts underneath henceforth. Their traditional headdress comprised of leather or cloth headbands, while during ceremonies, pointed masks or crowns of feathers were sported by dancers.

Today, the tribe wear modern clothes such as jeans in place of breechcloths and put on traditional items only during their traditional occasions.


Apart from walking, the tribe used a travois, a kind of sled that was pulled by dogs to carry heavy objects. Once horses were introduced by the Europeans, the tribe could move about more easily.

Tools and Weapons

At first, they used a type of spear, called an “atlatl” which later came to be replaced with a bow and an arrow. Besides these, they worked with wooden hoes and rakes for farming, spindles and looms for cotton weaving, and pump drills for making holes in shells and beads.

Art and Crafts

Pottery:The Zuni Indians excelled in pottery. Used both in domestic needs as well as in religious ceremonies, these had designs that narrated a story. Today, pottery making is a major source of income, providing employment to a vast section of the tribe.

Kachina dolls:Hand carved from wood and clothed as Kachina spirits, these dolls were given to children so as to infuse in them facts about their deities.

Jewelry-making:The technique of silversmithing, defined by a series of stones glued to a bezel setting, was first taught to the tribe by Navajo artist, Atsidi Chon. The tribe later refined it and gave rise to the more intricate styles, petit and needlepoints. In the recent times, besides bezel-set cluster necklaces and bracelets, their coveted collection includes stone inlays of vibrant colors and animal shapes. The most common jewelry item consists of a small animal carving, a fetish and it is believed that a person wearing such imbibes the traits of the particular animal being etched.

At Zuni Pueblo

When you get to Zuni, be sure and stop by the visitors center before starting your visit to Zuni Pueblo to get orientation and current information. The staff there can give you photography permits, if needed, and share with you key places to visit.

The following tips may help you understand the difference between visiting Zuni and visiting other tourist attractions.

  • Zuni is a community of people with spiritual and cultural traditions that may be different from your own. It is a living community of private homes and cottage industry rather than a "living history museum."
  • In general, photography is forbidden. Ask if and where you can take photos. It is always a good rule to leave your camera at home during religious ceremonies.
  • Religious and cultural ceremonies include processions and dances. They are not shows. It is expected that visitors will remain at a distance and be quiet and respectful.
  • Walk and hike only in designated areas. The visitors center can tell you where those are.

A Haven in the Clouds from Religious Aridity: Acoma and Zuni Pueblo Mesa Warfare

After several years of vacillation, King Philip II of Spain in 1598 granted to Juan de Oñate the charter to colonize New Mexico. Accompanied by settlers and soldiers, Oñate set out to colonize the land, convert souls, and search for the fabled South Sea, which would provide his colony with important shipping routes back to New Spain. In October of that year, Oñate set up headquarters among the western Zuni Pueblo and awaited the arrival of his two nephews from the east. En route to meeting his uncle at Zuni, Juan de Zaldivar reached the Acoma Pueblo on December 1. This highly-fortified pueblo, also known as Sky City, sat atop a 357-foot mesa of sandstone.

View of “Sky City” Acoma Pueblo today

Juan, with fifteen soldiers of his company, ascended the steep path up the mesa side to demand food and blankets from the Indians. Instead, they received slaughter. Juan and eleven of his men were slain, while the remaining four were forced off the cliff side. When Oñate learned of this incident, he ordered his second nephew, Vincente de Zaldivar, to embark on a punitive expedition to the sky pueblo. Even by Spanish colonial standards, what transpired next defied expectations and would see Oñate banished from the colony by Philip II for the act’s unusually excessive cruelty.

On January 21, 1599, a 70-man expedition armed with two cannon arrived at the foot of Sky City. Oñate had ordered that “war by blood and fire be proclaimed against the Indians of Acoma.” Skilled in European siege warfare, Vincente ordered the main bulk of his force to attack the mesas main approach, while a twelve-man unit secretly scaled the mesa’s far side. Using grappling hooks and ropes, the secret unit not only succeeded in reaching the mesa-top but managed to get one of the two artillery pieces up to an advantageous position.

Vincente ordered the cannons be fired at point-blank range into dense crowds. This technological superiority gave the Spaniards the upper hand, despite bloody resistance that lasted three days. Indian casualties exceeded 600 dead, with more wounded. Many of those who were not killed in the midst of battle chose to jump from the mesa-top, hang themselves from tree limbs, or perish in the burning houses rather than surrender to the Spanish. After the butchery had subsided, Governor Oñate ordered all men over twenty-five to have one foot cut off and be subject to twenty-five years of servitude. Young men between twelve and twenty-five were spared the amputation, but were still condemned to slavery. Women over twelve faced twenty years, some of whom were sent to Mexico City for entrance into the various convents of women’s religious orders. Two Hopis present at Acoma had their right hands cut off and were set free to spread word of the consequences of revolt.

It is not difficult to imagine why there was little Pueblo resistance in the ensuing decades. The memory of the Acoma Massacre did not fade, and still has not even today. Nevertheless, western pueblos—far removed from the pueblo-dense Rio Grande and matrilineal in society organization—periodically resisted patrilineal Catholic dogma. The distance between these western pueblos (Zuni and Hopi) and the Spanish center of power played no small part in there being more visible resistance to colonial rule in the west than with the patrilineal, more centralized eastern pueblos along the Rio Grande.

In 1632, Hawikuh Zunis (from one of six Zuni villages) rebelled against the newly introduced mission and encomienda system, burning the church and killing the priest, Fray Francisco de Letrado. While celebrating mass, several warriors fired a volley of arrows at him. As he drew his last breaths, the Indians scalped him. Ninety-two years earlier, in 1540, famed conquistador-explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado first conquered these same Hawikuh Zunis, hoping their village was one of the legendary “Seven Cities of Gold.” In both 1540 and in 1632, fearful of retaliation, the Hawikuh Zunis reaction was the same: they took refuge on their nearby mesa named Dowa Yalanne.

Comprised of sandstone known for its red and white cross banding of Triassic and Jurassic sedimentary rocks, Dowa Yalanne stands approximately one thousand feet above the desert floor and covers 320 acres. Despite what happened at Acoma in 1598, the logical reason as to why the Hawikuh Zunis repeatedly retreated to the mesa-top was simple: it offered a highly-fortified area of protection from the Spanish, known (at least in 1632) for their excessive punitive reactions to religious insolence.

Taking refuge amongst the clouds was not unique to any one pueblo. Mesas (Portuguese and Spanish for table) are prominent throughout the present-day New Mexico and Arizona landscape still inhabited by Pueblo Indians today. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680—a wholly unified resistance movement that enabled Pueblo Indians to live free of colonial domination for twelve years—brought with it mass mesa relocation efforts. Any Pueblo community close in proximity to a mesa sought refuge on it, in anticipation of Spanish retaliation. As such, the Zuni once again relocated to Dowa Yalanne.

One could assume the reasoning behind the 1680 Zuni relocation effort was similar to past efforts, such as in 1540 and 1632. However, this would be too simplistic an interpretation. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was markedly different. While in the two previous efforts it was the single village of Hawikuh Zunis that populated the mesa, in 1680, all six Zuni villages joined together for the very first time in their history while relocating to the natural fortress. This was an unprecedented act of centralization for the western Zuni Pueblo. Part of the reasoning behind this centralized move certainly can be attributed to the military defense the mesa offered. The mountain also offered protection from Apache, Navajo, and Ute raids, which had increased in recent years. However, the Zuni decision to wholly relocate to Dowa Yalanne had just as much to do with the central factor in the 1680 conflict: their religion.

Pueblo religion expressed itself through communitarian needs, and none more so than the perennial need of rainfall. Long before 1492, crops grown by irrigation were the backbone of the sedentary Pueblo lifestyle. Residing in an ecologically arid environment, rainfall was the greatest necessity of life. Naturally, almost every ceremony and prayer referred to the securing of rainfall in some way. Western pueblos at Zuni and Hopi in particular, without the benefit of the Rio Grande’s torrents, faced a repeatedly limited water supply. The core religious supplication for all Pueblos was to their ancestors. For the Zuni, this meant Dowa Yalanne.

Dowa Yalanne, meaning Corn Mountain in Zuni, was so named after a mythological great flood. During the inundation, Indians carried great quantities of corn to the mesa-top, where the water nearly reached them. Religious activities transferred to the mesa, and several shrines still exist atop it today. Reaching to the clouds, Dowa Yalanne is also associated with the “house of the Gods and the making of rain, lightning, and thunder.” From this description came an alternative name, Thunder Mountain. The Zuni identified their dead with the clouds. A Zuni mother, as clouds began to gather before a rainstorm, would tell her child, “The grandmothers are coming.” It is to this sacred mesa-top that all six Zuni villages collectively gathered in the midst of ensuing Spanish wrath.

Revolt leaders in 1680 called for a cultural revitalization—a return to pre-colonial norms. It is reported that Popé, the charismatic Tewa leader, told his followers to “live in accordance with the law of their ancestors.” This called for abandoning their mission pueblos and erecting traditional pre-Hispanic pueblos. By eliminating all Spanish-Catholic influences, Popé assured his followers that they would “harvest a great deal of maize, many beans, a great abundance of cotton, calabashes, and very large watermelons and cantaloupes.”

Why in 1680 did this come to a head? Apart from increased religious suppression and weakening Spanish control, the southwest had been afflicted by severe drought as early as the 1660s. Apache, Navajo, and Ute raids had increased because these nomadic tribes too had been afflicted. Quite simply, Catholicism was not bringing the rainfall the Pueblos so desperately needed. Indeed, it seemed to be the root cause of a great deal of suffering. A return to tried-and-true Pueblo religiosity offered the best solution. In this light, the Zuni collective relocation to Dowa Yalanne should not be seen as a retreat, as in past instances, but rather a religious quest to reclaim their ancestors’ good graces. Their most sacred shrine—the mesa—offered not only religious revival and a haven from Spanish persecution, but their best opportunity for survival.

Pueblo society operates as a community. The six Zuni villages must have been well aware that by uniting as one on the mesa, traditional religious practices would flourish, and flourish they did. Archaeological evidence suggests that the mesa-top is covered with religious shrines, mysterious unroofed structures, and at least three kivas, or subterranean rooms used for worship.

Most mesa-top villages formed during the revolt were short-lived. The Spanish reconquest of the colony from 1692 to 1696 brought with it a wary return from the mountains. Nevertheless, the Zuni community that descended Dowa Yalanne was not the same as that which had ascended over a decade ago. Previously taciturn villages intermingled and merged into one close-knit community on the mesa-top, bound together by their traditional religion. When they descended from the mesa, they relocated as one community to Halona:wa, where the Zuni Pueblo still resides to this day. The Spanish rarely regarded Pueblo religion as legitimate, unlike that of the larger and more centralized Aztec Empire further south. This contributed to a certain esoteric element of Pueblo religion. Though it has its public façade, much still goes on beyond the public eye. Dowa Yalanne today remains closed to outside visitors.

Nor has the Pueblo community forgotten the atrocities committed by the Spanish colonials. In January 1998, a bronze statue of Juan de Oñate in Alcalde, New Mexico had its right foot cut off by vandals to counterbalance the upcoming 400 th anniversary of his settlement. The fact that Oñate is regarded as New Mexico’s founder does more than enough to rub salt in the wound. Acoma artisan Darrell Chino put it this way: “It was funny when it happened to the statue, but it wasn’t funny when it happened to the real people.”

What doPopé, Pontiac, and Little Crow all have in common? Each led aconfederated Native American uprising in North America. Click here to learn more about Pontiac’s War or here to read about the Dakota War of 1862.

In August 1857, Lt. Edward F. Beale’s “Camel Corps” first passed through Zuni, where they secured supplies from the tribe.

Andrea Grugel, “Culture, religion, and economy in the American southwest: Zuni Pueblo and Laguna Pueblo,” in GeoJournal, vol. 77, no. 6 (2012): 791-803.

David J. Weber, “Pueblos, Spaniards, and History,” in What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680? Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999, pp. 3-18.

Edward P. Dozier, “Spanish-Catholic Influences on Rio Grande Pueblo Religion,” in American Anthropologist, vol. 60, no. 3 (Jun., 1958): 441-448.

Edward P. Dozier, “Spanish-Indian Acculturation in the Southwest: Comments,” in American Anthropologist, vol. 56, no. 4 (Aug. 1954): 680-684.

Florence Hawley, “The Role of Pueblo Social Organization in the Dissemination of Catholicism,” in American Anthropologist, vol. 48, no. 3 (Jul.-Sep., 1946): 407-415.

Henry Warner Bowden, “Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict, and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” in What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680? Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999, pp. 21-37.

Karl A. Wittfogel and Esther S. Goldfrank, “Some Aspects of Pueblo Mythology and Society,” in The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 56, no. 219 (Jan.-Mar., 1943): 17-30.

Karl Waldman and Molly Braun, Atlas of the North American Indian, New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc., 1985.

Matthew Liebmann, T.J. Ferguson, & Robert W. Preucel, “Pueblo Settlement, Architecture, and Social Change in the Pueblo Revolt Era, A.D. 1680 to 1696,” in Journal of Field Archeology, vol. 30, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 45-60.

O. Pi-Sunyer, “Religion and Witchcraft: Spanish Attitudes and Pueblo Reactions,” in Anthropologica, vol. 2, no. 1 (1960): 66-75.

Robert McGeagh, Juan de Oñate’s Colony in the Wilderness: An Early American History of the Southwest, Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press, 1990.

William J. Robbins, “Some Aspects of Pueblo Indian Religion,” in The Harvard Theological Review, vol. 34, no. 1 (Jan. 1941): 25-47.

Zuni AT-95 - History

Zuni Café was founded in 1979, by Billy West – “with a huge heart and exactly ten thousand dollars.” In its early days, the restaurant occupied only one narrow storefront of the triangular 1913 building it fills today. The dramatic corner storefront was home to the eye-catching Red Desert cactus store, with giant saguaros in the twelve-foot windows and sand on the floor. Billy appropriated the southwestern theme: He plastered his interior to look like adobe and named the new café after the Zuni, one of the indigenous Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico. Zuni Café’s earliest menus were inspired by the cookbooks of Billy’s culinary idols, Diana Kennedy and Elizabeth David but they were limited by a kitchen that consisted of little more than a toaster oven, an espresso machine that doubled as an egg-cooker, and a kettle grill in the back alley.

Nevertheless, the restaurant was an instant, improbable success Elizabeth David herself became a repeat customer. By 1987, it was expanding into the rest of the building and displacing the cactus shop on the corner, and Billy, in need of a new chef, invited Judy Rodgers to become a partner. At the time the menu was still mostly Mexican. The two most popular dishes were both made to order: guacamole served in the volcanic stone molcajete it was pounded in, with fried-to-order chips and a classic Caesar salad.

Judy added her own unique aesthetics to the mixture. As a high school exchange student, Judy had been lucky enough to live with the Troisgros family, whose restaurant in Roanne was widely considered to be the best in France. Later she had served an apprenticeship at l’Estanquet, a deeply traditional restaurant in southwestern France she had been the lunch chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and the executive chef of the Union Hotel in Benicia and she had traveled and eaten widely throughout Italy.

With Judy in charge, the Zuni kitchen became both more Eurocentric and more adventurous, “an evolving hybrid of the cuisines that I love,” in her words. She had accepted the job on the understanding that a wood-fired brick oven would be built—and it was, making possible the subsequent succulent parade of roast chickens, vegetable gratins, whole fish, braised rabbit legs, quails, squabs, savory tarts, roasted porcini mushrooms—all deliciously perfumed with wood smoke. Many of the restaurant’s other classic signature dishes made their first appearances: ricotta gnocchi, home-cured anchovies served with celery and Parmesan, the espresso granita… The restaurant began to receive serious national acclaim: In 2002, Judy published The Zuni Café Cookbook. In 2003, the book won the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year and Zuni Café won the award for Outstanding Restaurant in the country in 2004, Judy won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef and in 2018 Zuni Café won the award for Outstanding Service.

In 2006, Gilbert Pilgram joined Judy as the Café’s second chef-owner. Gilbert was a longtime friend of Judy’s and a devoted customer for twenty years, during which he worked as a cook at Chez Panisse, where he ultimately became chef, partner, and general manager. With Gilbert as its executive chef, Zuni has upheld Judy’s perfectionism and her vision of honest, local, seasonal food.

As Zuni continues to evolve, in its own distinctive and delicious way, it strives to remain the way it’s always been: at the same time rustic and cosmopolitan, audacious and familiar, intimate and convivial.

Making the Case

On November 26, 2012, a Monday, Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Russell Stanford walked into Gallery 8, an upscale jewelry shop in Albuquerque owned by Nael Ali. Posing as a jewelry dealer, Stanford bought two rings stamped with the initials CK, which the clerk told him stood for the Navajo artist Calvin Kee, according to court records. (There is no known Navajo jeweler named Calvin Kee.)

Later Stanford looked at the ring under an ultraviolet light and confirmed that it had come from the Khalafs’ factory in the Philippines: There were the dabs of otherwise invisible ink he’d applied to the ring two and a half months before when he intercepted a shipment of jewelry coming in from Fashion Accessories 4 U and bound for Sterling Islands.

In just months Stanford, working as the sole investigator on Operation Al Zuni (a second agent wasn't added until June 2014) had done what no federal investigator had yet been able to do: substantiate a source for the high-end counterfeits that had been turning up in retail stores for decades.

Less than 30 days later, Gallery 8 was featured in a Christmas shopping guide in the Albuquerque Journal. Nael Ali claimed that he purchased all his jewelry, except for the Polish amber jewelry, directly from Native artists. “There’s no middleman for me,” he said.

Ali, along with Mohammad Manasra, a traveling jewelry seller (who Ali admitted in his plea agreement was indeed his middleman) were arrested in October 2015 in Operation Al Zuni’s initial take-down and became the first jewelry dealers ever to be charged with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. (The charge against Manasra has been reduced to a misdemeanor, and he isn’t facing incarceration.)

In Nael Ali’s plea agreement, filed October 18, 2017, he admitted that the Philippine-based factories run by the Khalafs and the Aysheh brothers were the sources of counterfeits (some supplied through Mohammad Manasra) that he was fraudulently selling as Native made at Gallery 8 and at Galleria Azul, another store in Albuquerque. Ali confessed to mixing the knockoff jewelry with genuine Indian-made jewelry and ensuring “that none of the Philippine-made jewelry was marked with its country of origin.”

Arts Council England: Guidelines for Museum Repatriation

Hans Holbien, The Ambassadors, Jean de Dinteville, French Ambassador to the court of Henry VIII of England, and Georges de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur. 1533, National Gallery, London. The painting depicts luxury goods and scientific instruments from many countries showing the extent of such trade in the 16th century.

Kate Fitz Gibbon - April 8, 2020

Polihedral sundial, detail from Hans Holbein Portrait of The Ambassadors. Possibly made by the German astronomer Nicholas Kratzer.

The Arts Council England has chosen Wales’ Institute of Art and Law to develop new guidelines for the restitution and reparation of cultural objects for museums in the UK. The assignment has limited funding and a timeline of only four months for completion. According to the tender, the Institute of Art and Law will work between February 24 and June 19 of 2020 to create a new, basic framework for repatriation, setting forth ethical and legal considerations to guide museums of all sizes and all types of collections. The last official guide was published in 2000 and according to the Arts Council is “out of print and out of date.” The contract was funded at a mere £42,000 barely a month after an advertisement was placed for a supplier in January.

The job was described as follows:

“The overarching aim of this work is to create a comprehensive and practical resource for museums to support them in dealing confidently and proactively with all aspects of restitution.”

Despite the contract’s call for policies applicable to all collections, the project may focus on currently fashionable aspects of restitution policy. Referring to recent French, German, and Dutch restitution and repatriation guidelines for public collections, the Arts Council stated that:

“Restitution and repatriation of objects in museum collections is an area of increasing focus and debate across the UK and international museum sector. This is particularly, although not exclusively, focused on objects in Western museums acquired by European nations from former colonies, and links to wider agendas around decolonising museums.”

Hans Holbien, Portrait of the astronomer Nicholas Kratzer making a polihedral sundial, 1528.

The Arts Council gave no definition of what “decolonization” of a museum would mean. The media has characterized the goal as seeking help in “returning looted artefacts held in UK museums.”

The Institute of Art and Law is well-respected and capable, but there appears to be a disjunct between the tasks set for it, and what a law-based analysis can provide. Many of the questions raised by calls for repatriation are not capable of a legal solution, only a moral or ethical one.

One might assume that any guidelines would recognize that repatriation is a broad term and each claim should be dealt with on its own merits. And in a fact-based analysis, all the facts are relevant, not just the ones that display inequity. None of this argues for simplistic solutions.

The very short time frame set by the Arts Council and the breadth of its stated task gives little regard to the inherent complexity of restitution policy. The future impact of a general policy on “all aspects of restitution” requires close consultation with museums and the public.

Establishing policies for restitution also requires analyzing the impact of repatriation policies on the integrity of UK collections and the choices that will be made by future museum donors in consequence of them. Establishing guidelines for specific objects will require balancing considerations of the often inadequate documentation of objects’ provenance, of how to give notice to potential claimants, how to resolve conflicting claims, and especially of the fact that there is often no legal basis for categorizing objects as ‘illegal’ or ‘looted’ in the first place. Any policy must also ensure that returned objects would have a secure future and that records be kept of any change of ownership or custody.

Comparing existing models for restitution

Holbein carpet with large medalions, 16th c., Central Anatolia, Turkey.

Will the Institute of Art and Law be able to do in four months what – despite the US Congress’ eagerness to rectify clear wrongs in the taking of objects and human remains –took years of hearings to establish in the case of Native American objects only?

Neither the UK nor most EU counties have yet developed comprehensive processes for returns to indigenous communities, as the US did under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). NAGPRA requires museums to inventory all items, and mandates a claims process through which museums and tribes determine whether items are grave goods, items typically associated with grave goods, sacred or ceremonial items, or objects with important historical associations to tribes and individuals within tribes. Despite real dedication and effort on the part of museums, thirty years after passage of NAGPRA, Native ‘ancestors’ bones still rest in huge quantities in US museums and other cultural institutions, and there is not agreement among museums about which types of artifacts are sacred or ceremonial items and therefore appropriate to repatriate.

Under NAGPRA, human remains, “objects of cultural patrimony” and “sacred objects” are deemed inalienable from their original Native owners. Such items, once claimed by one of 574 federally recognized tribes, must be returned to the proper tribe. It should be noted that return of “sacred objects” is not based upon a ceremonial role that the object had at one time. Sacred objects are returned if they are currently required for the exercise of “traditional Native American religion.”

Over its three decades of operation NAGPRA has not always worked to the satisfaction of either tribes or museums. For many tribes, its processes have taken too long for museums, claims have been too broad and funding for the burdensome inventories mandated by federal law has been minimal or nonexistent. Some long-time US observers are concerned that objects not deemed suitable for repatriation in the past are now considered either sacred objects or objects crucial to tribal identity and are being returned without legal justification to tribes. (See Ron McCoy, Is NAGPRA Irretrievably Broken, Cultural Property News, December 19, 2018.

Righting wrongs

Detail of lute from Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors.

In general, UK and EU museums have been slower to act than US museums on requests for the return of human remains to indigenous peoples. Recent calls for repatriation have been aligned with campaigns for long-overdue indigenous rights and for full recognition of independence from a colonial past. However, consultations between indigenous communities and museums are increasing and human remains originally taken for scientific study (sometime to support spurious race-based theories of superiority) have been quietly returned to Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. A number of UK museums have recently made other important repatriations in November 2019, the Manchester Museum returned forty-three sacred and ceremonial objects to the Aranda people of Central Australia, Gangalidda Garawa peoples’ of northwest Queensland, Nyamal people of the Pilbara and Yawuru people of Broome.

However, righting obvious wrongs and confirming indigenous peoples’ rights to essential cultural objects is not the only concern with ethnographic artifacts. Whatever guidelines are issued regarding the ethics of returning indigenous peoples’ art also need to address the need for and practicality of massive returns, to ensure that documentation takes place, and to consider shared ownership and other alternatives to direct repatriation. Serious consideration should be given to ensuring that the UK’s diverse public continues to have access to global works and can see every world heritage honored in UK museums.

One positive direction would be to recommend additional funding to UK museums, many of which have already significantly expanded their cooperation with foreign cultural institutions, working directly with colleagues in the developing world and sharing their expertise to train, teach, and help to build new institutions there.

Antiquities and ethnographic materials present complex legal issues

Detail form Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors, showing the ‘torquetum’, an instrument for taking simultaneous horizon, equitorial, and elliptic co-ordinates.

There is no space here to discuss the longstanding and problematic issues surrounding antiquities – except to state that before tackling it, the UK researchers must endeavor to sweep away the numerous egregiously false stories about the size of the antiquities trade, the ludicrous notion that money laundering is pervasive in this very smallest, less than 1% segment of the art market, and to acknowledge the total lack of evidence of any association with terrorist funding. It should be noted that another slew of misleading claims has recently been made, stating that only a tiny percentage of Middle Eastern antiquities traded are legal. This entirely contradicts the actual results of the ILLICID study in Germany. These misleading stories could be very harmful to the ability of UK museums to accession legally acquired artworks.

Instead, researchers must look at the facts in order to analyze whether repatriations of works acquired 25, 50, 100, 200 yeas ago or more should be returned. If the facts of source country actions (and inaction) rather than laws that exist only on paper are considered, it will be very difficult to establish a ‘legal’ basis for repatriation of antiquities. Over the last fifty years, most nations have signed the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. However, signing a paper declaration is not enough to change source country behavior – or to mandate returns.

While many nations have passed blanket laws making export illegal or even nationalizing ownership of all cultural property since 1970, virtually no country outside of the developed world has ever established official permitting systems for export of any objects, however duplicative. At the same time, very few art source countries enforced either export or nationalizing laws domestically until the late 20th – early 21st century. Instead, most source countries turned a blind eye to the undocumented export of millions of archaeological and ethnological objects supposedly covered under nationalizing laws. These entered Western countries as legal imports and now sit in museums and private collections.

Holbein carpet, 15th–16th century, wool, from Turkey, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Repatriation and accession policies go hand in hand. Both tend to be written aspirationally, not practically, and have failed to be limited to key objects or to require solid justification for returns. They also tend to be strictly applied by museums within developed nations. For example, the “guidelines” on acquisition set forth by the Association of Art Museum Directors in 2008 and 2013 were explicitly subject to modification based upon circumstances but they resulted in most US museums adopting rigid rules against accessioning any object without proof of legal export from its source country after 1970. Since few source countries ever issued official permits, and those that did, like Egypt up through 1983, have inadequate descriptions, the result was to make hundreds of thousands of privately-owned objects into “orphans” that could not find a home in museums, even as gifts. The lack of documentation today became an insurmountable barrier for objects legally imported into the US decades before. Surely, museums in the UK would wish to avoid being locked in to similar restrictions.

Workable and unworkable models

Lutherian songbook, German, detail from The Ambassadors.

Museum repatriations have been one of the most widely discussed and controversial aspects of museum management since French president Emmanuel Macron promised during a 2017 trip to Africa to make the restitution of objects of African heritage a priority. Macron commissioned a major report by Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr, Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain, published in 2018, on how that might be accomplished, yet its controversial recommendations were not generally accepted by French museums and cultural officials. (See Savoy-Sarr Report on African Art Restitution: A Summary, Cultural Property News, January 30, 2019.)

The Savoy-Sarr report was polemic rather than based upon legal argument. It was widely criticized for its practical and logical flaws, including its call to return the vast majority of all African art from France as “looted,” its inaccurate depictions of the history of collecting, and its blanket characterization of all art transactions in which there was any disparity of power between seller and buyer as theft. (If artistic wealth is ‘stolen’ if not acquired in an absolutely symmetrical power relationship, then most transfers of art (and other goods) could be so classified.)

The report dismissed concerns that most African nations currently do not have the infrastructure to preserve or present millions of artifacts if they were returned. Nor did it consider the merits of French museums starting the process by working together with foreign colleagues to build uniquely African cultural institutions, and only later making decisions about the repatriation of objects

Nor did the Savoy-Sarr report deal with the fact that African resources of far greater economic value than art, most especially mineral wealth capable of supporting massive domestic development including cultural, educational, and health institutions of all kinds, continue to be drained from the continent by multinational corporations and corrupt regimes. This ‘looting’ has been a serious impediment to the development of a cultural infrastructure to hold returned artifacts.

Repatriation ‘guidelines’ proliferate but actions vary

Detail of terrestrial globe in Holbein’s The Ambassadors, of a type possibly based upon a lost globe of 1523 by Johannes Schoner, from Germany.

European and American museums have faced increased press and public pressure to repatriate artifacts deemed “stolen” in the court of public opinion. Sixteen German states issued a joint declaration in March of 2019 that directed the country’s state-managed museums to develop processes that would facilitate repatriation for objects that were taken in “legally or morally unjustifiable” ways from former colonies. What the state ministers actually did was agree to prioritize return of human remains and documentation and provenance research for other objects.

Dutch museums also developed guidelines last year for repatriation of colonial-era artifacts in public collections and museums that focused on objects taken without the consent of the holder in the colonial era. The director of the Museum of World Cultures used some of the phrasing of the Savoy-Sarr proposal, speaking of “power discrepancies” and “stolen objects.” However, the steps already taken by the Rijksmuseum to discuss repatriation have focused on items with a clear history of looting or seizure by Dutch military and colonial authorities.

For all the aspirational excesses found in the discussion of repatriation today, it is hoped that the UK report will be informed by the Dutch and German statements on the importance of doing research and documentation first, and on the failure of the Savoy-Sarr proposal to gain traction within the museum community in France. The Institute of Art and Law could also consider lessons offered in the successful Utimut agreement between Denmark and Greenland, a continuing process to establish a fair distribution of Greenland art and artifacts between Denmark and its Danish Commonwealth partner. (See Successful Repatriation: The Utimut Process in Denmark & Greenland, Cultural Property News, November 28, 2019)

There are bright spots among repatriation efforts that show how art dealers and collectors have accepted and internalized the ethical bases for repatriation. This grassroots action shows how the public’s perceptions of the issues have altered. This kind of change is likely to have more far-reaching consequences than any ‘guidelines’ or even changes to the law. The grassroots Voluntary Returns Program developed by the ATADA ethnographic art dealer organization in the US is a model of community action. This entirely voluntary program avoids government involvement it deals with objects in private collections rather than federally-funded museums. The program is remarkably efficient it has already brought over 200 key sacred objects used for current religious activities to tribal communities in the American Southwest at no cost to them. ATADA does not make determinations regarding the sacred or communal status of specific items of the various tribes. Historic photographs and publications may indicate ceremonial status, but similar objects have different roles in different tribes. When returns are facilitated through ATADA, the organization takes advice directly from the elders, spiritual leaders and heritage officers of the tribes to determine if a return is appropriate.

In contrast, almost all repatriation today takes place between governments. Objects do not go back to communities or individual families, but rather to political entities who may make use of them for their own purposes concepts of ‘identity’ and ‘heritage’ have often been used to promote nationalist or short-term political goals.

There are many questions about where repatriation is most beneficial and useful, and where it is unwarranted. Should repatriation be for the purpose of continuing an active and viable culture in which objects retain powers beyond the mundane? One answer will not fit all cultural communities – not all want their power objects back. In a few cases, indigenous peoples view their artworks as ‘delegates who act on behalf of their culture,’[1] for others, selling sculptures to outsiders is the equivalent of the tradition of leaving them to rot in the forest,[2] still others gave up old idols to missionaries as part of the adoption of a new Christian faith. And for some, the return of sacred objects is essential to repair the world their absence from the tribe is damaging to all peoples, whether those outside the tribe know it or not.[3]

Repatriating antiquities to unstable regions raises questions of preservation and ownership

Detail from Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors, showing a quadrant, used for taking angular measurements of altitude in astronomy and navigation, typically consisting of a graduated quarter circle and a sighting mechanism.

Does returning a sacred object to a community where it is utilized for spiritual practices have a different value than returning a 4000 year old statue to a modern government? Everyone is familiar with the longstanding legal, ethical and identity-based arguments surrounding the Parthenon Marbles, but what about situations where governments are doing real harm to heritage?

When the Taliban announced plans to destroy both the Bamiyan Buddhas and the contents of the Kabul Museum in Afghanistan, UNESCO dithered so long about whether it was permissible ever to allow artifacts out of a country of origin that it was too late to save them, and thousands of artworks were destroyed.

That lesson was not lost on museums in the US, which responded to the destruction by ISIS in Iraq and Syria by offering temporary ‘safe harbor’ to objects. So far, the offer has not been taken up by any Middle East/North African countries. This situation raises still other questions about balancing the ideal of keeping objects in place against the risk of destruction or loss due to inadequate cultural infrastructure and the desire for the object’s safety and preservation,

Should there be returns today to unstable and irresponsible governments as in Libya, Syria and Yemen, when artifacts are still at risk of destruction in war? Should returns be undertaken when established governments are actively demolishing monuments of minority cultures, despite having adopted laws guaranteeing their preservation, as in the case of destroyed Tibetan lamaseries and ancient Uyghur mosques and cemeteries in China.

Less pressing but vexing questions also arise when the modern country that the artworks came from cannot be determined. The creation of new nations magically creates new ‘national identities’ and ‘national heritage.’ In addition, many boundaries drawn by Russia, France, Germany and other empirical powers as well as England during the colonial era deliberately divided ethnic groupings and alliances.

Lute Chordophone-Lute-plucked-fretted, Rosewood, ivory, wood, ebony German, 1596, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Discussion of all these issues is very welcome, as is greatly expanded cooperation and sharing of resources between UK and global institutions. The first step should be in committing to joint projects and testing the waters by making significant loans, providing training in museum skills, exchanging perspectives and building trust on all sides. The Arts Council England has brought together distinguished scholars such as Professor Janet Ulph from the University of Leicester to work alongside the Institute for Art and Law as it conducts its research. The steering group overseeing the project includes the Museums Association, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) UK, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, along with the Northern Ireland Museums Council, Museums Galleries Scotland, and the Museums and Archives Division of the Welsh Government. Each organization can contribute to answering the practical and philosophical questions raised here.

The guideline publication is currently planned to be issued in the fall of 2020. It is not clear how the Institute of Art and Law will be able to assess the complexities of repatriation policy in so short a time – or to find the right balance between calls for repatriation and museum goals of preservation and scholarship – or with the museums’ fundamental mission to provide public access to art of all counties, cultures, and periods.

The need for policies to assist museums through the maze of repatriation claims and counterclaims is clear. The time to start is now. What is doubtful is whether a few months’ consultation will render a well-considered or workable basis for future policy.

[1] Simon Schaffer, ‘Get Back. Artifices of Return and Replication,’ The Aura in the Age of Digital Materiality, 96-97.

[2] Id. at 94. An example is the sale of the malangan carvings of New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago.

[3] Id at 95, 98. This is also the explanation given by Zuni leaders to participants in the ATADA Voluntary Returns Program when an Ahayuda and several masks were returned, including masks the Zuni identified as fakes, but which they deemed too close to the originals to be allowed to circulate in the world.

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