Community, culture and history come together at Zuni Pueblo’s festival - Albuquerque Journal

Community, culture and history come together at Zuni Pueblo’s festival

It sits rather off the beaten track. There are no glitzy casinos to attract folks. It’s not near any big population center.

But Zuni Pueblo is doing what it can to highlight what it has, and much of that will be on display May 6-7 for the Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Festival (zunipueblomainstreet.org).

Russ Ball/Journal
Russ Ball/Journal

The fifth annual fair is “a celebration of our local businesses and local artists, giving appreciation for everything they do collaboratively to sustain our local economy,” said Wells Mahkee Jr., Zuni Pueblo MainStreet manager. “We’re celebrating our community and culture.”

It’s a celebration open to all comers and includes such entertainment as a carnival with rides and games, and a showcase of the many artisans from the pueblo.

“We’re going to have an arts market with the local vendors set up and local arts and crafts,” Mahkee said. “We’ll have a wide variety of artists that will have their arts and crafts for sale so you can buy directly from the artist. You know what you’re getting. You’ll be getting quality work, and you get to meet the artists, which is something not many communities can say.”

Native Zuni dances, including such local favorites as the buffalo dance, the corn dance, the turkey dance and the butterfly dance are a big part of the Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Festival.
Native Zuni dances, including such local favorites as the buffalo dance, the corn dance, the turkey dance and the butterfly dance are a big part of the Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Festival.

One of the big highlights of Saturday’s event will be traditional Zuni dances, he said.

“They’ll be social dances, and I know one group will be doing the buffalo dance, the corn dance, the turkey dance and the butterfly dance,” Mahkee said.

Then there will be what is sure to be a crowd favorite as the local Head Start program will do a series of dances, he said.

Several art competitions also will be on tap, with a juried show in which five judges will be rating the artwork in categories from jewelry, paintings, textile, pottery and carvings, with the work on display throughout the weekend.

And in another competition, artists will be challenged to stretch their creativity by using recycled material provided by the Zuni Environmental Program.

Use of a traditional horno to bake bread is among the demonstrations visitors can see at the Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Celebration.
Use of a traditional horno to bake bread is among the demonstrations visitors can see at the Zuni Pueblo MainStreet Celebration.

“At least 80 percent of the work must be recycled refuse,” Mahkee said. “They will have a pile of stuff for the artists to select from to use.”

The Pueblo of Zuni (zunitourism.com) also has a rich history, and there are several tours available to help bring that information to light, said pueblo Tourism Director Tom Kennedy.

“We have a superior guide who really does a great job,” he said. “He really provides an informative experience.”

Hawikuh one of the original Cities of Cibola where Conquistador Francisco Coronado first encountered Native peoples in the Southwest in 1540.
Hawikuh one of the original Cities of Cibola where Conquistador Francisco Coronado first encountered Native peoples in the Southwest in 1540.

One of the highlights is the archaeology tour, which features a trip to Hawikuh, the site of the first pueblo visited by Spaniards.

The 32-mile round-trip tour, which takes about 2½ hours, is a cruise back in time to where Coronado encountered the first of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola.

“What I tell people is that it’s an experience of being where it was,” Kennedy said. “It has a very deep and compelling story. The real fame of these ancestral villages is as jumping-off places for trade. Long-distance trade went throughout these regions, turquoise and buffalo hides were traded into Mexico, and things coming north like corals from the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, shells of various kinds, parrot feathers, which have a religious significance.”

Interesting and intriguing rock art is located on the mesa above the Village of Great Kivas site.
Interesting and intriguing rock art is located on the mesa above the Village of Great Kivas site.

There is also a walking tour of the Middle Village, which goes through the cultural heart of Zuni Pueblo. This can be coupled with add-ons to make it a truly special experience, Kennedy said.

“One of the things we can set up if a person has that interest is artists’ demonstrations and workshop tour,” he said. “We have certain artists who welcome visitors to their homes/studios and can do one-on-one presentations.”

The artists include stoneworkers, potters and silversmiths, Kennedy said.

For those with a culinary curiosity, there is a traditional Zuni meal with such items as posole or red chile stew, Zuni tamales, oven bread, melon or other fruit, traditional tea, and dessert. A week’s notice and 10-person minimum is required, he said.

And another archaeology tour takes visitors to a Chacoan outlier, Village of the Great Kivas.

“The site itself is pretty compelling in understanding that it was connected to the Chaco society,” Kennedy said. “There also is some really remarkable rock art on the mesa above it.”

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