Originally commissioned in the late 1800s for the Smithsonian Institute by an act of Congress, the project was headed by
Director John Wesley Powell. It includes first-hand accounts, sketches, watercolor paintings and photos of every tribe's religious and cultural events. The Zuni tribe is presented in the 23rd Annual Report 1901. That report is used extensively in this book.
Like many American Indian tribes, the Zunis rely upon story-telling by their elders and religious leaders to perpetuate their culture. As elders have passed away, so too has the reliance on story-telling. Many times, Zuni elders came to us for the purpose of reading and studying our BAE report on the Zunis. They sought information on religious activities that had been lost or diminished with the passing of certain people or inactivity with certain ceremonial events. As in the game of "gossip", a story tends to be compromised over a period of time if passed on to other people.
In 1985, Zuni elders came to Dad requesting additional help with their religious ceremonies. They were in need of a white bear skin. Dad coordinated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain a polar bear skin from an agency seizure. That skin was presented to the elders.
This book is a compilation of educational and ethnic background from my personal knowledge, experience, and research. Any inconsistencies with Zuni mythology, religion, or tradition are both unintentional and my responsibility.
I do not present myself as an authority on the Zuni people and their culture; nor, do I intend any disrespect.
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I have attended many Shalako events. My experience suggests that most all non-Zunis attending Shalako, while appreciative, do not fully understand the events. They attend because of kinship or relationships with Zuni people or Native Americans in general. Likewise, I think that a reasonable number of Zunis, particularly younger people, are also lacking in such knowledge. As with most all societies in North America, television, social media, and the likes have detracted from significant historical and cultural events in lives of young people. Another reason is that very little information is available from which to learn; hence, another purpose of this publication.
For years my family maintained a library of special books from The Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE). It is the most extensive study of American Indian tribes in our nation's history.