The history of the Zuni Tribe was recently presented as part of the Four Corners Lecture Series.
The talks are held at the Far View Visitor’s Center at Mesa Verde National Park.
Jim Enote, a Zuni cultural expert, explained that the ancient Zuni village of Hawikku, which is considered the original “Plymouth Rock” of north America.
He told the story of a slave ship that wrecked in the Caribbean. A slave named Estevanico survived and escaped. He later convinced Spanish explorers that he was a guide, leading them in 1539 north into the present-day American Southwest.
“He made demands of the Zuni, and the Zuni killed him,” Enote deadpans. “But he is overlooked in history. The first encounter with North American tribes was a former African slave.”
Later, explorer Francisco de Coronado was convinced that the Zuni village could be one of the legendary Seven Cities of Gold.
The legend began in Europe, Enote said, and Spanish explorers kept pushing north trying to find it, finally reaching Hawikku after hundreds of miles of seeing no people.
“The Hawikku village sits on a hill. Our scouts reported seeing hundreds of foreigners arriving with banners, and flags and armor. Religious groups, military groups, cattle, horses, and Indians approached,” Enote said. “Our women and children were evacuated when the Spanish arrived.”
The pueblo was conquered in 1540, and the Spanish continued to search for the Cities of Gold, continuing east into present day Kansas.
“They never found the riches, and their informants were killed for lying,” Enote said. “The Spanish backtracked and established missions at Hopi, and Acoma.”
Forced conversion to Christianity has a brutal history for the pueblo Indians, Enote said, including cutting off hands and feet of those who resisted.
“The pueblo people had to take their religion underground, literally, into below-ground kivas,” he said.
Slavery and servitude to the Spanish led to the Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The coordinated war effort by the tribes used a sophisticated technique.
The Isleta, Zuni, Hopi, Acoma tribes and others united their forces through knotted cordage, Enote said.
“Bundles of cordage with a set number of knots were given to village leaders. Each day, a knot was united, and when the last knot was untied that was the day to attack the Spanish,” he said. “The Spanish were driven out. They never returned to Zuni.”
The next talk with the Four Corners Lecture Series features Steve Wolverton, a scholar of wildlife conservation and zooarchaeology. It takes place Thursday, July 24, 7 p.m. at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.