|Edward S. Curtis photo|
|Regions with significant populations|
| United States
( New Mexico)
|Keresan, English, Spanish|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Zia // are an indigenous tribe centered at Zia Pueblo, an Indian reservation in New Mexico, U.S. The Zia are known for their pottery and use of the Sun symbol. The people are a branch of the large Pueblo community.
Archaeologists believe that the Keresan-speaking residents of Zia are descendants of the Ancestral Puebloan people of the Four Corners region who migrated to the Jemez River Valley sometime in the thirteenth century. Spanish explorer, Antonio de Espejo first encountered the Zia in 1583 when he noted that the biggest pueblos was the one the natives called, Tsiya, which the Spanish later altered to Zia.
Spanish settlers and their religious orders slowly took control of the region and outlawed traditional Zia religious ceremonies. The first missionary was assigned to the Zia in 1598 by Don Juan De Oñate, and by 1613 a church and convent had been built by tribal members. Tensions between the Spanish and Zia continued to build until 1680 when a regional uprising led by Popé, a Tewa religious leader, overthrew the Spanish regime. The uprising was successful and the Spanish were forced to flee south. The Pueblo Indians acquired horses from the Spanish, thus allowing the further spread of horses to the Plains tribes.
It was another nine years before the Spanish returned, laying siege to Zia Pueblo in 1689. Soldiers led by Governor Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate sacked the pueblo, killing 600 people and taking 70 Zia Indians captive. Three years later the Spanish had crushed any Pueblo resistance and convinced the Zia people and their leader, Antonio Malacate, to return to their homes, but fighting and disease had taken their toll with only about 120 people left living in Zia in 1892.
Living and culture
Because of the arid climate of the land where they live, the Zia had to adapt to the way of life in a way best suited for the desert. Since they were home dwellers, as opposed to being nomadic, farming was essential to their supply of food. One of the biggest challenges they faced with farming was where to get their water supply from. In New Mexico rain was scarce during certain parts of the year so new techniques of farming were developed.(like dry farming and crop rotation) The Zia would plant their seeds in a fertile piece of land close to a river or stream. Then they would dig paths to the fields from the stream and thus the water flowed from the stream to water the crops. By placing and removing rocks in the paths, they could control when water flowed to the crops and when not.
In the more elevated regions, the men planted seeds in a patch on a runny slope. When it rained, rainwater running down the slope would water the crops as well. Other times, huge trenches, like cisterns, were dug to collect the rain. Part of the woman's job was to go to these trenches with clay pottery, collect water, and use them to water the fields.
Zia farming produced a wide array of crops. But the most important of these were corn, beans, and squash which were nicknamed the three sisters. These crops were planted in shared or common ground which everyone contributed. They were the staple of Zia and Pueblo diets. Corn was the most important of all. While some was eaten fresh, most was stored away in pots and cellars for the winter and droughts. When some of the corn dried, it was turned into flour and bread by the women. They would sit outside at grinding stones, singing religious songs while rubbing stones against the corn producing flour. They sang because they considered the corn to be sacred.
Once the flour was done, it was mixed with water to make dough. The dough was widened to round flat sheets and placed on hot rocks over a fire. When done baking, a tortilla was produced;it was the most important and basic staple available to them.
Other minor crops were grown in personal, individual gardens such as peppers, onions, chilies, and tobacco. New Mexico is well known for its spicy chilies that originated among tribes like this.
While the Zia were primarily vegetarians, they often ate meat when it was available. Small hunting parties of men and teenage boys would be sent to hunt for small game such as rabbit, gopher, and squirrel. They also hunted large game such as deer, antelope, and mountain lions. When the spring season came, special groups would go close to the Great Plains to hunt for bison.
The Natives of the U.S. Southwest, including the Zia, were known for their "pueblo homes" made of adobe. These were built like an apartment complex with a huge box base, smaller box on top, and an even smaller one on top of that. That way, it had different floors for storing different items and for families. No doors were located on the bottom floor (until recently) so the only way to access the building was by ladders made from logs. One ladder would take you to the patio (second floor) and another led through an opening through a roof and onto the first floor. Other ladders led to higher floors. At night, ladders would be taken inside for protection so no outsider could come in without permission.
These houses are made from the natural resources of the nearby desert. Adobe, the building-block, is made by mixing clay, sand, water and organic materials such as sticks, straw, and dung. These are mixed into blocks and left to dry. Meanwhile. a hole is dug where the new building is intended to be and supporting poles are planted firmly in the ground to make a frame. When the blocks of adobe are dry and hard, they are laid around the building and bounded by wet clay (used as cement). Every year, a new coat of adobe mixture/clay is added to the wall to keep them firm.
The Zia, like the other Pueblos, believed in different spirits called kachinas These were thought to be ancestral spirits that used to live among their people. The spirits got offended when people didn't pay them attention so they fled to live in the sky. They were said to come occasionally and bring rain and clouds. Over 300 kachinas were present in the worship and the Zia held religious festivals and ceremonies in which they asked the Kachinas to bring rain and make their crops grow. They used drums and rattles in the dances during the ceremonies. Religious men dressed as the kachinas would come down from the mountains and dance among the people during the festival. After three days, they would go back up.
Because of the abundance of clay and sand in the southwest, pottery was a specialized art among this tribe. Pottery of Zia Pueblo consists of geometric designs with plant and animal motifs with a white background. When the time for making pottery comes, clay and sand are mixed with water and long ropes of the mixture are produced. The next task involves winding the ropes into the shape of a pot.
Once they dry out, the pots are then painted with nature and religious art. They would then sit around for about a week after which they would be taken to the kiln. This is a special place for baking the pottery where it is fired in the open air, usually using cow dung for fuel. After baking, most pots are used to store food and collect water.
The Zia Sun Symbol
The Zia Indians of New Mexico regard the Sun as a sacred symbol. Their symbol, a red circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions, is painted on ceremonial vases, drawn on the ground around campfires, and used to introduce newborns to the Sun. Four is the sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle. The number four is embodied in:
- the four points of the compass (north, south, east, and west);
- the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter);
- the four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening and night);
- the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years and old age); and
- the four sacred obligations one must develop (a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others), according to the Zia's belief.
The symbol is featured on the Flag of New Mexico and in the design of both the New Mexico State Capitol and New Mexico's State Quarter entry as well as the state highway marker. But given its history, the Pueblo would like people to first request permission before using it.
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