The Zuni are another people around at the beginning of Contact, but on the other end of the continent, down in the desert southwest. The Zuni represent one of the clearest cases of benevolent relations with Whites, having some early conflicts with the Spanish, but no conflicts at all with the United States, while deriving great benefit from alliances with Americans against hostile Indians. Today the Zuni also stand as representatives of the curious paradox that despite the growing American society around them supposedly having "stolen their lands", Indians are tremendously wealthy in land possession (averaging almost 54 acres per capita).
The Zuni's earliest contact with Euro-Americans was with the Spaniards. With the Spaniards, the narrative is truly best described as conquest, and the Zuni were on the periphery of the 16th century Spanish conquest of Mexico. Just to be clear, the Zuni did not really start out a people with a distinct identity, but were actually a collection of people who settled in the same area. It is part of our mistaken understanding of Indian society that they were easily divided into tribes with distinct geographical zones. In fact, the Zuni pueblos were settled by different clans, families, and tribes, from different locations, speaking different tongues. Speaking of them as one people is more of an outsiders convention than an insider's reality.
The Zuni people came to the attention of the Spaniards as early as 1534, in their search for the Cibola and the 7 Cities of Gold, a legend corresponding to the 7 modest Zuni pueblos. In 1540, the Spanish first stormed the walls and captured one of the pueblo villages. An occasional deadly scirmish between the Zuni and the Spaniards would occur as the Spanish attempted to excercise sovereignty over the people of the pueblos. In 1680 a general rebellion against the Spanish broke out, and the Spanish reasserted sovereignty in 1692, but the region was generally ignored, allowing the Indians to live in their traditional fashion.
The territory fell under the jurisdiction of the United States following the Mexican War of 1848, and by 1850 the Zuni signed the Pueblo Treaty of Agent James S. Calhoun recognizing their land claims and sovereignty. As early as 1851, Euro-Americans were attempting to broker peace treaties between the Navajos, Hopis and Zunis, emphasizing that the Navajos cease their attacks on the other two pueblo tribes.
The early 1860s saw the violence of the Navajo Wars, with the Zunis allied with the Euro-Americans in their attempt to stop Navajo violence. The Navajos agreed to end their violent attacks by the later 1860s (in return for their own land claims), although the Apaches continued raiding until the 1870s.
The 1870s saw the first Euro-American teachers among the Zuni peoples, as well as friendly relations with Mormon pioneers. 1877 saw the first portion of the Zuni reservation established by the executive order of President Rutherford Hayes. The reservation was later expanded 1935 and again in 1949. Beginning in the 1970s, the Zuni initiated lawsuits for lands not recognized by the US government, eventually settling the suits for $50 million dollars in 1990-1. Today the Zuni reservation encompasses 418304 acres, equaling over 723 square miles, with the main portion 150 miles west of Albuquerque on the western border of New Mexico (with a couple other land parcels in New Mexico and Arizona also owned by the Zuni tribe).
The Zuni were made famous in the early 1880s through the pioneering work of Frank H. Cushing, who lived among and was adopted by the tribe. Like the other pueblo tribes, the Zuni are observed by Americans as easy to get along with, being fairly quiet and friendly. Like many other Indians of the southwest, the Zuni hate Mexicans, although their most bitter traditional enemies are the Navaho.
"The population of Zuñi in 1680 was about 2,500, since which time it has steadily decreased, chiefly by reason of smallpox epidemics. Between 1788 and 1799 the population ranged, according to various estimates, from 1,617 to 2,716; in 1820 it apparently had dwindled to 1,597. In 1880 the population was 1,630; in 1910 it was 1,640." The tribal population was 7758 in the 2000 census.
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