A Church Growth Study of the Zuni IndiansRalph Bruce Terry
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Most of the related research and professional material published about the Zunis is in the field of ethnology. In 1879 Frank H. Cushing and Mr. and Mrs. James Stevenson were sent to Zuni by the Bureau of American Ethnology. Frank Cushing learned the Zuni language and eventually became a member of the Bow Priesthood, one of the highest positions in the Zuni tribe. His works are therefore authoritative for his time.1 Mr. Stevenson died before he could publish his findings, but Mrs. Stevenson used many of his notes in her study of the Zunis published as the Twenty-third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Her works have the added advantage of having material showing the viewpoint of the Zuni woman. During the period 1910 to 1940, research was conducted by such noted students of anthropology as A. L. Kroeber, Ruth Benedict, Ruth L, Bunzel, and Elsie Clews Parsons. A. L. Kroeber's Zuni Kin and Clan is the classic in the study of Zuni social organization, although the study has since been refined both by Fred Eggan and John Roberts. Ruth Bunzel learned the Zuni language and transcribed and translated many of the chants of the Zuni religion. The best collection of these are found in the Forty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Probably the work that has made the Zunis best known, however, is Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture.2

Following World War II, John Adair did his doctoral dissertation on the returning veterans to Zuni. John Roberts also did several research projects at Zuni around 1950. Clara Gonzales, who lived in Zuni about 30 years, became quite familiar with the Zuni religious ceremonies. It is reported that the Indians would sometimes come to ask Dr. Gonzales how to do a certain dance that everyone had forgotten.3

Caution must be taken in using these sources, especially when the researcher did not learn the language. Often the informants at Zuni have been known to present false information to anthropologists in order to preserve the esoteric nature of their religion and culture.4 Also, some of the researchers, such as Benedict and Bunzel, tried to fit the information to their theories. The thing which makes the information most suspect, however, is the degree to which the culture has changed over the last fifty years. As John Adair has said, "The trouble with Benedict's picture of Zuni is not so much her facts as the limitations of her theory, which is one of flat configuration, one that did not allow sufficiently for culture change."5 Thus, allowances must be made for changes which may have occurred since the time of research of a particular author, especially if the information is of an esoteric nature and is not easily verified.

The Christian Reformed Church has been fairly conscientious about reporting on their progress in Zuni. John C. DeKorne, J. Dolfin, and L. J. Lamberts have all written about the Zuni work. Perhaps the best book on the subject, however, is Cornelius Kuipers' Zuni Also Prays.6

1Oakah L. Jones, Jr., "Introduction," My Adventures in Zuni. by Frank H. Cushing (Palmer Lake, Colorado: Filter Press, 1967), p. v. [return]

2Matilda Coxe Stevenson, "The Zuni Indians: Their Mythology, Esoteric Societies and Ceremonies," Twenty-third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 1901-1902 (Washington: Government Printing Office. 1904. pp. 1-608; A. L. Kroeber. Zuni Kin and Clan (New York: The American Museum of Natural History, 1917), pp. 1-205; Ruth L. Bunzel, "Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism," "Zuni Origin Myths," "Zuni Ritual Poetry," "Zuni Katchinas," Forty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 1929-1930 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1932), pp. 467-1086; and Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934), pp. 57-129. [return]

3Field Notes, personal communication with A, January 1971. See Appendix A for key to informants' names and positions. [return]

4Field Notes, personal communication with B. February 1971. [return]

5Dorothea C, Leighton and John Adair, People of the Middle Place: A Study of the Zuni Indians (New Haven, Connecticut: Human Relations Area Files, 1963). p. 200. [return]

6Cornelius Kuipers, Zuni Also Prays (Grand Rapids: Christian Reformed Board of Missions, 1946), pp. 1-157. [return]

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