A Church Growth Study of the Zuni IndiansRalph Bruce Terry
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The mechanics of Zuni culture. In order to understand Zuni culture change, it is necessary to understand Zuni cultural history. According to Roberts, this history has displayed several persistent and leading themes:

  1. the Zuni have long lived in a threatening natural and social environment;
  2. the Zuni tribe has had a history of steady contraction and concentration;
  3. the Zuni culture has steadily been augmented by diverse cultural elements through the operation of amalgamation, diffusion, and acculturation; and
  4. at no time has this tribe lost its cultural identity even though the pressures on the tribe have been continuous and extreme.124

One of the reasons the tribe has not lost its cultural identity in spite of the ever increasing changes is because of the degree of cultural integration. Kroeber has presented a good description of the functioning of this integration:

The clans, the fraternities, the priesthoods, the kivas, in a measure the gaming parties, are all dividing agencies. If they coincided, the rifts in the social structure would be deep; by countering each other, they cause segmentations which produce an almost marvelous complexity, but can never break the national entity apart.125

The extent of integration serves to introduce a feature which Roberts calls "contained cultural variation." He has hypothesized that the structure of the culture allows the culture to absorb additional variations, which are introduced by "the impact of the dominant American culture," without shattering effects on the culture. Thus the culture can appear to be tightly knit to outsiders while still portraying extensive variations within.126

Change has been encountered by two processes: rejection and adaptation. The culture demands an outward conformity and often the "progressive" members of the society who would otherwise be innovators are forced to leave the community. Since once a Zuni leaves the reservation, he must always deal with alien languages and cultures, many who would like to leave have decided to stay and be reintegrated. This process takes place by the use of gossip, rumor, and ridicule.127

Change that does take place is quickly adapted and absorbed into the culture. As Kroeber has expressed it:

As a matter of fact, any change imposed on the social scheme is very quickly absorbed into it; a generation or two suffices, the alteration has become fixed, and is reckoned as perpetual as the structure, though perhaps obviously incongruous.128
He goes on to say that the Zuni attitude is unhistorical, for the change is then viewed as if it had always been that way.129 A couple of examples should suffice to illustrate. When the Spanish priests first brought Catholicism to the Zuni, a few obvious changes were made. The Zunis adopted the Catholic graveyard as their own, and nativised festivals, such as All Souls Day. The cult of the kachinas either was influenced by the parallels between the kachinas and the Catholic saints or else it was a nativistic movement designed to overshadow the more central religious observances.130

Evidences of culture change. It is in the material culture that Zuni has changed the most. Such things as sheep, cattle, horses, peaches, wheat, silversmithing, electricity, and pickup trucks have been gladly accepted. These material changes have brought about new jobs. There is a change in the patterns of residence from matrilocal to patrilocal and especially neolocal. While property was "owned" by households, it is now "owned" by individuals. Drinking and suicide, both of which used to be unheard of, are on the upswing.131

At the same time, the Zuni religion seems to be slowly deteriorating. While it is still going strong, different observers have noted that it does not seem to be as dominating as it once was. The religious has suffered at the expense of the economic.132

Factors in culture change. In outlining the factors which have contributed to the changes in Zuni culture, four seem to stand out: the schools, the automobile, the veterans, and the television. The schools introduced a new way of life to the children, and the automobile helped give them access to it. These two factors also broke down family discipline. Whereas before the boys and girls could be watched, with the advent of the schools and automobiles, the ability of the parents to keep close tabs on the children disappeared. Thus instances of pre-marital sex relations rose sharply. When the veterans returned from World War II, they had traveled farther and seen more than any Zuni before them. Although they were suppressed when they returned to Zuni, they still brought back many ideas , many of which have gradually been accepted. The television set is making its way into Zuni and thus Zuni children are learning the white value system in their own homes.133

Other factors introducing cultural change to Zuni include the missions, the traders, and the government employees, especially those with the BIA. The desire of the Indians for the white man's material wealth has prompted many outward changes. The governors of the tribe have often introduced some changes. Among new factors presently at work, the Bible translation in progress and the Zuni Plan, a plan for Indian takeover of the tribal administration and improvement of the Indian situation, must be mentioned. All these things have contributed toward a change that is rapidly taking place.

124Roberts, op. cit., p. 294. [return]

125Kroeber, Zuni Kin and Clan, op. cit., p. 183. [return]

126Roberts, op, cit., p. 358. [return]

127Adair and Vogt, op. cit., pp. 550, 551; and Roberts, op. cit., pp. 289-290. [return]

128Kroeber, Zuni Kin and Clan, op. cit., p. 203. [return]

129Ibid., p. 204. [return]

130Leighton and Adair, op. cit., pp. 29, 30. [return]

131Roberts, op. cit., p. 300; Adair and Vogt, op. cit., p. 555; and Leighton and Adair, op. cit., p. 67. [return]

132Stevenson, "Ethnobotony," op. cit., p. 36; and Roberts, op. cit., pp. 301, 311. [return]

133Leighton and Adair, op. cit., pp. 112-114; and Adair and Vogt, op. cit., pp. 547-561. [return]

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