The purpose of this publication is not to intrude upon the Shalako event or the lives of the Zuni people; nor violate its sanctity but to assist with understanding the Zuni Shalako Ceremony. Anytime we can better understand an event, the more meaningful it becomes and the more sincere our appreciation of both the event and people.
My experience suggests that most all non-Zunis attending Shalako do not have an understanding of the events. They attend because of relationships or their kinship with the Zuni people or Native Americans in general. Likewise, I think that a reasonable number of Zunis particularly younger people, are also lacking in such knowledge. That is primarily because there is very little information available from which to learn; hence, a purpose of this publication.
Like so many tribes in America, the Zuni have a tradition of story-telling by their elders and religious leader to perpetuate their culture. For years my family maintained a library of books from the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE). This is the most extensive study of North American tribes in our nation’s history. It was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution under the leadership of Director, John Wesley Powell and authorized by act of Congress. The Zuni Tribe is presented in the 23rd Annual Report 1901. Included are first-hand accounts, sketches, watercolor paintings, and photos of all religious and cultural events.
As tribal elders died, so too did many religious details of their societies. Many times, Zuni elders came to us to read and study our BAE reports. They sought information on religious activities that had either been lost or diminished through the loss of religious leaders.
The book is a compilation of educational and ethnic background from my personal knowledge, experience, and research. Any inconsistencies with Zuni mythology, religion, or tradition are both unintentional and my responsibility.
I do not present myself as an authority on the Zuni people and their culture; nor, do I intend any disrespect.