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Outline of Zuñi Mytho-Sociologic Organization

From "Outlines of Zuñi Creation Myths," Thirteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1891-1892 (Washington, D.C., 1896), pp. 367-73.

THE Zuñi of today number scarcely 1,700 and, as is well known, they inhabit only a single large pueblo-single in more senses than one, for it is not a village of separate houses, but a village of six or seven separate parts in which the houses are mere apartments or divisions, so to say. This pueblo, however, is divided, not always clearly to the eye, but very clearly in the estimation of the people themselves, into seven parts, corresponding, not perhaps in arrangement topographically, but in sequence, to their subdivisions of the "worlds" or world-quarters of this world. Thus, one division of the town is supposed to be related to the north and to be centered in its kiva or estufa, which may or may not be, however, in its center; another division represents the west, another the south, another the east, yet another the upper world and another the lower world, while a final division represents the middle or mother and synthetic combination of them all in this world.

By reference to the early Spanish history of the pueblo it may be seen that when discovered, the Áshiwi or Zuñis were living in seven quite widely separated towns, the celebrated Seven Cities of Cibola, and that this theoretic subdivision of the only one of these towns now remaining is in some measure a survival of the original subdivision of the tribe into seven sub-tribes inhabiting as many separate towns. It is evident that in both cases, however, the arrangement was, and is, if we may call it such, a mythic organization; hence my use of the term the mytho-sociologic organization of the tribe. At any rate, this is the key to their sociology as well as to their mythic conceptions of space and the universe. in common with all other Indian tribes of North America thus far studied, the Zuñis are divided into clans, or artificial kinship groups, with inheritance in the female line. Of these clans there are, or until recently there were, nineteen, and these in turn, with the exception of one, are grouped in threes to correspond to the mythic subdivision I have above alluded to. These clans are also, as are those of all other Indians, totemic; that is, they bear the names and are supposed to have intimate relationship with various animals, plants, and objects or elements. Named by their totems they are as follows:

Kâ'lokta-kwe, Crane or Pelican people; Póyi-kwe (nearly extinct), Grouse or Sagecock people; Ta'hluptsi-kwe (nearly extinct), Yellow-wood or Evergreen-oak people; Ain'shi-kwe, Bear people; Súski-kwe, Coyote people; Aiyaho-kwe, Red-top plant or Spring-herb people; Ana-kwe, Tobacco people; Tâ'a-kwe, Maize-plant people; Tónashi-kwe, Badger people; Shóhoita-kwe, Deer people; Máawi-kwe (extinct), Antelope people; Tóna-kwe, Turkey people; Yä'tok'ya-kwe, Sun people; Ápoya-kwe (extinct), Sky people-, K'yä'k-yäli-kwe, Eagle people; Ták'ya-kwe, Toad or Frog people; K'yána-kwe (extinct), Water people; Chitola-kwe (nearly extinct), Rattlesnake people; Píchi-kwe, Parrot-Macaw people.

Of these clans the first group of three appertains to the north, the second to the west, the third to the south, the fourth to the east, the fifth to the upper or zenith, and the sixth to the lower or nadir region; while the single clan of the Macaw is characterized as "midmost," or of the middle, and also as the all-containing or mother clan of the entire tribe, for in it the seed of the priesthood of the houses is supposed to be preserved. The Zuñi explanation of this very remarkable, yet when understood and comprehended, very simple and natural grouping of the clans or totems is exceedingly interesting, and also significant whether it throw light on the origin, or at least the native meaning, of totemic systems in general, as would at first seem to be the case, or whether, as is more probably the case in this instance, it indicates a native classification, so to say, or reclassification of clans which existed before the culture had been elaborated to its present point. Briefly, the clans of the north--that is, those of the Crane, the Grouse, and Evergreen-oak--are grouped together and are held to be related to the north because of their peculiar fitness for the region whence comes the cold and wherein the season of winter itself is supposed to be created, for the crane each autumn appears in the van of winter, the grouse does not flee from the approach of winter but puts on his coat of white and traverses the forests of the snow-clad mountains as freely as other birds traverse summer fields and woodlands, caring not for the cold, and the evergreen-oak grows as green and is as sturdy in winter as other trees are in spring or summer; hence these are totems and in a sense god-beings of the north and of winter, and the clanspeople named after them and considered as, mythically at least, their breath-children, are therefore grouped together and related to the north and winter as are their totems. And as the bear, whose coat is grizzly like the evening twilight or black like the darkness of night, and the gray coyote, who prowls amidst the sagebrush at evening and goes forth and cries in the night-time, and the spring herb or the red-top plant, which blooms earliest of all flowers in spring when first the moisture-laden winds from the west begin to blow--these and the people named after them are as appropriately grouped in the west. The badger, who digs his hole on the sunny sides of hills and in winter appears only when the sun shines warm above them, who excavates among the roots of the juniper and the cedar from which fire is kindled with the fire drill; the wild tobacco, which grows only where fires have burned, and the corn which anciently came from the south and is still supposed to get its birth from the southland, and its warmth--these are grouped in the south. The turkey, which wakes with the dawn and helps to awaken the dawn by his cries; the antelope and the deer, who traverse far mesas and valleys in the twilight of the dawn--these and their children are therefore grouped in the east. And it is not difficult to understand why the sun, the sky (or turkis), and the eagle appertain to the upper world; nor why the toad, the water, and the rattlesnake appertain to the lower world.

By this arrangement of the world into great quarters, or rather as the Zuñis conceive it, into several worlds corresponding to the four quarters and the zenith and the nadir, and by this grouping of the towns, or later of the wards (so to call them) in the town, according to such mythical division of the world, and finally the grouping of the totems in turn within the divisions thus made, not only the ceremonial life of the people, but all their governmental arrangements as well, are completely systemized. Something akin to written statutes results from this and similar related arrangements, for each region is given its appropriate color and number, according to its relation to one of the regions I have named or to others of those regions. Thus the north is designated as yellow with the Zuñis, because the light at morning and evening in winter time is yellow, as also is the auroral light. The west is known as the blue world, not only because of the blue or gray twilight at evening, but also because westward from Zuñiland lies the blue Pacific. The south is designated as red, it being the region of summer and of fire, which is red; and for an obvious reason the east is designated white (like dawn light); while the upper region is many-colored, like the sunlight on the clouds, and the lower region black, like the caves and deep springs of the world. Finally, the midmost, so often mentioned in the following outline, is colored of all these colors, because, being representative of this (which is the central world and of which in turn Zuñi is the very middle or navel), it contains all the other quarters or regions, or is at least divisible into them. Again each region--at least each of the four cardinal regions, namely, north, west, south, and east--is the home or center of a special element, as well as of one of the four seasons each element produces. Thus the north is the place of wind, breath, or air, the west of water, the south of fire, and the east of earth or the seeds of earth; correspondingly, the north is of course the place of winter or its origin, the west of spring, the south of summer, and the east of autumn. This is all because from the north and in winter blow the fiercest, the greatest winds or breaths, as these people esteem them; from the west early in spring come the moistened breaths of the waters in early rains; from the south comes the greatest heat that with dryness is followed by summer, and from the east blow the winds that bring the frosts that in turn mature the seeds and perfect the year in autumn. By means of this arrangement no ceremonial is ever performed and no council ever held in which there is the least doubt as to the position which a member of a given clan shall occupy in it, for according to the season in which the ceremonial is held, or according to the reason for which a council is convened, one or another of the clan groups of one or another of the regions will take precedence for the time; the natural sequence being, however, first the north, second the west, third the south, fourth the east, fifth the upper, and sixth the lower; but first, as well as last, the middle. But this, to the Zuñi, normal sequence of the regions and clan groups, etc., has been determined by the apparent sequence of the phenomena of the seasons, and of their relations to one another; for the masterful, all conquering element, the first necessity of life itself, and to all activity, is the wind, the breath, and its cold, the latter overmastering, in winter all the other elements as well as all other existences save those especially adapted to it or potent in it, like those of the totems and gods and their children of the north. But in spring, when with the first appearance of the bear and the first supposed growls of his spirit masters in the thunders and winds of that time their breaths begin to bring water from the ocean world, then the strength of the winter is broken, and the snows thereby melted away, and the earth is revivified with drink, in order that with the warmth of summer from the south things may grow and be cherished toward their old age or maturity and perfection, and finally toward their death or sleeping in winter by the frost-laden breaths of autumn and the east.

Believing, as the Zuñis do, in this arrangement of the universe and this distribution of elements and beings chiefly concerned in them, and finally in the relationship of their clans and the members thereof to these elementary beings, it is but natural that they should have societies or secret orders or cult institutions composed of the elders or leading members of each group of their clans as above classified. The seriation of these secret and occult medicine societies, or, better, perhaps, societies of magic, is one of the greatest consequence and interest. Yet it can but be touched upon here. In strict accordance with succession of the four seasons and their elements, and with their supposed relationship to these, are classified the four fundamental activities of primitive life, namely, as relating to the north and its masterfulness and destructiveness in cold, is war and destruction; relating to the west is war cure and hunting; to the south, husbandry and medicine; to the east, magic and religion; while the above, the below, and the middle relate in one way or another to all these divisions. As a consequence, the societies of cold or winter are found to be grouped, not rigidly, but at least theoretically, in the northern clans, and they are, respectively: 'Hléwe-kwe, Ice-wand people or band; Áchia-kwe, Knife people or band; Kâ'shi-kwe, Cactus people or band; for the west: Pí'hla-kwe, Priesthood of the Bow or Bow people or band (Ápi'hlan Shiwani, Priests of the Bow); Sániyak'ya-kwe, Priesthood of the Hunt or Coyote people or band; for the south: Máke'hlána-kwe, Great fire (ember) people or band; Máketsána-kwe, Little fire (ember) people or band; of the east: Shíwana-kwe, Priests of the Priesthood people or band; Úhuhu-kwe, Cottonwood-down people or band; Shúme-kwe, or Kâ'kâ'hlána-kwe, Bird-monster people or band, otherwise known as the Great Dance-drama people or band; for the upper region: Néwe-kwe, Galaxy people or band or the All-consumer or Scavenger people or band (or life preservers); and for the lower regions: Chítola-kwe, Rattlesnake people or band, generators (or life makers). Finally, as produced from all the clans and as representative alike of all the clans and through a tribal septuarchy of all the regions and divisions in the midmost, and finally as representative of all the cult societies above mentioned is the Kâ'-kâ or Ákâkâ-kwe or Mythic Dance drama people or organization. It may be seen of these mytho-sociologic organizations that they are a system within a system, and that it contains also systems within systems, all founded on this classification according to the six-fold division of things, and in turn the six-fold division of each of these divisions of things. To such an extent, indeed, is carried this tendency to classify according to the number of the six regions with its seventh synthesis of them all (the latter sometimes apparent, sometimes nonappearing) that not only are the subdivisions of the societies also again subdivided according to this arrangement, but each clan is subdivided both according to such a six-fold arrangement and according to the subsidiary relations of the six parts of its totem. The tribal division made up of the clans of the north takes precedence ceremonially, occupying the position of elder brother or the oldest ancestor, as the case might be. The west is the younger brother of this, and in turn, the south of the west, the east of the south, the upper of the east, the under of them all, while the middle division is supposed to be a representative being, the heart or navel of all the brothers of the regions first and last, as well as elder and younger. In each clan is to be found a set of names called the names of childhood. These names are more of titles than of cognomens. They are determined upon by sociologic and divinistic modes, and are bestowed in childhood as the "verity names" or titles of the children to whom given. But this body of names relating to any one totem--for instance, to one of the beast totems--will not be the name of the totem beast itself, but will be names both of the totem in its various conditions and of various parts of the totem, or of its functions, or of its attributes, actual or mythical. Now these parts or functions, or attributes of the parts or functions, are subdivided also in a six-fold manner, so that the name relating to one member of the totem-for example, like the right arm or leg of the animal thereof--would correspond to the north, and would be the first in honor in a clan (not itself of the northern group); then the name relating to another member--say to the left leg or arm and its powers, etc.--would pertain to the west and would be second in honor; and another member--say the right foot--to the south and would be third in honor; and of another member--say the left foot--to the east and would be fourth in honor; to another say the head--to the upper regions and would be fifth in honor; and another-say the tail--to the lower region and would be sixth in honor; while the heart or the navel and center of the being would be first as well as last in honor. The studies of Major Powell among the Maskoki and other tribes have made it very clear that kinship terms, so called, among other Indian tribes (and the rule will apply no less or perhaps even more strictly to the Zuñis) are rather devices for determining relative rank or authority as signified by relative age, as elder or younger of the person addressed or spoken of by the term of relationship. So that it is quite impossible for a Zuñi speaking to another to say simply brother; it is always necessary to say elder brother or younger brother, by which the speaker himself affirms his relative age or rank; also it is customary for one clansman to address another clansman by the same kinship name of brother-elder or brother-younger, uncle or nephew, etc.; but according as the clan of the one addressed ranks higher or lower than the clan of the one using the term of address, the word-symbol for elder or younger relationship must be used.

With such a system of arrangement as all this may be seen to be, with such a facile device for symbolizing the arrangement (not only according to number of the regions and their subdivisions in their relative succession and the succession of their elements and seasons, but also in colors attributed to them, etc.), and, finally, with such an arrangement of names correspondingly classified and of terms of relationship significant of rank rather than of consanguinal connection, mistake in the order of a ceremonial, a procession or a council is simply impossible, and the people employing such devices may be said to have written and to be writing their statutes and laws in all their daily relationships and utterances. Finally, with much to add, I must be content with simply stating that the high degree of systemization which has been attained by the Zuñis in thus grouping their clans severally and serially about a midmost group, we may see the influence of the coming together of two diverse peoples acting upon each other favorably to the development of both in the application of such conceptions to the conduct of tribal affairs. It would seem that the conception of the midmost, or that group within all these groups which seems to be made up of parts of them all, is inherent in such a system of world division and tribal subdivision corresponding thereto; but it may also well be that this conception of the middle was made more prominent with the Zuñis than with any other of our southwestern peoples through the influence of the earthquakes, which obviously caused their ancestors from the west again and again to change their places of abode, thus emphasizing the notion of getting nearer to or upon the lap or navel of the earth mother, where all these terrific and destructive movements, it was thought, would naturally cease.

Be this as it may, this notion of the "middle" and its relation to the rest has become the central fact indeed of Zuñi organization. It has given rise to the septuarchy I have so often alluded to; to the office of the mortally immortal K'yäk'lu, keeper of the rituals of creation, from which so much sanction for these fathers of the people is drawn; to the consequent fixing in a series like a string of sacred epics, a sort of inchoate Bible, of these myths of creation and migration; and finally, through all this accumulated influence, it has served to give solidarity to the Zuñi tribe at the time of its division into separate tribes, making the outlying pueblos they inhabited subsidiary to the central one, and in the native acceptation of the matter, mere parts of it.


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