|Zuni Weaving and Pottery
The production of art resonates strongly among native people, in part because it is so
connected to cultural identity and, in many cases, religious practice. Often the mere presence
of native artists makes an important political statement about the resistance of a people’s
values to usurpation by the dominant culture.
If all art has a strong cultural component, it is important to think about the ways in which
Indian arts and crafts are significantly different from those created by other Americans.
There are many issues relating to craft production among native people. What follows is a look
at only three specific societies. With the Zuni, a people highly identified with art, one may
come to understand that core cultural and spiritual values are expressed through artistic
design, execution, and display. Naturally, as Zuni society continues to evolve, so do artistic
techniques and themes, yet the place and meaning of art remain central. It is no coincidence
that at Zuni, art production is nearly ubiquitous.
Weaving is one of the most ancient of Zuni arts. Textiles were finger or loom woven and
decorated with paint or embroidery. Finished products included a variety of items, such as
clothing, straps, and bags. Ancient raw materials such as plant and animal fibers were largely
replaced in about 700 when cotton arrived from the south and west. In the sixteenth century
the Spanish brought sheep, which provided wool, another new material. The Spanish also
introduced metal knitting needles and new design forms. Later commercial cloth and synthetic
dyes became available as raw materials.