Work Set to Start on Zuni Kiva Project

Wall Kiva Zuni Kiva Project 013017
Kiva at Zuni Pueblo (Photo: Sharon Milholland)

Renovation and revitalization of the Corn Kiva—one of six kivas in the Zuni Pueblo—is set to start in early 2017, thanks to a groundbreaking collaborative effort between the Zuni Tribe, Crow Canyon, and the generous support of donors.

A kiva is a room or structure used by Pueblo people for religious rituals. Three of the six kivas at Zuni are no longer functional, and the remaining three are in need of some level of structural work ranging from minor repair to building renovation and complete reconstruction. 

The Zuni Pueblo's Corn Kiva is temporarily serving as the primary religious facility for all the Pueblo's kiva groups to conduct summer kachina dances and other kiva activities since some of the kivas are no longer available. But the Corn Kiva is too small to support the increase in numbers of people and use, and it is in serious need of repair due to wall and roof damage.

The Corn Kiva will be the first of the kivas renovated as part of the Zuni Kiva Project. The project goal is to renovate the kivas to revitalize essential traditions and practices in Zuni culture — or to maintain cultural continuity. According to Crow Canyon Cultural Specialist Dan Simplicio, there are crucial Corn Kiva ceremonies that have not been performed in their entirety since 1980 due to the condition and constraints of the current kiva, and without practice they could go extinct.

“Without the kivas and the kiva ceremonies, Zuni people lose access to their culture, their past, and their path to the future,” said Zuni Pueblo Governor Val Panteah Sr.

The Zuni Kiva Project is the first codeveloped project under the new Memorandum of Agreement between Crow Canyon and the Zuni Tribal Council. This agreement creates an authentic and substantive partnership between the Zuni tribe and Crow Canyon and focuses on the issues that Zuni people themselves have identified as priorities: preserving their native languages, cultures, and histories; providing culturally relevant educational experiences that inspire students to succeed academically and professionally; and creating more economic opportunities.

The Zuni Kiva Project is part of the Inspiring Students Project, which was launched by Crow Canyon in 2014 with a substantial investment from the King Family Foundation. The project is also funded by the many generous donations through the 2016 spring appeal — which added together come to $25,560. These funds are planned to largely fund the purchase of materials to renovate the Corn Kiva. Additional funds will be leveraged from the Zuni Tribe as well as federal, state, and private grant sources to renovate all six kivas. If you are interested in helping support the Zuni Kiva Project, click here.

This collaborative relationship is based on respect, trust, and co-constructing initiatives of mutual benefit to both the tribe and Crow Canyon. We anticipate this relationship will lead to new service learning and research opportunities that are of mutual interest, and we are hopeful that the Zuni Kiva Project will serve as a model for developing similar projects with other American Indian communities. 

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