Preservation and research of sacred sites by the Zuni Indian tribe of New Mexico

Barbara J. Mills, T. J. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Sacred sites are important in the ceremonial life of the Zuni Indians of the American Southwest. To protect these sites, both on and off the Zuni Indian Reservation, the Zuni Tribe has used two research and management strategies: (1) historic preservation, and (2) legislation and litigation. In this article, the Zuni Tribe's use of historic preservation to manage sacred sites is analyzed using the report series of the Zuni Archaeology Program. While sacred sites were only a small fraction of the total number of sites recorded, the treatment of these sites as cultural resources resulted in their protection. The Zuni Tribe has also successfully managed sacred sites through special Federal legislation and litigation of land claims. In two instances, sacred places have been added to the Zuni Reservation. Although the strategies employed by the Zuni Tribe have generally been successful, our analysis identifies two as yet unresolved issues: (1) the limited ability of archaeologists to recognize sacred sites, and (2) the unknown impact that may result from the reduction of a dynamic oral tradition to the literate scholarly and legal forms of the dominant society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-42
Number of pages13
JournalHuman organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Archaeology; US
  • Historic preservation
  • New Mexico
  • Sacred sites
  • Southwest
  • Zuni Indians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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