Native American Flags – The Zia Pueblo

Published on June 21, 2012 by Amy

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The Zia Pueblo
The Zia Pueblo

The term “pueblo” means village in Spanish. For Native Americans it has been applied to those villages that have one special type of architecture, the multi-family, multi-story structures employed by various tribes in the southwestern United States. Six main nations are grouped under the term “Pueblo Indians”, the Hopi of Arizona, the Zuni of the New Mexico-Arizona border regions and the four tribes that stretch up and down the banks of the Rio Grande River in New Mexico – the Tiwa, the Tewa, the Towa and the Keres (ENAT, 206-209).

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The Pueblo of Zia is part of the Keres Nation. This pueblo has been occupied continuously since about 1250 A. D. (“Welcome to the Pueblo of Zia”, Pueblo of Zia, udated pamphlet). The current boundaries of the Pueblo of Zia Reservation comprise about 190 square miles or 117,000 acres (AID, 42) situated approximately 35 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It is this pueblo that has supplied New Mexico with its very recognizable symbol, the Zia Sun symbol.

Dr. Harry Mera, a physician and anthropologist at the Museum of Anthropology in Santa Fe was inspired by a pot that was on display in the museum (Leslie Linthicum, “Native Sun”, article from unknown magazine, undated). That pot, made by an anonymous Zia potter in the late 1800s featured a circle of white ringed in red andfrom each of the four prime directions three rays emanated from it. In the center were two triangular eyes and a rectangular mouth in black. From this pot, Dr, Mera came up with the red ring with four rays that marks the paramount symbol of New Mexico today. In 1925, the state of New Mexico adopted Dr. Mera’s burgundy sun on a field of gold as the new state flag of New Mexico. Today, the burgundy appears as bright red, but only that slight color change differs from Dr. Mera’sdesign.

To the Zia people, the sun symbol is an ancient design. It reflects tribal philosophy with its wealth of pantheistic spiritualism teaching the basic harmony of all things in the universe (“The Zia Sun Symbol”, State of New Mexico, udated, pamphlet). To the Zia, four is a sacred number, as it is with many other Native American peoples. It recalls the four directions, the four seasons, the sunrise, noon, evening and night phases of the day and the four stages of life – childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. Four personifies the number most often used by the “Giver of all Good Gifts”. The Zia also believe that man has four sacred obligations – to develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit and a devotion to the well being of his people. . All of this is reflected in the symbol chosen to represent New Mexico.

To celebrate their link with the prime symbol of the state in which they live, the Zia have adopted a white flag bearing the red Zia sun symbol exactly as it appears on the New Mexico state flag (Stanley Pino, Governor, Pueblo of Zia, letter dated March 21, 1995). Above the Zia sun is the black inscription “Pueblo of Zia”. Surrounding the entire flag is a black border (sample drawing of the flag provided by the Office of the Governor, Pueblo of Zia). The combination of red, white and black harken back to the anonymously made pot in the Santa Fe museum.

It ties the Zia people through their pottery to a very popular design that goes well beyond the almost 700 residents of Zia (AID, 42). It brings their history, their culture and their traditions into a modern design in a modern state that overlays a culture nearly 1,000 year old.

Source: tmealf Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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