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Zia Pueblo Keres Nation - New Mexico (U.S.)

Native American

Last modified: 2012-11-17 by rick wyatt
Keywords: zia pueblo keres nation | new mexico | native american |
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[Zia Pueblo Keres Nation - New Mexico flag] image by Donald Healy, 1 February 2008



See also:


The Band

[Zia Pueblo Keres Nation - New Mexico map]
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy

Zia Pueblo Keres Nation - New Mexico

Pueblo means "village" in Spanish, but for Native Americans it describes villages with a specific type of architecture: the multi-family, multi-story structures built by certain Tribes in the southwestern United States. Six main nations are considered "Pueblo Indians": the Hopi of Arizona, the Zuñi of the New Mexico-Arizona border regions, and the four Tribes along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico-the Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, and Keres (ENAT, 206-209).

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, pamphlet, n.d.). The current Zia Pueblo Reservation comprises about 118,000 acres (AID, 42) approximately 35 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico. From this pueblo came New Mexico's very recognizable state emblem, the Zia sun symbol.

© Donald Healy 2008


There are a four language communities in the Rio Grande Valley Pueblos. The Pueblos share them much as France, Monaco, Belgium and parts of Canada share French (with dialectical disctinctions, but a fair amount of mutual understanding) ... or Spain, Mexico, most of South America and all of Central America, share Spanish, UK and USA or Portugal and Brazil.

The four Rio Grande languages are Tewa, Towa, Tiwa and Keres. The first three, like French, Spanish and Italian, are somewhat related. In other parts of New Mexico and neighboring Arizona, pueblo people also speak Hopi and Zuni languages. Tewa is the most common, and anthropologists study the languages as an indicator of historical social interaction among the communities.

My point here is that references to Tiwa, Towa, Tewa and Keres are language, not social communities. A similarity would be grouping national communities as Francophone, English-speaking, and so forth. As far as I know, among the pueblo people themselves, there is no formal recognition of the language groups as political connections. In fact, most of them also speak Spanish, the language of their first European conquerors, and English, the current common language of the area at large. Over the last century, the pueblos have achieved a sort of internal status as "independent nations" within the US, under which they retain some local political sovereignty under the aegis of the USA national government.

To the extent that the pueblos have created flags, they represent the local pueblo villages, not language groupings.
Bill Dunning, 19 February 2008


The Flag

Dr. Harry Mera, designer of New Mexico's flag, was a physician and an anthropologist at the Museum of Anthropology in Santa Fe. His design was inspired by a pot on display in the museum (Leslie Linthicum, "Native Sun", article from an unidentified magazine, n.d.). That pot, made by an anonymous Zia potter in the late 1800s, featured a circle of white ringed in red with three rays emanating from each of the four cardinal directions. In the center were two triangular eyes and a rectangular mouth in black. Mera simplified the design into the red ring with four rays that forms the striking symbol of New Mexico today. In 1925, New Mexico adopted Mera's burgundy sun on a field of gold as its state flag.

To the Zia people the sun design is an ancient symbol. 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, pamphlet, n.d.). To the Zia, four is a sacred number, as it is to many other Native American peoples. It recalls the four directions, the four seasons, the phases of the day (sunrise, noon, evening, and night), and the four stages of life (childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age). Four also signifies the number most often used by the "Giver of all Good Gifts". The Zia 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.

To celebrate their link with the prime symbol of the state in which they live, the Zia have adopted a white flag featuring the red Zia sun symbol exactly as it appears on the state flag (Letter, Stanley Pino, Governor, Pueblo of Zia, 21 Mar. 1995). Above the Zia sun arches the black inscription PUEBLO OF ZIA and a black border surrounds the flag (drawing provided by the Office of the Governor, Pueblo of Zia). The combination of red, white, and black recall the work of that anonymous potter of over a century ago.

© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 1 February 2008

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