Zuni Pueblo & the Salem Wtich Trials

In the summer of 1881 the ethnologist, Frank Hamilton Cushing, took a group of tribal leaders from Zuni Pueblo to the east coast. They traveled by train to the nation’s capital and met President Chester A. Arthur. They went on to Boston where they performed an ancient ceremony to replenish the Atlantic Ocean. The group continued to Salem, Massachusetts. Upon their arrival the Zuni men publicly commended its citizens for the actions of their ancestors. They made reference to the diligent persecution during the the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-1693. The Boston Herald reported on the outcome of this visit from Pueblos. Their readership became flummoxed and reticent – not wanting to relive that dark era in their history.

Witch Trials at Zuni Pueblo

The famous witch trials at Zuni took place through the end of 19th century. The earliest description of the Zuni witch trials came to light when the ethnologist, Frank Hamilton Cushing, of the Bureau of Ethnology, befriended people at the pueblo in 1881. Once he gained their trust he was privy to the innermost practices of the Sacred Bow Priesthood, Zuni’s most notorious priesthood. It was the responsibility of the Sacred Bow Priesthood to determine and implement punishment upon those suspected of practicing witchcraft. The torture and slaughter of “witches” became a common and accepted practice on the pueblo.

Medicine Men & the U.S Calvary

The people at Zuni Pueblo sought the help of medicine men in warding off and extracting spells brought on by witches. Sometimes, the medicine men were accused of witchcraft by the same people who sought their help in warding off evil spirits. In the early 1900s the US government began to prohibit the witch trials using soldiers from Ft. Wingate to enforce laws prohibiting public torture and execution.

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