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A project by A:shiwi A:wan Museum for
and by the children of Zuni Pueblo.

Prior to the coming of the Europeans, the Zuni people were skilled and successful farmers. Their villages and fields were situated in the best areas for cultivation of their crops. They originally grew corn, beans and squash. Later, they added European crops such as wheat and peaches. One type of garden they cultivated was the "waffle garden". Waffle gardens were built close to the village and the river and were a type of "kitchen garden".

In June of 2002 when Dave and I visited Zuni, we found that the A:Shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center had put in a waffle garden to help the children of Zuni understand the ways of their ancestors. The waffle garden, on this visit, was still in its infancy.

Each "waffle plot" had in its center small stalks of corn, beans and squash, as well as a few other vegetables. Since the soil was very dry, Dave and I helped the museum staffers water the garden one afternoon. Wells Mahkee, Jr. and Chris Martza hauled the water in a tank in the back of a pickup, which they hosed into five-gallon buckets. We all carried dozens of buckets of water to the thirsty plants. I gained a whole new appreciation for the tremendous effort that countless generations of Zuni women must have expended daily during the growing season to insure a bountiful harvest in the fall.

The promise of rain over Corn Mountain (Dowa Yalanne)

In late July and August, Zuni usually experiences monsoon season with afternoon thunderstorms coming from the south, a common (hoped for, prayed for!) occurrence. When we visited Zuni in August we found that the garden had changed significantly and that there had been lots of growth to all the crops!

Blue & White Corn


Corn & Beans


In the fall, there was a Harvest Festival and dishes were made from the crops grown in the waffle garden. There was "piki bread", lots of food and dancing!

The festival tent

The harvested garden

Mrs. Peynetsa making "piki bread"

Miss Zuni dancing...

...and more dancing at the Harvest Festival!

The day the festival was to be held it rained quite a bit. The Zuni people believe that their ancestors sometimes come to check on their people and to bestow blessings, and they usually come in the form of rain. Could it be that the ancestors were happy to see long-standing traditions are still being taught to the children of Zuni? Perhaps they were expressing their happiness at seeing waffle gardens and harvest festivals still being held in the shadow of Corn Mountain?

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