The pueblo-dwelling Indians, of whom the Zuñi are the chief representatives, belong to a stage of culture that the great civilizations of Middle and South America had come directly out of. And as in Middle and South America, the whole form of Zuñi culture, the whole trend of Zuñi religious thought, is conditioned by the cultivation of maize. The story given here is taken from Cushing's "Zuñi Creation Myth," published as a report of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1896. Cushing's remarks on Zuñi culture which are here quoted come out of observations which he made in the period between 1879 and 1881:
The Zuñi faith . . . is a drop of oil in water, surrounded and touched at every point, yet in no place penetrated or changed inwardly by the flow of alien belief that descended upon it. . . . Yet a casual visitor to Zuñi, seeing, but unable to analyze the signs above noted, would be led to infer quite the contrary by other and more potent signs. He would see horses, cattle, donkeys, sheep, and goats, to say nothing of swine and a few scrawny chickens. He would see peach orchards and wheat fields, carts (and weapons now), and tools of metal; would find, too, in queer out-of-the-way little rooms, native silversmiths plying their primitive bellows and deftly using a few crude tools of iron and stone to turn their scant silver coins into bright buttons, bosses, beads, and bracelets which every well-conditioned Zuñi wears, and he would see worn also, especially by the men, clothing of gaudy calico and other thin products of the looms of civilization. Indeed if one did not see these things and rate them as at first the gifts to this people of those noble old Franciscan friars and their harder-handed, less noble Spanish companions, infinitely more pathetic than it is would be the history of the otherwise vain effort I have above outlined; for it is not to be forgotten that the principal of these gifts have been of incalculable value to the Zuñi. They have helped to preserve him, through an era of new external conditions, from the fate that met thirty other and less favored Pueblo tribes--annihilation by the better-armed, ceaselessly prowling Navajo and Apache,
and for this alone, their almost sole accomplishment of lasting good to the Zuñi, not in vain were spent and given the lives of the early mission fathers.