Remapping a place: how one tribe's art reconnects them to their land

Jim Enote, a traditional Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, is working with Zuni artists to create maps that bring an indigenous voice and perspective back to the land, countering Western notions of place and geography and challenging the arbitrary borders imposed on the Zuni world.

Archeology suggests that the A:shiwi (Zuni) have been farming in the Zuni River valley of western New Mexico since at least A.D. 700. After their lands were colonized by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and later claimed by the United States, indigenous peoples of the Colorado Plateau were left in a deeply familiar territory of unfamiliar names. Google Maps shows Jim’s farm bordering Indian Service Route 2, but that’s not how he sees his land. “To assume that people would look at the earth only from a vantage point that is above and looking straight down doesn’t consider the humanity of living on the landscape.” The Zuni maps, says Jim, contain something very important: a different way of looking and knowing.

Zuni maps draw deeply on shared experiences of place. They depict petroglyph carvings, images from prayers and songs, colorful stacks of pottery, arroyos and mesas. They are an opportunity for the Zuni to reclaim a deep understanding of a shared cultural tradition, rooted in ancestral lands, told again in a familiar language. These maps are critical to constructing a bridge between the traditional and modern worlds, connecting the old ways with the new.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Remapping a place: how one tribe's art reconnects them to their land

Jim Enote, a traditional Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, is working with Zuni artists to create maps that bring an indigenous voice and perspective back to the land, countering Western notions of place and geography and challenging the arbitrary borders imposed on the Zuni world.

Archeology suggests that the A:shiwi (Zuni) have been farming in the Zuni River valley of western New Mexico since at least A.D. 700. After their lands were colonized by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and later claimed by the United States, indigenous peoples of the Colorado Plateau were left in a deeply familiar territory of unfamiliar names. Google Maps shows Jim’s farm bordering Indian Service Route 2, but that’s not how he sees his land. “To assume that people would look at the earth only from a vantage point that is above and looking straight down doesn’t consider the humanity of living on the landscape.” The Zuni maps, says Jim, contain something very important: a different way of looking and knowing.

Zuni maps draw deeply on shared experiences of place. They depict petroglyph carvings, images from prayers and songs, colorful stacks of pottery, arroyos and mesas. They are an opportunity for the Zuni to reclaim a deep understanding of a shared cultural tradition, rooted in ancestral lands, told again in a familiar language. These maps are critical to constructing a bridge between the traditional and modern worlds, connecting the old ways with the new.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.